The aforewritten caption is the campaign slogan in the 2019 general elections that adorned the campaign posters of Mal. Nasir El-rufai which was different from the general campaign slogan for his political party the APC that was christened NextLevel. Assessing the two campaign mantras vis-a-vis their outcome after the election would apparently reveal that the people of Kaduna State govern by el-Rufai are being put first indeed meanwhile, Nigerians are cruising on the NextLevel lane.
Putting the people first is generic or imprecise in meaning in that it may mean different thing to different people. It could mean making the people the topmost priority (i.e pertaining their welfare and security), it could also mean making the peoples live count for good. It could mean ensuring that the people enjoy the accrual dividends of democracy e.t.c.
On the other hand, putting the people first could as well mean; making the people a target for government’s harsh, austerely, obnoxious policies. It could also mean chastising, ostracising the people for power not minding whose ox would be gored. Also, putting the people first could mean reducing the people down and below the poverty line by making life extremely unbearable and excruciatingly difficult to them e.t.c. Thus, putting the people first could be for the positive or negative. Either way!
Now, since putting the people first does not have a definite meaning, it suffices to say that what will settle its divergent interpretation would be the resultant outcome that will at the end, reveal its true meaning at least contextually.
It is true and I believe same that even the devil knowest not the mind of a human being. So therefore, it will amount to a fallacy of hasty generalization to say that the meaning of putting the people first would only be for the positive.
Having made the above submissions, what is now left is to glean through the actions or inactions of the present government of Kaduna State to see if the various meanings as proffered interconnects with its 2019 campaign slogan.
The State has from 2019(i.e from the inception of the second term in office of the governor),been in the news for many reasons; be it for the good, bad or ugly. Also, the governor, has equally trended in the media space. Note however that this piece is not about why Kaduna State or Mal. Nasir have trended in the news!
Linking up the meanings of putting the people first to the extant outcomes from the actions and inactions of the government, one area that is of sharp focus for me is the State’s labour force which comprises of its serving employees and retirees as well.
In Kaduna State, it is common knowledge that government’s employees now live in perpetual fear of losing their employment at anytime. It is also common knowledge that job security which government employees used to enjoy now reside in the past as there’s nothing as such anymore in the state.
Statistically, and I stand to be corrected, the number of people that have lost their jobs in Kaduna State from 2015 till date are more than those that have gained jobs. Realistically, this being the situation, it follows therefore that workers in the state are being put first indeed!
Furthermore, take the case of the teeming pensioneers in the State; it was last year 2020 that I witnessed first hand the screening of pensioneers when I went with my father for his screening. The condition under which the screening was conducted was an eyesore. The retirees are made to stand on long queues under the scorching sun. There are neither adequate chairs for them to sit on nor enough canopies to form shade over their heads. To be honest, I was miffed and livid with anger seeing aged men and women who had served the state illustriously being subjected to such conditions.
Ditto from that screening to the present one ongoing at the State Pension Bureau, the condition hasn’t changed from the harsh, gruesome, excruciating, unpalatable and unfairest condition which has characterised the situation retirees have had to experience during their screenings. Could this also define what putting the people first means?
Generally and as I mentioned somewhere in this piece, the State government has made policies the implementation of which has generated public outcry and disgust wherein it has left trails of abject poverty, squalor, penury e.t.c. These are due to the manifest negative effect of the policies. Needless to mention the cases of the mass purgation, retrenchment or compulsory retirement e.t.c of Teachers,Local and State Government staffs. Or should I mention the case of the sacking of Traditional rulers? These would be topics of discourse for another day.
Back to my focus for this piece, I concede that perhaps el-Rufai has good intentions for the people of Kaduna State which I shouldn’t be hasty to castigate. However, what agitates my mind is how would one rationalize the unprecedented retrenchment of workers in the state vis-a-vis the unfortunate conditions retirees in the state are mostly subjected to during their screenings? I still cannot rationalize why the very people who served the state with vigour and zest would be paid back in that manner.
The governor may be absolved of any blame as he may not be aware of the situation at the screening sites of the pensioneers. However, it shouldn’t go without saying that as the governor of the state, he should design or order the design of templates for the screenings whereby retirees will be screened in well improved conditions.
In the final analysis, I hold the harmless view that the government’s actions or inactions should be carried out with a little modicum or semblance of a human face. That to me underscores putting the people first. Doing that would save a lot in that all frenzies, tensions, outcry from people in the state will be less. While doing otherwise, would depict concealed animosity towards the people.
In conclusion, I will suggest that for subsequent screenings of the pensioneers, the government should ensure that the processes are well conducted with adequate supplies of chairs and canopies. Also, it wouldn’t be asking for too much if the government makes provisions for light refreshments package per pensioner and also a makeshift accommodation most especially for those pensioners coming from far destinations who probably may not have accommodation in Kaduna. These and more when done will not only amount to putting the pensioneers first for the positive reason, but, it will ingratiate the government into the people’s heart.
YB GALADIMA, ESQ;
Writes From Kaduna