Only wailers would doubt this administration’s love for Nigerians especially the poor among them. Both President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo have shown in their words and actions that they have a special passion for the poor in Nigeria.
That is probably the reason why in spite of the unprecedented suicide cases recorded in the last five years of this administration; the number of job losses (Nigeria Bureau of Statistics says 3.3 million people lost their jobs in nine months); and acute poverty in the land, the President is still an acclaimed fighter for the poor.
Some people might be genuinely concerned about a fight that has kept the poor poorer, pushing them to the brink of untimely deaths but the President and the VP seem to know better. After all, even if Nigerians don’t know anything, they should be convinced that President Buhari so loved the poor that he sent his own children to the best schools in the world so that they would not be products of the rotten public school system in the country.
We should also know that President Buhari as a lover of the poor, shall never entrust the wellbeing of his family to the hands of Nigeria’s medical personnel no matter how good they are, hence his decision to fly his son to Germany despite the N1bn voted for Aso Rock clinic. Only poor Nigerians are destined to suffer from high infant mortality, which the World Health Organisation says Nigeria has one of the highest rates in the world with every child in five dying before their fifth birthday.
While poor Nigerians may rely on their legs to move around, the President has access to nine presidential jets, after all he needs them to reach the world in a jiffy to work for his poor friends. President Buhari is fighting for the poor so much that in Aso Villa where he lives, he is not permitted to use the same eating utensils for more than one year. Hundreds of millions go into replacing his plates and cutlery yearly, while his friends eat from leaves. The budget for his dogs’ food can feed majority of his poor friends for a year, not to talk of the budget for his own family food. Both him and his vice president got N145m budget for foodstuffs and catering materials in 2019. This is different from the N44m they both got for refreshment and meal. Aso Rock got a separate N137m for the same purpose. But their poor friends beg for food, with many of them dying of hunger every day. Only wailers will fail to comprehend this kind of love of the father bestowed on his poor children.
And like the President, Vice President Osinbajo has done more than enough to prove his love for the poor. This is partly evident in the tasks he chose to perform to bail them out of poverty. We can still remember how the VP came down from his exalted position to distribute largesse to the market women in the name of tradermoni ahead of the 2019 general elections. TraderMoni is a collateral-free loan of N10, 000 to petty traders, repayable within a period of six months.
We all saw how the VP humbled himself as if he had no reputation to protect and traversed the length and breadth of Nigeria distributing N10, 000 each to the poor through the programme. The VP was seen on the streets of Abuja, Lagos and other major cities in the country associating with the poor. He even bought bread for some of them in addition to giving them the social security fund meant to better their lives. These poor Nigerians were expected to trade with the money, make profit, feed their families and send their children to good schools. In the VP’s words, it was one initiative this administration had put in place to address the plights of those at the grassroots. It was meant to help them grow their businesses and make lives meaningful to them and their families.
That’s why the government ensures there is no collateral and when they repay the loans, they can secure more from government because it shows they are serious with what they are doing.
Wailers criticised the VP for spending up to N25m on aides each time he went to share the tradermoni, questioning why the money was usually shared before elections. But the VP has insisted it is all for the good of the poor. Again, government has promised to resuscitate the scheme which went under after the general elections. It is planning to go to Bayelsa State for the next round of sharing. Incidentally, governorship election in Bayelsa is slated for November this year. But, as the VP has assured, the sharing has nothing to do with election, it is just the turn of the poor in Bayelsa to enjoy the dividends of democracy. As it is, the poor in Kogi State should soon expect their own share of the father’s love.
Since the VP has done a good job of helping poor Nigerians with his superlative performance, this is a clarion call on him to spare a thought for the children in his home state, particularly pupils in Ikenne Local Government Area by helping them clear the books donated to them by the World Bank, which unfortunately have been rotting at the Lagos ports since 2018.
The VP may not be aware of this, but people that worked for him ahead of the 2019 general elections promised to clear these books from the ports on his behalf. Months after election, the students are still waiting to see this promise fulfilled. The World Bank had donated 30,000 books to schools in Ikenne LGA to develop education in Ogun State and lift the burden of buying textbooks off indigent parents. However, more than one year after the container arrived in the country, the local and state governments have abandoned it at the port.
The council got the books through the efforts of a Nigerian in the United States, who used his connection to get the items worth millions of dollars donated to these children. The books were supplied under the Book Project of the World Bank Family Network, with the mission to assist in the education of children in developing countries. Under the scheme, the bank’s volunteers collect books, mainly school books and prepare them for shipping to developing countries’ public schools or community centres’ libraries – all sponsored by the World Bank.
However, since the ship berthed in Nigeria in June 2018, attempts to get the local and state governments to clear the container and distribute the books to schools in the local government had proved abortive. Right now, both the state and local governments are dodging the responsibility to clear the books. The local government chairman even said anybody that wanted to help a lazy man should be prepared to go all the way. “If you are giving us books, what we expect is that you bring the books to our doorsteps. It is not that I would go to the port to clear the books through customs,” he had submitted.
As of November 2018, the estimate for clearing the container with lading number S314861401 through customs, had risen to about N4.5m. The Vice President is most qualified to help these children, who are the obvious beneficiaries of this laudable initiative. The VP, being an erudite professor of law, should know the value of education and the role that wide reading plays in expanding anybody’s horizon. Besides, he is from Ikenne LGA and should take up the project as his own way of giving back to the society. After all, charity should begin at home.
If the VP does not intervene as promised by his aides, the container may remain at the ports forever and customs may be forced to auction the books. He should not forget that this is a country where containers are abandoned at ports for decades. Here, learning equipment imported for the 6-3-3-4 system of education was left to rot at the nation’s ports until the system was quietly dumped by previous government despite being an educational system that could have enhanced Nigeria’s technological advancement. Our VP should also be reminded of the over 2000 containers imported into the country to improve on electricity supply under the National Integrated Power Projects by late President Umaru Yar’adua in 2010 that were abandoned at the ports. By the way, the Transmission Company of Nigeria just recovered about 693 containers of power equipment abandoned at the ports after 15 years despite the fact that Nigerians have continued to groan in darkness.
It will be a shame, if foreigners whose governments accord right priorities to their children’s welfare, growth and educational development, invest their hard earned resources in bettering the lot of Nigerian children only for our own leaders to make such efforts end in futility. Such waste of resources and efforts are surely going to be demoralising and could block future acts of goodwill. The VP should adopt a different approach to this book issue by ensuring that they get to the poor pupils; if only to shame detractors who say election promises in this country remain what they are called – promises.
Olabisi Deji-Folutile, who is a member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, wrote in via [email protected]