By Anthony Akaeze
FEW things expose Nigeria’s horrendous socio-economic condition better than the philanthropic gesture initiated by the Nigerian journalist and publisher, Dele Momodu. In recent days, Momodu, as his Twitter handle shows, has been offering cash palliative of N5, 000 each to people in need. Momodu describes himself on his Twitter page as “A teacher, writer, author, publisher, politician, entrepreneur, speaker, actor, mentor, Philanthropist, former Presidential candidate, and global citizen!”
The philanthropic tag is one he is evidently living up to, at the moment, given his humanitarian gesture which I got to know of recently via Twitter. In recent times, I have been alerted to Momodu’s tweets which keeps popping up on my phone. Reading one of them, I learned that he planned to give money to 20 Nigerians. “Pls let’s give a little palliative from our sweat this afternoon. I will pick 20 accounts at random. Pls, write your account details legibly and correctly… Goodluck,” announced Momodu, on August 13.
The response was immediate and overwhelming. While some received the palliative—which turned out to be N5, 000—many others complained that they did not, despite sending their bank account details. They were the unlucky ones but all hope was not lost as Momodu later revealed that 200 more people would benefit as he had received support from some people he described as “top professionals in the UK, US, and Canada,” to sustain the initiative. Days after, Momodu would again announce that a thousand more beneficiaries would emerge as more public-spirited individuals had donated to the cause.
A celebrity journalist, Momodu obviously has friends in high places and the “donors” he talked about could be from their rank. Over the years, the publisher has deployed his magazine, Ovation, for lavish purpose, showcasing mainly the lifestyle of the rich, upper class in Nigeria and elsewhere. In a materialistic world, where many crave to show off their worth, Ovation became the go-to platform for many nouveau riche, including failed Nigerian government officials in past and present times, their families and cronies. Long before Facebook became the show-off platform for many, Ovation has been, albeit at a cost, as some critics allege, the preferred publicity medium. The tale, right or wrong, is that you have to pay to be lavishly featured in the magazine and this is believed to have swelled Momodu’s pockets over the last two decades. While he may have made a fortune from that, it earns him flak from some people who accuse him of hobnobbing with people, including government officials suspected to have made their fortune at the people’s expense.
But that is not the focus of this discourse. It is about Momodu’s large-heartedness which has provided a lifeline for many of his countrymen and women.
Without a doubt, his N5, 000 gift, from accounts of many of the beneficiaries and hopefuls on his Twitter page, is crucial.
One lucky beneficiary, in wait for the money, said he had not eaten all day.
Another said the palliative, should he get it, “will go a long way in helping my entire family.” For another, even N1, 000 will do, as that will at least guarantee a meal “tomorrow morning.” Someone else cut it down, asking for just N500, as he hadn’t tasted anything on the day aside water.
Indeed, scrolling through the litany of response is an exercise in mind peering, getting to know what troubles people in one of the worlds most gifted and upsetting countries.
In responding to Momodu’s call, some people went beyond the provision of bank account details, to reveal a few things about themselves or families and or include documents such as NYSC certificate, student’s identity card, National Identification Number, voter’s card, as a way, perhaps, to brighten their chances of getting selected. Some went overboard, requesting for more money than the philanthropist offered to give.
Reading many of the tweets, I later unburdened my mind to a friend: the situation in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, has surpassed alarming level.
Ahead of the country’s independence anniversary in October, the comments are a signpost of what Nigeria is, a statement on how well the country has come in 60 years.
It is a tragedy! I hate to compare Nigeria’s currency to other countries’ as what really matters is how much one is able to afford with what. But N5, 000 by the current official exchange rate of 380 naira to a dollar is less than $14. That is what many hang on to for survival, a “life saver” as one of the solicitors put it, in a land once considered the black man’s hope for its promise. It takes a Momodu to come to their rescue, and the whole process, beginning with the promise and disbursement of the palliative, is less dramatic, compared to the Mohammadu Buhari administration’s palliative package of same amount which, as experience shows with government programmes, is short on transparency and delivery.
With Nigeria’s current situation, exacerbated by rising costs of food and basic amenities on a daily basis, would anyone–government official, sympathizer, ethnic jingoist or whatever–truly look anyone in the face and accuse him or her of exaggerating Nigeria’s poverty? Would anyone beat his chest that there’s no abject poverty in the country or that the situation is far from lamentable?
**Anthony Akaeze, an award-winning freelance investigative journalist, is an author of four books. He is currently working on a new book with the tentative title, “Where Strangers Dwell,” a story of hope, pain, accomplishments, migration and discovery.
– Sept. 8, 2020 @08:05 GMT |