By Bukola Olasanmi
The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic across the globe has indeed brought to the fore why purposeful leadership matters in governance. The case of Nigeria and most African countries has indeed tasked us to realize that what African needs at the point in time is the ability to look inwards towards addressing our various challenges.
I recall that I was one of those who feared that the worst hit would be African countries given the consequences of locking down economic and social activities. Using Nigeria as an example, it is instructive to state that though our interventions cannot be compared to those of the western world, I can say that the various interventions of government had the most of impacts on the lives of the vulnerable groupings in the country.
My position is hinged on a personal experience that almost moved me to tears. I had a chance encounter with a poor market woman whose source of livelihood is selling petty goods in one of the motor parks in the suburbs of the federal capital territory.
I would say that our paths crossed by accident when I went to cover the enforcement of the lockdown in some areas and how the people have been coping as a result of the lockdown. As a journalist, when I see a good story, I know. And she was a good story.
Madam Uchenna Obigwe (not real names) is a widow who lost her husband many years ago and was left with three kids to cater for. Nkechi, her eldest daughter has finished her secondary education and resorted to helping her mother sell her wares to take care of her two other siblings, even though John, her immediate younger brother was already engaged as an apprentice in a mechanic workshop in the famous Kugbo mechanic village in Karu axis in the FCT.
My visit coincided with the period when officials from the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development distributed palliatives under the federal government conditional cash transfer to poor households across the country.
Madam Uchenna was amongst the beneficiaries that received the sum of N20, 000, a bag of rice and condiments. And her joy knew no bounds. So much so that she has turned to a songstress in her neighborhood. It was in this joyous mood that I encountered her, and one could feel her joy and appreciation for the token she has received. Upon inquiry, I was told how she has been singing the praises of President Muhammadu Buhari for the items she received.
My instincts came alive, and the result is this article on the lives of those that have been affected positively through the COVID-19 intervention of the federal government. To some, N20, 000 might seem too small an amount, but not to Madam Uchenna. Out of excitement, she was forced to call Nkechi her daughter to join her in songs and praises for President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to her, the items she received are worth more than gold. In her words “Why God no go bless Buhari for us? Na who I be wey government find me come my house come put food for my table? My brother, since dem say we no go fit commot to sell again, na so I begin to think. Even my piken John wey dey do mechanic work no fit commot and na so we come dey look ourself for house and nothing to eat”
“My brother na who you wan beg for garri wey all of us dey inside the same problem? This no be small thing oh. God go bless Buhari and im family well well. I no know wetin I wan talk again on top wetin Buhari don do for all of us here. Since wey I dey sell market I never carry N20, 000 come house before. Everyday na 2,000 or 2,500 we dey sell if market dey, from there we go go market go buy again to sell and the remaining change we take am chop.”
“My brother na wetin I dey do since my husband die oh. Now see me get bag of rice and N20, 000. God oh abeg bless Buhari for us.”
Those were the words of Madam Uchenna, and in truth, I was moved to tears and imagined the thousands of other families who have benefited from the federal government COVID-19 intervention and how indeed their lives have taken a turn for good.
This experience brings to the fore the various intervention of the federal government under the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. I can safely say that the impact of the intervention has not been adequately reported in the media and this is as a result of the fact that the beneficiaries are in the suburbs and in some instances difficult to reach areas.
I must commend the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development for the way and manner it has handled the distribution so far. The Honorable Minister, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq I gathered has been involved in the distribution process to ensure that indeed the items gets to those in dire need and not cornered for any other purpose.
I can only imagine the thousands of Madam Uchennas out there that are full of praises for the government during this lockdown period. It can only be imagined, and like I stated earlier these items might seem small in the eyes of people, but trust me, it is worth the while for these families that feed from hand to mouth daily.
If we must admit that programmes such as this in times past end up been a charade because of the attitude of government officials saddled with such responsibilities, I dare say not anymore because there is a new sheriff in town that has demanded transparency and accountability in the whole process.
This is where Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq comes into the picture as the minister in charge of the sensitive ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. It is my considered opinion that she has lived up to expectations in line with the posture of President Muhammadu Buhari, whose support base is the masses that dot the nook and cranny of the country. I am not sure Hajia Sadiya would have done otherwise. She ensured that those vulnerable families are not denied or deprived of this intervention from the government.
For once I was proud of Nigeria, if not for anything, the joy in the hearts of other Madam Uchannas out there. The story of Madam Uchenna should inspire hope in all of us that things are not as bad as it seems in the conduct of government business.
I dedicate this piece to President Muhammadu Buhari as a first for providing that purposeful leadership, and to Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq for translating the vision of the president into tangible realities.
I know the tough stance of the honorable minister is bad business for the racketeers that are notorious for diverting public goods for personal consumption. I can only wish that others in the position of authority can emulate and learn lessons in governance from this experience and realize that they must put the interest of the people first and serve them diligently.
As we confront the challenges occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic, we must also acknowledge the various efforts of government in cushioning the effects, especially in the lives of the vulnerable group in the country.
Olasanmi is a media strategist and wrote this piece from Guzape, Abuja.