By Ayo Olonode
Under the bright radiant and warm southern sun at the State Secretariat, Abeere, was a jubilant eruption of adulation by different groups and fervent prayers of monarchs for Governor Adegboyega Oyetola at the flag-off of the Osun Food Support Scheme.
The scheme, which was designed to feed 30,000 poor and vulnerable citizens once every month till the end of Oyetola’s administration, is a pace-setting post-COVID-19 social protection drive in Nigeria.
The COVID-19-induced lockdown in 2020 was one singular event that unearthed the necessity of emergency food relief for the economically vulnerable whose standards of living were worsened by the debilitating cousins of COVID-19 that accompanied it to our world and space.
The State of Osun was fresh off recording its lowest ever poverty and inequality index, according to a report from the Nigerian Living Standard Survey, thanks to the rocketing effect of the payment of full salaries of workers across the state and the good governance model of Oyetola’s administration, which restored the citizens well-being above the borderline of poverty.
As part of measures to consolidate this gain, which appeared threatened at the time by the economic externalities that trailed the pandemic, the government of the State of Osun responded with a multi-pronged food aid designed to help both the vulnerable and stakeholders in the agriculture and food supply chains.
Households numbering tens of thousands benefitted from the emergency food relief of the government at the time, distilled directly from the government through the 21-man Food and Relief Committee, comprising eminent sons and daughters of Osun, set up by Governor Oyetola to help the cause of citizens’ welfare.
The participation of the private sector during this time was also notable, as a number of role players in the sector made donations of relief materials to support the government in the fight against COVID-19.
Notably, the government announced on May 30, 2020, that it took delivery of five truckloads of food items, which included noodles, spaghetti, salt, sugar, etc., from the private sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CA-COVID), adding that 75 trucks bearing the rice component of the donation were expected to be delivered to the state.
The government, on July 30, 2020, announced its readiness to commence distribution of the palliative by August 11, 2020, after the flag-off and official handover had been done by CA-COVID at Ede. Unfortunately, the distribution could not follow the timeline set by the government because CA-COVID had not officially handed over the donations to the state due to a delay in the delivery of the rice component.
The narrative was turned on its head by the tragic season of looting. Government across the country had to explain endlessly that it didn’t hoard the palliatives to punish its citizens. The blackmailing community in Osun even went as far as saying that the items were being hoarded as campaign materials for the gubernatorial election that wouldn’t be held till 2022!
Although the government made efforts to set the records straight as soon as the misinformation began to spread like wildfire, it soon got vindicated through a letter from CACOVID in the latter part of November.
All the while that these slanderous episodes played out and the overwhelming flood of disinformation inundated the state, Oyetola remained single-minded in his passion for the welfare and security of citizens.
Barely four months after the looting epic and the propaganda that ensued from it, Oyetola dropped a joyful screamer of an announcement, that his administration was set to feed 30,000 poor and vulnerable citizens with effect from March 2021.
The Osun Food Support Scheme, according to Governor Oyetola, would run till November 2022, which marks the end of his administration in the first instance. By that token, Oyetola’s administration would have impacted 570,000 beneficiaries across the 30 LGAs of the state.
The methodical manner of administration of the scheme, as outlined by the government, also attested to the perceptive objectivity that formed the foundation and ferment of the scheme.
The government had noted that, for effective administration, the scheme would target persons with special needs and disabilities in all LGAs; the poor and the vulnerable in churches will be reached through the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN); the needy and the poor in the Muslim community will be reached through Osun Muslim Community; the vulnerable among artisans, through their assoociations; the needy among other ethnic groups in the state, through their leaderships; the traditional worshippers, through their association; and traders, through Iyalojas and Babalojas.
Aside from feeding the poor and vulnerable, one other interesting talking point of the scheme is its commerce-centred disposition and its overall implication on the state’s economy.
The scheme is another of Oyetola’s indirect effort to change the narrative of the state from being a civil service economy state to a place of robust economic undertakings. The scheme came fully armed promoting micro, small and merium scale businesses, both in agriculture and food supply chain, in a bid to boost the local economy. It is sourcing all commodities locally to encourage farmers and businesses.
Monarchs, politicians, religious leaders, representatives of groups in Osun have all taken turns to laud Oyetola for the selflessness that underscores this initiative. They have taken turns to commend him for impacting the marginalised across the state in manners that lend credence to transformative and humane actions that are above politics.
He deserves it. Oyetola richly deserves commendations and superlatives in tons for the Osun Food Support Scheme initiative.
But beyond that, Oyetola deserves an apology from those who have tried everything in their evil arsenal to tarnish the hard-earned reputation of Mr. Oyetola. This is one leader who has shown nothing but genuine passion for the welfare and security of the people of Osun, despite the limited resources in the state.
The man who was wrongly accused of hoarding food items for election purposes (not minding the expiration date of the items), is the same person who has started impacting not less than 30,000 households across the State on a monthly basis.
Oyetola has carried on, unperturbed by the accusations of the little men because he knows what his mandate is and he’s determined to ignore small-minded backbiters.
His focus is to make the State of Osun better than he met it, and the Osun Food Support Scheme is one of his steps in that direction. Since Osun people are Omoluabis, the citizens have decided they aren’t just going to mask up and move on like nothing happened because this is one good turn that deserves sincere appreciation. And so, the people say thank you, Mr. Governor.