By Abimbola Oluyede
Nigerians are complex people to lead. Sometimes, authorities struggle to understand where the people are displeased, excited or unexcited by policies or programmes. What seems to gain currency in the Nigerian market in political and social engagements, however, is to either hate the leader or disparage whatever he does good or bad. And a glut hardly looks at the merits of any case from a dispassionate perspective.
The latest news whirling in town now is the pronouncement by the Honourable Minister, Human Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq about the disengagement of batches “A” and “B” of N-Power beneficiaries.
Quite unfairly, Hajiya Saidiya Farouq merely communicated the lawful decision by the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) to terminate the appointments of these initial beneficiaries of President Muhammadu Buhari’s poverty alleviation schemes under N-Power. Nothing personal.
N-Power is encapsulated in the broad special intervention package called National Social Investment Programmes (NSIP). NSIP, though, has never been terminated and President Buhari will never sanction such. At least not now.
But since the public notice, tongues have been wagging. Minister Sadiya has vitriols aplenty, vile criticisms and outright abuses by some Nigerians over the termination of earlier batches of the scheme, especially after realizing that indeed it is beneficial to the poor of the poorest of Nigerians.
As they say, every coin has two sides. It’s a thing of pleasure that the critics have at least seen something good in the Buhari Presidency. It means, the government is not all bad after all despite the dummy sold to Nigerians in 2019 in order to thwart his re-election.
NSIP has many arms and in the last four years, Buhari practically forced the National Assembly to approve the meagre budget of N500 billion annually, as included in the Appropriation Bill to fund the scheme. It was tougher in the first year, 2016. Senators who looked at the amount as too bogus and could still vote any outrageous amount for their personal welfare, initially rejected it and threatened not to approve the budgetary votes.
Yet Hajiya Sadiya gets the sticks alone. In reality, however, there is absolutely no reason to scold, lampoon and lambast Minister Sadiya over the public announcement of the termination of batches “A” and “B” of N-Power jobs.
She never initiated the policy, as it was that of the APC-led FGN under President Buhari. Sadiya is just a servant of the Nigerian masses and a plank between the government and the people. She does not fund N-Power jobs from her family treasury or patrimony. It belongs to Government and the same Government made its conditions of engaging beneficiaries public.
From the outset, Nigerians and particularly beneficiaries of N-Power jobs were told that it won’t last eternally rather for two years. Of course, mass unemployment is a serious bane in Nigeria and the feelings of the people over the termination of N-Power engagements is understandable.
But by the designs of such jobs, the government envisaged that after two years of internship in the various categories of skills acquisition and experience the N-Power envelope provides for beneficiaries within the period, they should thereafter be competent to stand independently as employers of themselves and others in the labour market. N-Power batches “A” and “B” have spent over four years; a 100% grace period.
What else do Nigerians want? Is it to lock out others, while in the comfort zone? Where is the fraternity as compatriots? The country’s resources cannot go round everybody simultaneously and that’s why the rotation of social benefits is inevitable.
Let’s not forget that President Buhari’s APC-led FGN stipulated two years for each batch of N-Power beneficiaries in order to free the space for new entrants. If the programme began in 2016 with batch “A” and subsequently batch “B” and in 2019, Minister Sadiya announced FGN’s decision to terminate these batches for another set of beneficiaries, what is really the grudge against the FGN or the Minister? Why the vituperations on Buhari?
And it is not even plausible argument by any Nigerian that President Buhari has abandoned N-Power beneficiaries. In fact, the Government has tinkered with several options of engaging them in other areas, including reaching an agreement with their temporal employers to hire the productive ones among them. But there again lies a dilemma. Most do not go to work yet collect the stipends, sadly the basic mentality of Nigerians. Their assessment records would eventually not support such further engagements.
Most Nigerians perceive N-Power jobs as part of their national cake. Many believe they have no reason to contribute to national productivity or service. However, once a country exists by a name and an identity, such as Nigeria, it should continue to service indolent citizens who sap from it in perpetuity. But by the vision and design of N-Power jobs, nowhere has it been stated that it is life-term. Let it be clear to everyone, least, the opposition PDP comes mouthing against President Buhari meaninglessly again.
The N-Power beneficiaries whose contract with FGN has been terminated now hardly complain about the abuse of the scheme by their state governors. Although these sleaze governors have infused into the scheme, the beneficiaries also align with it and pocket whatever gets to them, without any labour.
President Buhari is very benevolent! He is a patient and kind leader. Its same spirit Minister Sadiya has imbibed. And that’s why even when conveying the decision of the termination of N-Power jobs, after a psychometric assessment of the previous beneficiaries to determine their competencies, Sadiya compassionately said;
“We are engaging private sector bodies to absorb some of the beneficiaries after the completion of the psychometric assessment to determine competency and placement into various opportunities. The Federal government is committed to the continuation and expansion and, as such will now begin enrolment and onboarding of a new batch of beneficiaries. Skills acquisition for entrepreneurship and job creation is critical for an economy that will require a boost in post-COVID-19 and we are gearing up proactively for the challenge.”
Minister Sadiya intends placing the scheme under some tight regulations to insulate it from the abuses by State Governors. She said: “The ministry has undertaken a review and re-appraisal of the programme in order to strengthen the program design and streamline for efficiency.” She deserves praises and not vilification. Nigerian s should be thankful, at least for once for the efforts of Government.
Therefore, the black sheep who have gone to town with everything at their disposal to blackmail the innocent woman because she is out to ensure fairness and equality in order to allow another set of Nigerians benefit from the scheme should have a rethink. Batch “C” of the N-Power scheme is already boarding and loading. No one has the capacity to restrain the anger of every Nigerian; but it can’t deter genuine public leaders from doing the right thing, as exemplified in Minister Sadiya.
The elements against her are just greedy and mischievous and much more, a negative portrayal of the kind of future leaders Nigeria is breeding. Nigerians must remember the philosophy of “live and, let’s live”. N-Power batch “C” has come to stay and Nigerians owe the Honourable Minister an obligation to embolden her to move on with every courage and charisma in putting smiles on the faces of other Nigerians; the same disposition which has earned her the appointment and trust of Nigerians these years.
Oluyede is an entrepreneur and wrote from Lagos.