By Abiodun Komolafe
Osun food support scheme was recently launched with fun and fanfare and many were excited. As the reality of socio-economic conditions of living are right now in Nigeria, people who will need this intervention are many. Osun, with a population of over-4 million, per capital of $2,076, Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.609 (14th of 37) and 15.3% unemployment rate, can pride itself in being the best in the Southwestern part of the country. Yet, the demographic delineation of the beneficiaries of the scheme may need to expand to reach more of the needy population.
One of the major needs of man is for him to be fed; which means, ‘ti ebi ba kuro ninu ise, ise buse’ (poverty minus hunger equals poverty demystified). That Governor Gboyega Oyetola is thinking in terms of food supply to the most vulnerable of the people of Osun has again attested to the fact that he is a pragmatic man. This is because, notwithstanding its shortcomings (real or imagined), the food supply scheme will feed a certain percentage of people, who, otherwise, would not be fed. Yes, there are many of them, most especially, those who don’t get any largesse of any form from the system; and they are hungry. They will benefit from the scheme.
Truth be told, and considering the enveloping ecology of poverty in the Nigerian society currently, the feeding of 30,000 monthly in Osun by the Oyetola-led administration needs a push for expansion, and the support of the Federal Government for sustainability. The above narrative is further sustained by the facts provided by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). In its ‘2019 Poverty and Inequality in Nigeria’ report, the Bureau stated that “40% of the total population … almost live below the country’s poverty line of 137,430 naira ($381.75) per year.” As at the second quarter of last year, Nigeria’s unemployment rate stood at 27.1%; that is, over 21.7 million Nigerians were jobless. Underemployment rate also jumped to 28.6% from 20.1%. Impliedly, approximately, 44.1 million Nigerians were without jobs or underemployed during the period under review.
Nobel Laureate, Amartya Sen once argued that poverty is “a failure to achieve certain minimum capabilities.” In fairness to posterity, one of the social implications of this laudable initiative is that it will go a long way in ameliorating poverty in the land and, by default, cushioning the effects of the tragedy of COVID-19 in the state. Again, with Osun Food Support Scheme in place, the second possible _#EndSARS_ protest in Osun may have been assuaged. Who knows?
Let’s also commend the governor for leading a transparent modality for the distribution of the food items. The dubious modality would have been to put N500.00 notes in loaves of bread and give to the people, with intent to win them over for election purposes, after which there will be no more food, or sustained means of livelihood for the people! On the other hand, this intervention is timely, and resonates with the reality and socio-economic conditions of living for most Nigerians. If the intervention is done too close to election time, the opposition would have pinned it to mere political gimmicks aimed at winning votes. Gladly, elections are still a distant time away. The point is: the governor is listening and thinking through each of the challenges confronted in the state with the people. So, kudos to him!
Oyetola sees the development of infrastructure as key to any sustainable development plan. Infrastructure adds beauty; initiates urban renewal; beckons to, and ensures the establishment of real development. So, Mr. Governor did not allow infrastructure development to take the backseat in his administration. But then, ensuring that the people are healthy through food security is in tandem with his vision for the state. In his Inauguration Address, the governor had remarked that the entire infrastructure to be built by him would only be used by healthy people. Impliedly, it is only when the people are healthy that they can drive on tarred roads. It is only when they are healthy that they can facilitate economic activities in the state. Hence, the massive intervention in the Health Sector since he took over the reins of office!
But, how did we get to this impasse? Well, it was because our copious coping mechanism as a people and society started failing (unnoticed) decades ago. In the olden days; and in specific settlements, people were connected and knitted together through a potent or effective socialization process, using the norms and value system as the building blocks. As time went by, modernity and fresh ideas emerged. While modernity is good, the uncritical adoption of its cultural elements, which clash with most of our indigenous ways of life, results in confusion, arrest of our authentic development as a people, and the unproductive process of learning alien and foreign culture and its practices.
The sociological import of this phenomenal change is that the once knitted social fabric in the society has since been turned into shreds. In fact, the coping mechanism that broke down has been instrumental to the corruption that has sadly become our lot in Nigeria. By the time the people discovered that they could no longer break even, they had to dabble into all sorts of things to make ends meet. It is the effects of the economic hardship that have put so much pressure on our political system. It is the reason the system has found it difficult to breathe. It is also because of this that the hailers are now few while the wailers are many.
We may have to re-examine some of our socio-cultural institutions with a view to re-inventing their core relevant-but-functional values therein, through aggressive socialization process. The known copious coping mechanisms must be resuscitated. We need to reinvent the spirit of communal living as in the days of old. Essentially, if those who are wealthy in the society will shun vainglory and noise-making about their wealth, and embrace genuine philanthropy with the fear of God, it will go a long way in turning around the society. Otherwise, even, the so-called wealth will become a sneer to the rich, in a society of hungry and angry people.
_‘Olowo kan laarin otosi mefa’_ (One rich man among six paupers)! Somebody, who left school eleven years ago but does not have a job up till now; what do you want him to do in a non-supportive society!So, irrespective of denomination, our religious leaders need to teach doctrines as in the days of old, when life was peaceful and safer.
In summary, one can safely say that, what this government is doing is beyond a mere response to the negative impacts of COVID-19. It is the need of our time! In other words, initiatives such as Osun food support scheme ought to have started long before COVID-19 in all the states of the federation.
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, make Gboyega Oyetola’s Administration the best in the history of the State of Osun!
_*KOMOLAFE is senior special assistant to Governor Oyetola on Media (firstname.lastname@example.org; 07087941459 – SMS only)_