Political Economy of State Governors Palliative Distribution Theory By Adefolarin A. Olamilekan

The weight of governance under the current leadership of the Nigerian state demand critical theory interrogation on the national attitude of the elites, just as it calls for it in the times past.
Sadly, many Nigerian economist and political economist are shying away from ‘heterodox thought’, concentrating instead on purely technical matters to support the status quo in a narrow technical sense. That in the last one decade sanctions the decadence of systematic and systemic abuse by the elites, with anti poor economic policy such as the dilemma’s called fuel subsidy.
Late Prof. Bade Onimode described the scenario as the exceptional policy hardship created by the “Nigerian state history, political economy and power relation” intervention.
The aftermath of fuel subsidy removal has seen the Nigerian state availing the public with its latest policy theory called ‘Palliatives’ or “Palliatives for Poor Nigerians”.
Meanwhile, this has become a sing song amongst the poor masses and, at the same time, a buzzing new word in the newsroom for editors or On Air Radio Presenters (AOP) to dissect.
On the other hand, the poor Nigerians in true sense actually look forward to receiving these palliatives, due to the impact of over three months fuel subsidy removal on cost of living demanding government’s concrete measures.
However, the way palliative is being talked about by the government is raising hope and at the same time, suspicion and fear amongst the populace that this could be another government’s theoretical project that would be read in newspaper, seen on TV and heard on radio just like many of their unfulfilled political campaign promises.
Nevertheless, the Federal Government in it’s determination to walk the talk on palliatives, approved N5 billion for each state and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to enable them procure food items for distribution to the poor in their respective states.
This news was broken to the public by
Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, shortly after the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting, recently.
The announcement was cheering, going by the hike in the cost of food items across the country in the wake of the fuel subsidy removal.
We were informed the money given to all the 36 states and FCT Abuja was N180 billon as loan and grant. This was in addition to five trucks of rice to each state government and FCT.
According to Governor Zulum, the money is for each state and the FCT Abuja to procure 100,000 bags of rice, 40,000 bags of maize, and fertilizers.
He further explained that 52 per cent of the money was given to the state governments as grants with 48 per cent as loans.
Many Nigerians would definitely agree that with economic difficulties facing Nigeria in the wake of the subsidy removal, the Nigerian state meant well for its citizens to deliberately take measures to cushion the impact of the subsidy removal.
As earlier mentioned in this piece, the same poor Nigerians have raised fear concerning how the palliative would get to them in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
This come in reaction to mistrust and loss of faith in government’s policy, essentially because government funds have not been judiciously used for the well-being of the masses in the past, especially now that the poor are worst hit by the economic hardship.
The fear being expressed by the poor against the government’s failure to evenly distribute the palliatives to them, is not misplaced because we have had situations in the past where governors diverted palliatives meant for the impoverishes Nigerians to their friends, families and political associates.
In retrospective, COVID-19 palliatives were warehoused and kept away from the poor by the same state government, that was supposed to distribute it to them until the people broke into the warehouses and looted it.
In the same vein, many of the 2022 flood victims across the states were not catered for, as palliatives meant for them were stored away only to resurface during the 2023 general election campaign period.
Sadly, a lot of the so called state governors and federal government officials care less if these palliatives end up in the pockets of the few influential individuals in their states.
Again, many Nigerians are doubting if state governors that could not be trusted , failing to pay minimum wage in the past, can ensure palliative distribution, questioning why they should be charged with the implementation of the initiative.
Arguably, the biggest challenge seems to be the overbearing influence of state governors on their people, thereby creating air of suspense at the subnational levels.
Apart from the governors’ excess influence on the state administration, the governors have also been repeatedly accused of frustrating some federal project in their states, hijacking and diverting funds meant for the local government, including funds meant for ecological projects.
Instructively, efforts by successive governments to halt the diversion and correct this rascality have not achieved the desired result.
Why many Nigerians may never trust the governors is practically seen in the way the state chief executives have stunted development at the local government level “pocketing” their funds.
Former President Buhari gave a vivid explanation to this in a parley with members of the Senior Executive Course No. 44 (2022) of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, held at the State House Banquet Hall, Abuja..
Buhari cited a personal experience involving an unnamed governor, who he described as “terrible,” who receive funds on behalf of councils and remit half of it to the council chairmen who pilfer the remnant, leaving nothing for developmental projects.
Perhaps, this explains why state governors at this point are not to be trusted with distribution of palliatives to poor people in their state.
This has raised the critical question that resonates on the governed of how these governors failed to lift their state out of the sorry state of the embarrassing level of poverty and infrastructural decay.
What the foregoing illustrate from. Marxian political economy stand point suggests, you can’t have one without the other. Reasoning that the governor’s can’t be ignorant and for a matter fact they know if they fail to distribute the palliative it may reinforced the masses anger against this Nigerian state.
Curiously, in our case in times of rising cost of living resulting from the negative impact of fuel subsidy, the obvious candidates for ” belt tightening ” are the masses: the Nigerian state given them palliative is the only recourse if they are to avoid revolt of the Masses.
What we are saying here is that, the governors are central to the successful distribution of palliatives to their people, and failure to do so means more hardship from fuel subsidy removal.
Adefolarin A. Olamilekan
Political Economist

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