COVID-19: Politics of Rice in Osun


In Nigeria, State of Osun, public reactions, mirroring the quality of rice shared out by the state government as COVID-19 stay-at-home (SAH) stimulus were propelled by the skirmishers’ sensibility and sensitivity with domino effect. But the worldview of the scenario is that the skirmishes had some colouring of cyclic dynamics of petty opposition impulses, sort of organized chants, expected of some recluse.

The gusto in the remonstrance is deliberate defiance to the Osun art of governance, taunting government’s welfare packages for the poorest of the poor, the weak, the frail, the vulnerable in the state, to the ghetto.

By the spontaneity and vibrancy of their complaints, the rice protesters, vehemently at odds, attempting to explore and bring down the inner recesses of Osun government in ruins, are not on their own; they were a sledge weapon, an available dragnet and tentacle in the hands of the propagandists, critics, activists, the politically powerless oppositions of the progressively distorted insights, dynamics and processes, with schemed intimidating social and political adversity in the state, leading Osun into questioning the integrity of those charged with the responsibility for the purchase of rice and by extension, unsparing Governor Gboyega Oyetola of the nuisances , intrigues of rice suppliers or vendors, domiciled in Osun.

The criticism reveals an enduring poverty of understanding of Oyetola and complexity of politics of state procurement and distribution of rice, requiring progressive insight, progressive perception and progressive courage than usual. The strong political content etched here is the fact of the number and size of the local governments in Osun, correspondingly or otherwise dependent on the number and strata of the beneficiaries of the state food intervention, with the principle of electoral (votes) derivation and principle of fiscal poverty of the beneficiary as wrangling political factors under consideration, that somewhat foreclosed the food need of the rest of Osun residents, also under COVID-19 SAH order, believed rightly to have relative fiscal efficiency, relative absorptive capacity for food-clothing-shelter for themselves, families and larger others, not minding the COVID-19 lockdown impact; they don’t have any rush, anxiety for government food stimulus.

The two principles, electoral derivation and fiscal poverty, at a glance never enjoyed any unanimity of consideration; the support for one principle or the other is for a reason so much to the undercurrent politics of rice sharing. But Oyetola on whose table the bulk stops, not disappointed, not angry and having no misgivings, took a swift penetrating look at the fully weighted political implications of the principle of electoral derivation, its absolute political arbitrariness, its lack of statistically concise definition; and Oyetola, selfless and visibly simple, rejected the principle.

The bravery here shows him a hero, a man of respect and dignity in width and depth; and for the rice protesters to still their complaints against him is an unfortunate commentary, unacceptable, on his incontrovertibly substantial integrity.

And in place of electoral derivation principle, Oyetola, calculative, patient, self disciplined and decisive opted for apolitical, ‘politics free,’ principle of fiscal poverty of the beneficiary, not only for rice distribution but also for resolving other related social intervention projects, defined in terms of assuaging, in the instance, the effect of COVID-19 lockdown and meeting the future hopes and aspirations of the transparently poor, with government assuming full responsibility for actions and inactions.

Oyetola ‘s preference for the principle of fiscal poverty for rice distribution and sharing deserves resounding commendations across party politics and faith. The principle generates increased faith in governance as it assures of enough public goodwill and state feelings; removes or reduces the heat of politics of rice distribution on the polity; minimizes the chances of politics filtering into critical cushioning decisions on the poor, the poorer and the poorest; generates a new search for reliable facts and figures of the poor in the state planning process; and promotes rational development of Osun.

Oyetola expended personal and official leadership, foisted by the challenges of his governorship over Osun totality, that had fiscal poverty principle adopted and used painstakingly to secure Osun from being plunged into strife of rice frivolity, rice corruption and rice opacity, opaque. Call it rice scandal. Now, he’s fully out to probe the source of bags of rice protested to be too unfit for human consumption, “…….to make it difficult for oppositions parties to contest any future elections in the state….’’

Really, Oyetola is pained to the marrow just as he knows that the protesters’ voice, though lurid and propagandist cry held firm on the mind and thought of Osun people. He’s convinced that the voice was strong enough. And the second day, “Adulterated Rice: Osun Government Expresses Dissatisfaction, Launches Investigation into Source”- the huge headline hits the newsstand.

Let the protesters internalize this: Oyetola, who digested, approved, stamped and deployed the principle of fiscal poverty, is fully concerned about the welfare of the vulnerable in the state. He’s not characterized by moral deprivation, sensibility bankruptcy and corruption, barefaced or concealed. He does not know how to usurp responsibility or abdicate it; neither is he a pretender to the call to serve the totality of Osun people. He is an embodiment of laudable positive character and leadership style who believes in the supremacy of the common will and statistical majority, a moral force, representing what’s noble and ideal, to deal with contradictions, greed, injustice, dishonesty, parasitism, betrayal and dark alleys.

And by all indexes, Oyetola is the self-imagemaker, arbiter and the guide to the path of honesty, accommodation, conscientiousness, uprightness and compassionate noiseless stabilizing force of the Osun masses including rice protesters. A paradox plus!

– OLUSESI is Assistant Director, Directorate of Publicity, Research & Strategy, APC, Osun.

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