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Sadiya Farouq, The Strainer And The Wicker Fish-Trap

NIGERIANS are given to nitpicking. Even when a public officer is working round the clock to give his or her best to the nation, the best the fellow can expect from the average Nigerian is insult or unfounded insinuation from the same people s/he is trying to serve.

Imagine the case of our hardworking Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, who is so concerned about the plight of hungry schoolchildren that she resolved to take cooked foods to them in their various homes since the rampaging COVID-19 pandemic has forced them out of school.

According to the minister, knowing that hunger is a serious by-product of the pandemic, her ministry evolved strategies to facilitate humanitarian interventions. Consequently, the “ministry in consultation and collaboration with state governments identified the distribution of Take-Home Rations (THR) to the households of the children on the programme as a feasible method of achieving this directive after exploring several options.”

But rather than appreciate her ingenuity and patriotic fervor for striving to feed the country’s young minds who are fallowing at home as a result of the pandemic with a mere N679 million daily or N3.4 billion weekly, Nigerians have been questioning her intentions.

The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), that should have placed congratulatory messages in newspapers for this unprecedented intervention from a woman of uncommon wisdom heading an uncommon ministry, described such a grand scheme as a scam. That is a monumental insult to Nigeria’s Mother Teresa. Pardon my ignorance, where is the scam in feeding hungry children with only N679 million per day? Even the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), which ought to have understood that with the Nigerian government impossible is nothing, questioned the workability of the programme because of logistics challenges. The most gnawing of the reactions was that from parents, the same people Minister Sadiya Farouk is trying to help, who described the initiative as a sham and a smokescreen aimed at deceiving the populace.

Those who think Hajiya Sadiya Farouq would find it difficult to identify the over five million public schoolchildren in the 36 states of the federation and the FCT trivialize the grit, sagacity and management capacity of this adorable minister, who has been gifted to our country by Providence for a time such as this.

The minister effectively distributed N52 billion at N20,000 each to 2.6 million households in addition to giving out food items to twice that number all within two weeks. If she could achieve a feat as grand as that, what’s so difficult in ensuring that cooked foods get to about five million boys and girls scattered in various parts of the country daily? With GPS and Google map, tracking down people in far-flung places has become as easy as slicing a hot knife through butter. So, those skeptics, who operate within the realm of their limited understanding of science and magic, should not equate their limitations to the endless capacity of our super minister.

The obvious fact is that those who are discontent with the continuation of the school feeding programme during the lockdown are oblivious of a very fundamental principle of governance in the country. What happens when a strainer takes in water? Doesn’t all the water immediately go out of it? What happens when a wicker fish-trap takes in water? Doesn’t all the water immediately go out of it? So, why should the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development not expend all the money allocated to her ministry?

Now, if she folds her arms and allows poor schoolchildren to stay hungry during the pandemic would she be discharging her duties as the humanitarian minister? If she looked elsewhere while the schoolchildren go to bed on empty stomachs, would she be managing a disaster? Nigerians should learn to appreciate their ingenious public officers.

Those who are turning up their noses and raising their eyebrows over the desire of Hajia Sadiya Farouq to exhaust the allocation to her ministry to feed hungry schoolchildren should ask why the Federal Executive Council (FEC), at its virtual meeting last Wednesday, approved the sum of N623.7 million for the procurement of 1,200 units of colour printers and desktop computers for human resources and accounting management systems across zones and area commands of the Nigeria Custom Service. If you are asking in your mind why all the printers and desktop computers used by the zones and area commands went bad all at once, remember that when a strainer takes in water, all the water immediately goes out of it.

Minister Sadiya, please ignore the noise makers and continue with your good work. I beg of you, don’t stop taking food to all the schoolchildren in their homes for as long as it is necessary. If after feeding the schoolchildren your allocation is not exhausted, please extend the good gesture to all the out of school children as well, they are about 10.5 million and are in dire need of this intervention. If the allocation is still not finished after that is done, please spare the almajirai some thoughts, they also need good food to keep warm and stay healthy during this pandemic. If after feeding all the almajirai money is still left in your ministry’s accounts, please take food to Chad, Niger and Benin Republic, after all practicing good neighbourliness is part of social development.

Nigeria is a disaster and nothing but a minister with the acumen of a Sadiya Farouq can really serve the country. Let us encourage her to do more.

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