Home FEATURED A DESPERATE CLUTCHING AT STRAWS, by Femi Sowoolu

A DESPERATE CLUTCHING AT STRAWS, by Femi Sowoolu

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Let’s begin our story with a little learning.

 

Popular expression: “To clutch at straws.”

 

Meaning: To try any route to get out of a desperate situation, no matter how unlikely it is to succeed.

 

Origin: It is only since the mid-19th century that we have been clutching at straws. Even more recently, the ‘grasp at straws’ version has become commonplace, especially in the USA. Prior to that, desperate people would ‘catch at a straw’. That usage of ‘catch’ was commonly used in mediaeval England, by which was meant ‘obtain/achieve’; for example, John Wycliffe used it in his 1382 translation of the Bible into English, in 1 Timothy 6:12:

 

“Stryve thou a good strif of feith, catche everlastyng lyf.”

 

By the 17th century, in the King James Version, this had migrated to:

 

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.

 

A straw was chosen as the height of futility as a means of rescue. Being, as it was, a flimsy and virtually valueless waste product, it was often used as a synonym for the most unimportant and trifling of objects. ‘Don’t give/care a straw’ was an indication of indifference, a ‘man of straw’ was an insubstantial adversary, and to ‘condemn someone to straw’ was to declare them ready for the madhouse.

 

‘To clutch at straws’ is now used as a figurative phrase, to describe any desperate situation. When the expression was coined, it specifically referred to drowning. The notion of a drowning man anxiously seeking ‘any port in a storm’ was first expressed by Sir Thomas More, in A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation, 1534:

 

“A man in peril of drowning catchest whatsoever cometh next to hand…be it never so simple a stick.

 

More used the imagery on several occasions, but didn’t mention straw in any of them. The ‘catch at a straw’ version of the proverb is first recorded in the English cleric John Prime’s Fruitful and Brief Discourse, 1583.

 

“We do not as men redie to be drowned, catch at every straw.

 

The metaphor expresses futility rather well. Straws do float, but a drowning man would have to be pretty much out of other ideas if he put any reliance on it bearing his weight.

 

Moving on to the 19th century, ‘catch’ has fallen from favour and we find an early mention of the current ‘clutch at straws’ version in The New-York Mirror, 1832

 

“…as drowning men clutch at straws.”

 

But, not everyone learns such lessons so fast, you see; some are adept at repeating classes! It does baffle one the continuos resolve to a route of blind ambition by our weird friends at the GNICO, the Gbenga Nasir Isiaka Campaign team. One would’ve thought that they should’ve picked up a few lessons from the disastrous performance by their larger party at the national polls, which had basically used the extra time provided by its flimsy postponement ruse, to re-energize a campaign of calumny against a targeted group of our progressive party chieftains. It was rewarding news to know that the Nigerian people refused to be fooled. After 16 years of constant lies, calumny and denial of truth, Nigerians, from all walks of life, came together and spoke with one voice, the voice of a progressive people, who needed a change in national governance. They shooed off the PDP with a unanimous chant: “Enough is enough.” Truly, there are many lessons to be learned from the dismal performances of the PDP in the Presidential and Legislative elections. Why has GNICO instead decided to toe the faulty line of lies, subterfuge and calumny. Did they not understand the message of the wise, old man who taught us the African proverb of the dog, the hunter and the whistle? It is obvious that lying has become habit; second nature. Sad.

 

GNICO in the latest of its series of spurious public releases has described the approval and payment of salary deductions of workers by the State government as a ‘Greek gift.’ In another shameless attempt at ignoring truth and reality, it has ignored, or has deliberately refused to acknowledge the fact that negotiations have been ongoing between government and organised labour over the issue of these deduction payments over the last few months, and that processes must to followed, and finalised to the agreement of all parties concerned. And we must also never ignore the fact that regular salaries of all Ogun state staff are up to date. Government has explained often that there were indeed valid reasons for the slight delays, which were regularly explained and understood by most people who showed genuine concern over the matter. But, sometimes, what can be so explained in the simplest of terms may appear indocile to one nurtured on a lifetime of adversary politicking. Blind, and deaf, by choice!

 

Such statements as these are better ignored, but because of the gravity of the deceit, if such vileness is left to fester, it corrupts even the purely innocent. There’s no point sparring with fools, but lest they begin to believe we are of their ilk, a distinction must be made for the benefit of posterity. The honourable Ogun State Commissioner for Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun’s presentation on the issue was lucid, succinct and final:

 

“In the light of the resumption of payment of salary deductions and co-operative dues with the release of N1.5 billion on Thursday, April 2, 2015, we believe it is necessary to clarify the issues that gave rise to the delay in payment and other matters relating to the state’s finances.. Prior to October 2014 and the global fall in oil prices, Ogun State Government had a stellar record of meeting all its financial obligations including those inherited from the previous administration as and when due. Indeed, we paid salary deduction for 41 consecutive months including three months left unpaid by the previous administration.

 

With the implementation of minimum wage, the public sector wage bill rose from N4 billion to N6.2 billion monthly. The additional N2.2 billion monthly directly improved the income levels of all our public sector workers and had a multiplier effect across the state, increasing our GDP. We recognise the key role public wages play in the state economy and we have paid salaries up to March 2015.

 

As stated earlier, since October when we had the general downturn in the national economy, we have been challenged by the effects of a reduction in FAAC, and Internally Generated Revenue. The suddenness of the downturn was such that immediate adjustments could not be made, thus the delay in remittance of salary and co-operative dues. His Excellency, the Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun presided over the development of an interim recovery plan which ensured that no worker would be disengaged. A medium term financial strategy has been developed which will help us to overcome this short term fiscal imbalance. Not only will no worker be disengaged but rather the forthcoming recruitment of additional staff will be undertaken.

 

While not wanting to join issues with the PDP candidate, Mr. Gboyega Isiaka, it must be pointed out that his personal financial mis-management has contributed to the financial challenges we have faced. It will be recalled that under his leadership, Gateway Holdings took a loan, guaranteed by Ogun State Government, of N1.6 billion for the purported construction of a head office and a mega filling station.

 

It is a shame that there is nothing beyond a foundation to show for the loan taken and the proceeds cannot be accounted for. In addition, not one naira was repaid culminating in this administration inheriting a balance of N2.6 billion which we are now repaying at the rate of N100m monthly

 

The financial performance of this administration has consistently perplexed our detractors. They have therefore resorted to wild allegations of secret foreign loans. We restate again that we have not taken any foreign loans. Indeed, if they were conversant with financial regulations they would, or should know that foreign loans can only be taken with the express approval of the Federal Ministry of Finance, and is subject to legislative assent.

 

The DMO maintains and publishes periodic data on our loan portfolio and we invite the PDP to provide proof to substantiate their allegations or keep their peace.

 

It has always been our position that Ogun State is financially robust and we are confident that the present challenges will be overcome with our innovative strategy to accomplish our Mission to Rebuild our dear state. This is evidenced by the achievements of our administration in restoring sanity to our clime by ensuring security of lives and property, rebuilding infrastructure, attracting industries, restoring investors’ confidence, putting the education and health sectors right and generally raising the standard of living of our people. We make bold to say that under our administration, things are really getting better.

 

Finally, I thank all our people for their support for our administration before, during and after the last Presidential Elections. Gentlemen of the press, while I appreciate your cooperation, I urge you to continue to separate the wheat from the chaff. Let nobody use you to spread malicious and false information.

 

Thank you and God bless.”

 

Mrs. Kemi Adeosun.

Hon. Commissioner for Finance.

 

That statement by the honourable Commissioner, surely should’ve been enough, but these ones are certainly hard of learning, and there seems to be little between the ears too; also they are no students of political history. They have learned nothing from the lessons of the past, either recent, or distant. The great leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo had once told us in one of his most metaphysical moments, that: “A day will come when Nigerian masses from the North and the South, Christians, Muslims, and Animists will merge as a force for Progress and Unity, and kick against rigging, corruption and tyranny.”

 

Well, isn’t it obvious that that glorious day Papa foresaw in vision has finally come, and no amount of subterfuge, lies, propaganda and fictitious reportage can change the will of the people. Omo Ogun have decided not to go back to the dark days of terror, fear, genocide and human sacrifice. We have chosen a path of progress and development that will turn Ogun State into the centrepiece of the new, modern Nigeria, where squander-mania, looting of resources, brigandage and corrupt governance no longer exist.

 

This is the Final Word!

 

Femi Sowoolu.

Media & Publicity Committee,

The Senator Ibikunle Amosun Campaign Organisation.

(SIACO)

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