Donkeys in Kano and cassava stems in Anambra – items recently given to some Nigerians as economic empowerment by government representatives – show how pitiable handouts are gaining momentum in the country.
Although such “shamefaced empowerment”, as some critics call it, is not new, politicians now up the ante with more ridiculous and bizarre items. The usual items had included tricycles, motorcycles, and grinding machines, but pure water sachets and shoe-shining starter kits have now made the cut.
Often the pitiable charity comes from taxpayers as federal lawmakers have covered such items under constituency projects.
An aide to the Benue State governor once distributed wheelbarrows with the inscription, “Gov Ortom for You” arguing that the beneficiaries would use the wheelbarrows to run errands and hawk.
Later the wheelbarrow empowerment resurfaced in Taraba as a member of House of Representatives, Maigari Bello-Kasimu, representing Jalingo/Yorro/Zing, distributed wheelbarrows to empower some members of his constituency.
“All of them used to hire wheelbarrows and push to earn their living, but now they have the opportunity of owning their wheelbarrows,” the spokesperson for the lawmaker, Saidu Na-Anabi, had said during the presentation.
Na-Anabi’s speech probably inspired the then caretaker chairperson of Nsukka Local Government in Enugu State, Chinwe Ugwu, to give wheelbarrows to youths in the area as economic empowerment.
“These are poor people who cannot afford to buy wheelbarrows but had to hire for between N200 and N300 per day,” Ugwu had said in response to critics.
Similarly, Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, said he spent N208 million to empower Mai Shayi or tea sellers in the state by giving them items like cartons of noodles, crates of eggs, spaghetti and bread, cocoa beverage, liquid and powdered milk, brown and white sugar, nylon and cups.
While Kano governor was beating his chest for such an “extraordinary” achievement, the commissioner for Education in Katsina State, Halimatu Idris, outdid him by handing goats to female students at Government Girls Arabic Secondary School Dutsinma.
The goats were reportedly given to female students in 20 secondary schools who were expected to return the nanny goats to the state government after a year.
Then came the commissioner of Education in Borno State, Usman Jaha, who gave shoe-shining kits, baskets, yams and bags of oranges to his constituents in Gwoza as economic empowerment. The shoe-polishing instruments were given to the men, while the baskets and fruits were used to empower the women.
As more Nigerians face economic hardship and crushing poverty, more ridiculous and bizarre items for the so-called poverty alleviation will likely be rolled out soon.