When the FG kicked off the N-Power program (so-called Social Investment Program), I told a friend that it was an elaborate state bribery project. Yesterday, that standpoint was vindicated. Leadership newspaper reported yesterday that the federal government is about to disengage 200, 000 NPOWER beneficiaries; in short, the first set of beneficiaries will soon be dismissed. The government argued that it had to offload some beneficiaries in order to absorb new beneficiaries that would start over the same circle of job insecurity.
The unemployment situation in the country is unprecedented, with some statistics putting the number of unemployed at over 40 million. Nigeria, like the rest of Africa, has a youthful population; a phenomenon that has made young people the worst victims of our chronic unemployment situation. These are young elements about to start their lives, who need nothing short of financial certainty – to be equipped with means to live dignified lives and raise a new generation under conditions that are better than their parents had. The intervention these young people need is not a sinecure fixed for two years, after which they are thrown into the unemployment population that swells by the minute in Nigeria. But the government is blind to the actual needs of the Nigerian youth; its sole interest is optics and propaganda, while it blasts off our commonwealth to peculations.
According to the Leadership, the regime intends to pay the disengaged beneficiaries between 30k and 100k, in order for them to start small or medium scale businesses. You think that should be a joke, wait until you hear the rest of the regime’s glib talks. The regime went on to say that the beneficiaries ought to have been disengaged since 2018; it only stopped short of saying the beneficiaries should be grateful they were not dismissed earlier. Matter of factly, the regime would have disengaged them but for the 2019 electoral politics – a situation that would have denied the regime the propaganda of job creation with the vaunted Npower programme.
From inception, there was no visible indication that the regime wanted to put up a serious fight against unemployment with the Npower programme. Sensible people would have expected that creating jobs should mean creating values, in which case the price of the extra value would sustain the payment of wages and equally expand the GDP base. There was no such design behind the Npower programme; some of the schools where the Npower teachers, for example, were posted had no teaching material. The government was aiming at redundancy, not any serious plan of employing labour for economic growth. That is why the regime can without qualms lay off vulnerable young people in hundreds of thousands, and expect to be praised by the public.
Nigerians should see that this regime lacks the decisiveness presently required to undertake ambitious economic planning and production. However, if the economy is not approached in such a way that it can be productive, create value from labour, it cannot sustain employment. It cannot abolish poverty.
By far the clearest indication of this regime’s sterile will was its helplessness respecting electricity. Is there any modern economy that can thrive with Nigeria’s type of epileptic power supply? The centrality of electricity to industrial growth, to innovation, is a point we sometimes miss; same as we overlook that the antediluvian nature of our transport system stifles economic growth. Meanwhile, it is easier for the billionaires to overcome the obstacle of constant electricity, by simply procuring generators; a small or medium scale business may collapse under the weight of such overheads. That is why I asked us to laugh when the regime put up between 30k and 100k as compensation for the disengaged Npower beneficiaries. Unless they want to invest in ‘make-up’ kits, the vagaries of our poor infrastructure would lay the money to waste.
I don’t shirk from the fact that Nigeria’s problems are complex, and require an audacious approach to resolving them. Putting in place infrastructures would cost the government ample revenue and discipline. That’s the point, however. The regime lacks the inner will to put our revenues into undertaking audacious projects, without stealing it or enriching cronies with it. You can engage in the academic exercise over how Buhari is better than Jonathan, but you can’t in good conscience paint his regime as devoid of the peculation and cronyism that marred the Jonathan era. Our experience of a former FG’s scribe, who pocketed billions of naira from cutting public grasses, speaks of the self-aggrandising nature of the regime, which it shares in common with its predecessors. We have for example seen how government blew through the recovered Abacha loot and left us as a nation still culturally backwards.
It is futile to preach to the government. The government acts deliberately; it consciously seeks to corrupt and divide the population; it is vigorously seeking its survival and enrichment of its officials. But we have to preach to Nigerians to understand what we need, as against what they (politicians) want us to think we need. We need jobs that can confer dignity on human beings; government is duty-bound to create conditions that can engender value-generating employment. The culture of bribing poor people with public funds, when needed infrastructures are absent, must be viewed by Nigerians as insulting and divisive.
The regime has once again affirmed the incapacity of a backward capitalist regime to put in place the infrastructures that can stimulate economic growth, remove unemployment and abolish poverty. The Buhari regime still thinks that it is the job of Nigeria’s private sector that is challenged capital-wise, or some phantom foreign investors, to develop Nigeria’s infrastructures. The role of government has been reduced to bribery and debt accumulation. The young people whose lives are being mortgaged must rise and put an end to the convenience this regime enjoys. This is the time and period to make bold demands of the elites; put across initiatives for social and economic planning in ways that would confer permanent and positive effects on the people of this country.
- Impending Disengagement Of 200,000 N-Power Beneficiaries, Another Setback - January 11, 2020