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Ondo free food programme: Palliative or politicking?

By Dayo Johnson

MIXED reactions seem to be trailing the recently launched Palliative (Eto Igbe-Ayo) programme by the state government where food stuffs are given to residents in the state for free. The food palliative programme, tagged Eto Igbe Ayo is conceptualized to provide succour to the vulnerable in the society.

•Pix of governor Olusegun Mimiko, wife Olukemi and deputy governor Alhaji Lasisi Oluboyo during the flag off of the Eto
•Pix of governor Olusegun Mimiko, wife Olukemi and deputy governor Alhaji Lasisi Oluboyo during the flag off of the Eto

At the launch, governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State alluded to the fact that  there was hunger in the land when he said “it is obvious there is hunger in the land and we as government can not pretend that this is not the case.

We have  promised during our inauguration to share in the joy and sorrow of the people. We will never jettison this promise even during this trying period.”

Governor Mimiko, however, made it clear that the  programme,  which is not only blind to political affiliations was  targeted at over 100,000 women, resident across the state. While the initiative is seen as a welcome development, the governor’s critics have a different view of  the new version of stomach infrastructure.

The main opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state has pooh-poohed the initiative describing it as a Greek gift to the people of the state five months to the expiration of the present administration.

It said that “the rice and beans handout to the people is bait rather than a palliative measure. It’s a Greek-gift the Ondo State people will not take. The governor should know that stomach infrastructure as a vote-catching bait would not work in Ondo State.”

However, despite the condemnation, the number of women who trooped to the venue of the distribution in the council areas so far visited to collect the food items are more than what government bargained for to show that there is real hunger in the land and that the gesture was welcome and timely.

Also the beneficiaries, especially the artisans and the masses are commending government’s gesture at these trying times. Speaking  at the flag-off in Ikare in the Northern senatorial district, where no fewer than 5000 women received food items, the governor said the Ikare event is the first phase   of the programme designed to draw beneficiaries from the 18 council areas of the state.

Stressing the need for the palliative programme, Mimiko said “when a man is hungry, he is hungry, when a woman is hungry, she is hungry, when a child is hungry, he is hungry” adding   that hunger is no respecter of gender, insisting that government can not watch its people die.

Mimiko said some of   his government’s intervention programes like the Bus Shuttle, Mother and Child Hospitals and the Mega School are meant to assist the less privileged in the society   adding that with the  Eto Igbe -Ayo  programme, government found it appropriate   to provide food for the vulnerable in the society because “when you target women and children, you have targeted the family.”

The programme, he said   “is politically blind as it has been designed to benefit   residents  in the state irrespective of political interest but the only condition is that residents must present their Smart Card( Kaadi Igbe-ayo) to benefit.   According to him the Palliative programme is designed to cushion the effect of the prevailing increase in prices of food stuffs.

The governor said in the last one year, the nation’s  income has nosedived drastically because of the fall in the price of crude oil on the global market.

He said, “as you are aware, revenue from   oil constitutes about 90 per cent of   our national earnings, with the fall, the revenue accruing   to   our   state has fallen to about 65 per cent. Just as income is falling , the price of goods and services are increasing. The National bureau for statistics recently indicated that inflation rate in the country is 16.5 per cent which it claimed is the highest in 11 years.”

Speaking further, he said a “bag of rice which used to sell for N8,000 now costs about N 16,000, gallon of kerosene of   N80.00 has jumped to N200.00, price of Fuel increased from N87 to N145.00 per litre while Diesel used to power our industries now costs N200.00 from its usual N150.00 and unfortunately, the quantum of money available to households has dropped.

“We, as government cannot pretend that this is not the case the problem the country is facing calls for redirection and rethinking. We need to diversify our economy and re-invest   in agriculture and solid minerals. We must also re-order our priorities as   a government and individuals. We must restructure our polity if we want to get out of the woods”, he said.

Ondo APC kicks

Picking holes in government’s gesture, the APC in the state said  “we find the recent handouts of small packs of rice and beans to the citizens of Ondo State by the PDP-led Government in the State as utterly disgraceful and a show of shame going by the fanfair that preceded the distribution ceremony.

Its Director of Media and Publicity, Steve Otaloro said, “the food palliative as a reason for the distribution by the Government was not true as the real reason for the distribution was simply to placate the people to vote for PDP in the forthcoming 27th, November 2016, governorship election in Ondo State.”

Otaloro said “this is one of the unholy strategies the PDP Government targeted towards the coming Governorship election to cajole and deceive the people as they knew the people had rejected them and would not likely vote for the PDP in the coming gubernatorial election.

“This food palliative is a clear testimony to the cry that Dr. Olusegun Mimiko had deliberately impoverished the people by causing them hunger with his refusal to pay workers six month salaries in spite of President Mohammadu Buhari’s N15.6 billion bailout funds extended to   the State to pay workers. That Governor Mimiko is now dolling out sachets of rice is a confirmation of the failure of his administration to empower the people.”

PDP’s defence

Reacting to APC’s attack of the programmee, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, declared that “it is expected that they must find fault with all policies and actions of government but in doing just that we expect a level of understanding of the issues that drive such reactions.

The party’s Director of Publicity, Ayo Fadaka said “the food palliative program of Ondo State tagged Eto Igbe Ayo is conceptualized to provide succour to the vulnerable in the society. It is a new program that is a direct response to the hardship that Nigerians have been facing since President Buhari of the APC assumed office.

“It is on record that no project of this sort was executed in this State in the years gone by, and this fact is even corroborated by the APC, the government decided to introduce it to as a response to the high double digit inflation that currently reigns, the high price of food stuff engendered by the policies of the APC federal government which have driven the price of foodstuff to the roof top, for instance rice that was selling for N7,000 in the Jonathan years now sells for over N18,000 in Buhari’s era. It is developments like this that provoked the Mimiko Government in Ondo State to evolve this policy and not because of an intent to catch votes.”



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