By Onuwa Lucky Joseph
It’s been a while now since Nigeria heard a good story of philanthropic effusion, corporate or individual.
The charity exertions that came with the doomsday scenario as painted of COVID-19 seem to have left many organisations nothing in their tank for contributions. Not to mention the economy that’d been looking down well before COVID but which took a decidedly downward plunge due to imposed lockdowns and total closure of the economic space. The consequence of course is that lots of companies lost revenue, shed staff, closed down while some are bent on resisting the last throes as they battle hard against yielding the ghost.
All told, it hasn’t been a pretty last few months for the vast majority of Nigerians. The lockdown destabilized everything. And then CACOVID compounded it by not delivering on its promise of palliatives to the distressed and hungry who had counted on receiving them. We all saw that particular footage of some young Nigerians in Lagos who after lamenting how their street was given only two loaves of bread by the government, decided to use the loaves as footballs rather than go through the impossibility of sharing the loaves to hundreds of people. The boys clearly reckoned they’re not Jesus who could have multiplied the loaves and left some 12 baskets of remnants thereafter.
One would not be surprised to hear that some of those boys were part of the hoodlums who have stormed several Cacovid Palliatives ‘hideouts’ all over Nigeria. Since the mountain would not go to Mohammed, Mohammed had to go the mountain. It’s all so easy for CACOVID officials now to talk disparagingly about hooligans and hoodlums while safely forgetting the circumstances that created them in the first place.
How and why does it get so difficult for millions of Nigerians to get some relief from the everyday stress with which they are affronted on every side? CACOVID seemed and indeed was a good idea in principle, but the alarm bells started ringing when the updates dried up. I recall on these pages, asking at least three times, what is the update on Cacovid donations and distribution of the palliatives the funds were meant to procure? No response, no answer. Not once.
But all the while we were sitting on a tinder box. Hunger ignites and excess hunger ignites violently, mercilessly. Didn’t we all see buildings going up in flames? The people that did the looting were clearly not in their right minds. The sheer scale of the looting and the vicious methods employed are things we should not lose sight of as we reflect on the matter. Something has gone really wrong. We have never witnessed anything of this magnitude. Added to, was the killing of security people who had been adjudged by the people’s court of (in)competent jurisdiction as enemies of the people. To say it Olu Jacobs’s style, “We should be afraid. We should be very afraid.”
The fallout with regards to CSR and charity is simple. Corporates, when they can and want to, would rather go it alone. And yes, corporates would rather that for image and reputation reasons, but times of national emergency require more of the collaborative model exemplified by the CACOVID intervention. The contributions coming from different quarters are apt to fill the basket up quicker, thereby providing the needed victuals for the hungry.
Truth be told, despite CACOVID, the real impact people felt came from the effort of NGOs and volunteers who, not acting under the aegis of CACOVID mobilized resources to feed the hungry and clothe the naked in different parts of the country. And as well, some CACOVID member organisations still contributed massively in their own individual corporate capacities.
The management of the donations has left a sour taste in the mouth. And barring the element of government coercion, it is difficult to see another situation where corporates shell out so much for results that make nonsense of the humongous resources invested. There is no spin to the CACOVID palliatives story. It was not about the lockdown and lack of movement. It is not about food being kept safely in case of a second wave. It is not. In the first place, there really was no first wave in Nigeria. We just parrot the language from elsewhere. We had some casualties, yes. But that’s not the same thing as a wave, like we had/have in the US, Europe, India and Brazil. So what happens now if there is a real wave? What?
To see that people went hungry needlessly despite so much that had been provisioned for them leaves the mind boggled. No spin can save the blushes here. What we need to hear are apologies, who was responsible, what sanctions for them and what to do going forward. As we’ve said over and over, Nigeria needs to put good value on its people. Nigeria must learn to treat Nigerians with respect and accord them the dignity human beings deserve. Otherwise, the beastly behaviour demonstrated by hoodlums just might become commonplace.