Food Inflation and the Agony of Nigerian Masses, by AbdurRaheem Sa’ad Dembo

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Food Inflation and the Agony of Nigerian Masses, by AbdurRaheem Sa’ad Dembo

Let me begin this piece with a quote by Chef Jose Andres “Food is national security. Food is economy. It is employment, energy, history. Food is everything.” One may argue that because he is a chef and he knows the efficacy of having and eating good food at the right time. But nay it doesn’t end there, because an ordinary person on the street in every part of the world knows the significance of food. You can’t do or talk about anything with hunger. In other words, the question of what to eat is fundamental and irreducible vis-a-vis the question of what to do. No human endeavour can be operational when the subject is hungry. The primary sustenance for man is food.

Hence, the issue of food inflation will continue to dominate national discourses at this material time in our history as a Nation. The masses are the worst hit by the recent economic policies of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration. Of course, no president would be happy if the citizens of his country are battling for survival amid inflation. We pray for sustainable relief.

In recent weeks the food inflation is scary; in fact, that of cement, that is not even a consumable is another thing entirely. No committed government should handle the availability and affordability of food with kid gloves. It is in view of this that President Tinubu ordered the release of 42,000 metric tones of grains to Nigerians. It was a good decision and very timely. Meanwhile, some Nigerians are saying that the problem at hand is not about availability but about policies. Be that as it may, the move is a clear indication that the government is unconcerned about the plight of the masses.

*Argument about Subsidy Removal*

Some Nigerians are of the view that removal of fuel subsidy is like taking away the comfort of the masses and giving it to the state Governors without any commensurate effects on the lives of the citizens. They argued that the recent experience about the ravaging inflation has proved that the masses were the major beneficiaries of subsidy regime.

Another group of people believe that the continuous payment of subsidy is not sustainable going by the current economic reality. While this is acknowledged, however, a distinguished professor of law, Itse Sagay, SAN, while speaking on Channels TV recently, was of the opinion that the president should have given a window of six months before the removal of subsidy. He said the timing of the removal was not appropriate as the food prices have increased more than three hundred percent..

*To State Governors*, The report of the recent engagement of the state governors by President Tinubu has revealed that the governors have been provided with a clue on how they can deflate the food inflation in their various states. In fact, he commended the Kano State Governor for the steps taken so far. These were parts of what the President said as released by Bayo Onanuga, the Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy.

“On rising cost of food: The President directed that the State Governments and Federal government should collaborate to increase local food production. The President advised against the idea of food importation and price control when local food producers should be encouraged to produce more food.

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President advised Governors to follow the example of Kano State in dealing with hoarding of food for profiteering by commodities merchants. He directed the Inspector-General of Police, National Security Adviser, Department of State Services to monitor warehouses hoarding food items across the country and stop profiteering by merchants.

President charged Governors to pay attention to livestock development in their states and increase production most especially poultry and fishing products.

President pleaded with Governors to ensure all salary arrears to workers, gratuities to workers and pensioners are cleared as a way to put money into the hands of the people since states are now getting more monthly FAAC revenue. Spend the money, don’t spend the people, he urged the governors

President Tinubu implored Governors to create more economic opportunities for the youths in their states to keep them more productively engaged.

Furthermore, the economic reality of today will expose Governors without basic idea of governance and economy. It is never a nice moment for such Governors. They must begin to think out of the box. A classmate of mine in the university told me recently that people were dying of hunger. It has gotten to a stage that a man in his late 60s went to a shop in Ilorin and requested for a tin milk size of Semovita. What will he do with it? Perhaps to drink it? Lahaola walakuwata!

There was also a viral video of a woman coming out from her village to collect pure water on credit so that she could sell, but before she got there she collapsed. Upon regaining consciousness, she lamented she had not eaten for four days.

If a poor can’t afford the food price then the society should prepare for the worst anger. A quick look at what is happening across social media platforms, an evidence that the masses are suffering.

Our leaders at all levels of government should be ready to make sacrifices by ensuring that they reach out to the less privileged in kind and cash.

If you think President Tinubu is the only problem, you may not be outrightly correct .Some people said Jonathan and Buhari were their problems. Are they still in power? Are those people fairing better now? Is it Tinubu that is asking the cement sellers to increase their products between hours and hours in a day? All of us are the problems, but the reason behind the hue and cry at the moment is because it has to do with food. Food, they say, is life just as water is.

Last week the first Lady Mrs Oluremi Tinubu while in Kano, paid homage to Emir of Kano, Dr Aminu Ado Bayero. The Emir told her that there was hunger in the country and the first Lady responded by saying things would get better.

Similarly, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III said Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gun powder as millions of youths are jobless and food is beyond their reach.

To be a leader is a big task; whoever takes the mantle of leadership should pray fervently and work hard . President Bola Ahmed Tinubu must be vigilant as there are economic saboteurs. Those he denied subsidy payment may fight back. I am personally worried about the hunger in the land, because it is a basis for which people can easily vent their anger against the state. This is why the FG should listen and address the NLC and TUC demands to avert looming protest by the labour movement. Some Nigerians may be waiting for such a day to unleash violence and looting.

Most importantly, those around Mr President should advise him appropriately and shun praise singing. Psychophants pull down their boss in most cases, because they won’t tell him or her the truth. Deflating the hyper inflation should be at the center of their discussion as President Tinubu has done recently. I campaigned and voted for President Tinubu and my concern is for him to succeed. Chasing hunger away is the real thing now and the hungry population should not be taking for granted.

By way of conclusion let me borrow the words of Ayn Rand “You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality”

May Nigeria succeed.

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