By EHICHIOYA EZOMON
Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, can’t thank enough #EndSARS protesters for coming to her “defence” against the charge of abuse of public trust in the administration of her portfolio.
For months, Mrs. Farouq was the subject of scorn and odium, in her attempts to convince a citizenry skeptical of even the most genuine of government intentions and actions. And like a lone voice in the wilderness, she shouted herself hoarse to no avail.
The more she defended her ministry’s activities in the management of Covid-19 pandemic funds and relief materials, the more she met with doubts as to the veracity of her seemingly wild claims of having reached “every Nigerian household” with palliatives, to mitigate the effects of the novel coronavirus.
The minister was accused of not only hoarding the Covid-19 palliatives, and shared out a chunk to patronize government officials and her cronies, but also of inflating or cooking up figures supposedly utilized daily to reach mostly vulnerable Nigerians hardest hit by economic hardship even prior to Covid-19.
With little or no cover coming her way from the government, Mrs Farouq couldn’t have dreamt, imagined or wished for a “lifeline” from #EndSARS protesters.
Within officialdom, protests and protesters, such as #EndSARS’, are irritants, and Mrs. Farouq, like her colleagues and superiors in government, could’ve belly-ached over the protests that resulted in needless loss of lives, and grounding of the tottering economy.
But here she’s being “vindicated” over allegations, which had dogged her ministry, and impugned her integrity, and that of President Muhammadu Buhari and his government.
Actually on that front, critics had falsely publicized that Mrs. Farouq was betrothed to Buhari, and that she’s reportedly appointed to take charge of the all-important Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, to act as conduit for financial sleaze on behalf of the government.
Yet, an Esan proverb says: “It’s the Angel (patron-Saint) that fetches firewood for one without an axe.” Having no armour to ward off the “weapons fashioned against her,” Mrs. Farouq waited on providence to intercede on her behalf, and “shame” her traducers.
And the intercession came from unlikely sources: hoodlums that hijacked #EndSARS protests nationwide, to attack and loot “warehouses” suspected to harbour Covid-19 palliatives, mainly distributed by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs to the states, to alleviate the basic needs of the populace.
The looting spree by the hoodlums confirmed swirling speculations, especially in the urban centres, that palliatives, earmarked for tens of millions of the disadvantaged in the society, were “hoarded” by politicians, particularly state governors.
Because they knew the “warehouses” – they’d seen aides to government officials drive out of the compounds with goods – or pointed out by “whistle blowers,” the hoodlums stormed, attacked, looted, and torched the palliatives havens after their “operations.”
The hoodlums went for daily consumables, such as food stuffs, confectionaries and toiletries; clothing and bedding materials; home and office appliances; and agricultural materials and equipment.
Consider the “exhibits” recovered by the police from suspected hoodlums in several states: Bags of rice, beans, tubers of yams, cartons of indomine and beverages; spraying machines and agro-chemicals; surgical gloves, essential drugs and medical equipment; spanners and screw drivers; tricycles and motorcycles; and air conditioners, computers and other electronic gadgets.
Sadly, while laying hands on any disposable items, the hoodlums looted medical consumables and appliances, many of them supplied by the Coalition Against Covid-19 (CACOVID), a Private Sector task force partnering the Federal Government, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), with the sole aim of combating the virus.
The magnitude of the looting alarmed state governors, who hardly publicly acknowledged such materials from the federal government, nor sided with Mrs Farouq’s claim that billions worth of palliatives were dispatched to the states for distribution to their people.
Thanks to the hoodlums, the governors have been exposed for what they are: Self-centered rulers, who have scant regards for the wellbeing and welfare of the people that voted them into power.
During elections, politicians, with promises baked in gimmickry, would canvass for people’s vote, but thereafter would abandon or con them, which the hoarding of the palliatives represents.
The “good news” is that Mrs. Farouq can enjoy a breather, and “forgive” her critics, as the state governors have been exposed as the “real” hoarders of the Covid-19 palliatives.
The minister, in the wake of a visit to the Emir of Gusau in Zamfara State, Alhaji Ibrahim Bello, fielded questions from reporters on the story surrounding the looting of palliatives in the states.
Her words: “I’m aware many people have made various spurious allegations and accusations against my person and my ministry over the way we distributed Federal Government palliatives to cushion the effect of Covid-19.
“I have always said I am carrying out my duties and responsibilities to the best of my ability, and with fairness to all parts of the country. Now that they (critics) have realized their mistakes, l will only pray to God to forgive us all.”
But how did the governors explain the accusation of deceiving their people? They came out with mix-messages: * We didn’t hoard the palliatives. * We warehoused the items to be distributed soon. * They were not Covid-19 palliatives, but materials recently received for distribution to flood victims. * The palliatives were not from the federal government, but sourced internally, for any eventuality.
What lame excuses! If the Governors didn’t hoard the palliatives, why would the goods be warehoused for long without distribution to the people? What’s more “raining day” or “eventuality” than the timely amelioration of the hardship faced by the people amid the Covid-19 pandemic? Who would the Governors distribute the palliatives to if those to whom they’re intended were all dead?
The Governors are clever by half with their diluted alibis. Polity watchers know the palliatives were hoarded, and for future political self-interest: to bandy as their “dividend of democracy” to the people, to prosecute elections: off-season, council or 2023 polls.
But while the governors are left to stew in their own juice, Mrs. Farouq can afford to laugh in the faces of her legion of critics for “falsely” accusing her of hoarding Covid-19 palliatives.
Ezomon, journalist and media consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria. 08033078357. Twitter: @EhichioyaEzomon WhatsApp: 08033078357.