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The turnout at the commencement of distribution of food items to women in Ondo State, was an eye opener on the high level of hunger in the society, writes James Sowole

When the Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose on assumption of office declared to also do something about ‘stomach infrastructure’, many people described the policy as one only meant to deceive the people of the state that he loves them. But to the governor, the populace need to be catered for directly irrespective of how much the government spends on real developmental infrastructure.

It was the belief of those in support of the programme that the governor’s decision must have come from the support he got from ordinary members of the public, who he impacted on directly during electioneering as they accounted for the highest number of voters during real voting.

This policy of Fayose did not mean much until Tuesday, July 16, 2016, when one considers the large turnout of women at Ikareko-Akoko, the headquarters of Akoko North East Local Government, when the Ondo State Governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko flagged off the distribution of food items to women in the four Akoko local governments areas.

The programme tagged ‘Eto Igbe Ayo’ meaning ‘Happy Living Programme’ was targeted to reach 100,000 women in the 18 local government areas of the state in order to cushion the effect of inflation that led to high cost of food items in the market.

During the exercise that lasted for four for days, women trooped out in their thousands from Akoko North East, Akoko North West. Akoko South East and Akoko South West. Each of the women that turned up for the collection of the palliative items was given rice and beans packed in customised bag with Ondo State Government logo on presentation of the State Residency Card popularly called ‘Kaadi Igbe Ayo”.

Though, the programme was described by some people particularly those in the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) as Greek gift that was coming at the time the Mimiko-led administration was preparing for another election, women were never discouraged as they continued to troop out in their large numbers on each day of the programme.

As at the time of filling this report, the programme had been held in eight local governments comprising the four in the Akoko area, Owo, Ose, Okitipupa and Ese-Odo local governments.

The flag off of the programme was characterised by the usual display by women, who trooped out dancing and singing in praise of the Ondo State Government, who they commended for taking issues that affect lives of womenfolk seriously.

Addressing the gathering at the flag off of the ceremony attended by his wife, Olukemi, some commissioners and chairmen of council areas, Mimiko expressed concern at the sudden increase in the prices of food stuff in relation to the dwindling economic situation in the country.

The governor said the programme was in line with his statement during his inauguration in 2009 when he promised to share in the joy and sorrow of the people adding that he would never jettison that at any time.
Mimiko said some of his government’s intervention programmes like the Bus Shuttle, Mother and Child Hospitals, building of modern markets and the Mega School are meant to assist the less-privileged in the society adding that with the ‘Eto Igbe Ayo’ programme, government found it appropriate to provide food for the vulnerable in the society because “when you target women and children, you have targeted the family.”

Stressing the need for the palliative programme, Mimiko said “when a man is hungry, he is hungry, when a woman is hungry, she is hungry, when a child is hungry, he is hungry” adding that hunger is no respecter of gender, insisting that government cannot watch its people die.

According to Mimiko, the programme is politically blind as it has been designed to benefit residents in the state irrespective of political interest adding that the only condition is that residents must provide their Smart Card( Kaadi Igbe Ayo) to benefit.

While stating that the palliative programme is designed to cushion the effect of the prevailing increase in price of food stuffs, Mimiko said in the last one year, the nation’s income has nosedived drastically because of the fall in prices of crude oil in the global market.

“As you are aware, revenue from oil constitute about 90 per cent of our national earning, with the fall, the revenue accruing to our state has fallen to about 65 per cent. Just as income is falling, the price of goods and services are increasing.

“The National Bureau of Statistics recently indicated that inflation rate in the country is 16.5, which it claimed is the highest in 11 years. A bag of rice which used to sell for N8,000 now costs about N 16,000, a litre of kerosene of N80.00 has jumped to N200.00 per litre, price of fuel increased from 87 to N145.00 per litre while diesel being used to power our industries now cost N200.00 from its usual N150.00 while unfortunately, the quantum of money available to households has dropped.

“We as government cannot pretend that we are not aware of the situation. The problem the country is facing calls for redirection and rethinking.

“We need to diversify our economy and re-invest in agriculture and solid mineral. We must also re-order our priorities as a government and individuals. We must restructure our polity if we want to move forward,” Mimiko said.

As expected the palliative initiative of government had been receiving praises from women groups in the state as well as stakeholders appreciating the government for the gesture.

The Association of Women Plank Merchants in Akoko, through their Secretary, Mrs, Janet Ijaduade at the distribution of palliative in Oke Agbe Akoko, said with the gesture, Mimkiko has demonstrated that he is a caring governor and full of compassion for women too .
According to Ijaduade, “Mimiko has demonstrated his love and respect for women since he assumed office. When he insisted he was going to give us befitting markets to trade we thought it was a fluke until Mother and Child came and now the palliative.”

The woman said the government’s Bus Shuttle programme has been of immense benefit to mothers who ordinarily struggle to get their children to and fro school,

Also appreciating Mimiko for the gesture, the State’s Hairdresser Association, in a “thank you” letter, signed by the Publicity Secretary, Mrs. Simbo Akinwumi, said the governor has given women in the state and their families great hope by his gesture, urging government to continue with the programme until the economic crunch in the country ameliorates.

“We are used to distribution of items during electioneering, but this one that is given at this time when things are very hard in the country came at the right time because many families cannot feed again because of high cost of staple food items.

“We are waiting for them, let them bring their own thing during campaign, we are no fools. We know who really is our friend and our friend we shall support,” Ijaduade stated.

Reacting to the insinuation by the APC that State Government should concentrate on payment of salaries to its workers rather than distributing food items to the people, the Director of Publicity of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Ayo Fadaka, said the amount spent on the items amounted to a very minimal fraction of what is the wage bill of the state.

Fadaka while featuring on the a private radio station programme said the gesture was borne out of concern of the government for the suffering masses of the state, who are groaning under the current economic situation in the country.