Monday 2 December 2013

Nigeria: Mrs Joy Ifije, the widow, visits Governor Oshiomhole

As things turn
On Saturday, I wrote, Nigeria: How Humanity Lost Oshiomhole and Gained a Widow and waited to see how things would pan out. The concerns in that blog remain valid much as the governor has now addressed the particular; the general is in need of action too.
Probably, the consensus is that Adams Oshiomhole, the Edo State governor, has dramatically redeemed himself after the video of the excoriation of the widow on Benin-City streets where he told her to, “Go and die!”
The widow, Mrs Joy Ifije was sought out by the governor, and after extraneous attempts to justify his intemperate expression, employed her as an activist for the cause of chasing street hawkers off the roads, presented he with a large brown parcel of cash totally NGN 2 million ($12,620) and a scholarship for her son.
The governor’s advice was that she put it first in the bank and eventually use it to setup shop to trade on legal trading premises – it would appear all’s well, ends well.
The viral video did it
However, if we must review this situation properly, the event where the Mrs Joy Ifije was dehumanised was recorded over a fortnight ago, but the video when viral last week, the consequences of which must have forced the governor to address a serious public relations gaffe.
The governor himself said his daughters had asked him to attend to the issue too, it had become too much of an embarrassment as some even found to make political capital out of her misery to doubly embarrass the governor.
Walk a mile in her shoes
Much as one cannot suggest that beyond the direct apology to Mrs Joy Ifije, the compensation she got was state money, some Utopian idealists would have preferred she spurn the governor and reject his gift.
My answer to them was that they walk a mile in Mrs Joy Ifije’s shoes and it is very probable that from their gilded cages of privilege and opportunity they would never have understood to any degree the situation of her widowhood. That, along with the pressures to meet the needs of her immediate family and other societal demands that placed her in the situation she found herself in the first encounter with the governor.
Sadly, some were keen to limit the outpouring of goodwill and sympathy that followed the publication of that video to make the point of ridiculing the governor whilst for a second time making an example of Mrs Joy Ifije.
For the greater social good
There is the particular of what happened between the governor and the widow and there is the general of what the social consequences of driving street hawkers off the roads without providing safe, adequate, affordable or subsidised trading places for their wares.
Street hawking is the source of many livelihoods, people resort to this because they cannot access the formal market areas for many reasons too many to mention. It is unlikely that any would resort to the streets if they had the means to rent market stall spaces and fill those stores with wares and goods to ensure the business thrives beyond breaking even to profitability.
That should become the bigger welfarist goal of the governor.
A wonderful change has come for her
Nevertheless, one thing must not be lost on us, the fact that if that video did not go viral, it is unlikely Mrs Joy Ifije’s circumstances would have been altered.
Certain eagle-eyed observers noted that Mrs Joy Ifije did not seem to have changed her clothes from her first encounter; one cannot read too much into that as much as it probably tells a deeper story of her situation.
We can only hope that what she got along with other generous contributions will put her on the right path to sufficiency and success. Along with the two children who accompanied her, I wish her the very best and that her sorrows and hardships become things of a long distant memory.
Much as Adams Oshiomhole appears to have acquitted himself well in being responsive and understanding of his unfortunate folly, it is yet to be seen if whether on or off record, after he became governor he was ever a nicer man than what obtain in the “Go and die!” video – time will tell.

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