By Gozie Irogboli….
The debate about the suitability of the current regime’s Social Intervention Programme also known as Tradermoni is still on. Although this may appear belated as the election is around the corner but the concept is worth critical examination especially in the light of the timing, implementation and scope.
As expected of most government actions especially in the regime, the Tradermoni has generated a lot of controversies from concerned Nigerians especially from members of the opposition. PDP and other concerned observers have alleged sinister motives behind the selective distribution of ten thousand Naira each to traders by the APC government in the name of empowerment. There is this insinuation that APC is not campaigning as they should for the forth-coming election because they are banking on rigging and vote-buying and the Tradermoni is the arrow head of their plan.
The debate actually indicated that the people did not trust the intentions of the government. Indeed you do not blame those who have expressed reservation about the Tradermoni brouhaha. Trust is earned; it is cultivated. It is not obtained by empty rhetoric and footless claims. Trust is a function of the perception the people have about your reliability, integrity, competence and honesty.
For close to four years of coming to power of this regime, no visible policy frame or programme has been designed or put in place to alleviate the ravaging scourge of hardship and poverty in the land and three months to the general election, they suddenly come up with the tradermoni programme thereby fueling speculation that it is intended for vote-buying—a syndrome that seems to be institutionalized in this regime and which is threatening to macerate our inchoate democracy.
Indeed, if the intention is to empower the traders as claimed by the representatives of the government, why would the government be the one to execute it? Couldn’t it be more properly executed by the deposit money banks or designated to specialized financial institutions? And if the government must do it must they take the PVC numbers of the beneficiaries? And if the demand for the PVC is to ensure the beneficiaries execute their civic duties, why did the programme not start before now to motivate people to register for voting? And why would what is termed Social Intervention Funds be limited to traders? Are the traders the only group affected by the current harsh economic situation in the country?
Without doubt, the selective distribution of #10,000 to the traders is a reflection incompetence, poor policy engineering and poverty of ideas on the part of the initiators of the programme. Also, it is more or less an affront on the sensibility of the people. It is a show of apathy to the sufferings of the people. To wait for the election period to begin to give hand-outs to the traders in exchange for their voters’ cards smacks of fraud and blasé attitude. It is a reflection of how the government regards the electorate: people that are only relevant for electoral duties only. This is a shame.
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The average Nigeria politicians think of the citizens only in terms of electoral value only. Their interface with the electorates is during electioneering period only and afterwards they would remain incommunicado and evasive; no further interactions, no proper stakeholder engagements. They deliberately keep the masses permanently pauperized so as to make them easy to manipulate during elections. This is why the Alimajiri culture which is sustained by politics and not religion is still burgeoning in the North-West and the area-boy syndrome still growing in the South-West Nigeria despite the preponderance of the men from these two regions in the government of the country. It is in this regime that a serving governor bought wheelbarrows to the youths of his state in the name of empowerment.
Clearly, the tradermoni programme is as uneconomic as it is demeaning to hand out such a trifle to the traders in the name of empowerment. I do not know the kind of World Bank study that informed this kind of obtrusive intervention. In the present day Nigeria, how much is ten thousand Naira worth. Instead of creating jobs, providing sound policies and enabling environment this government is roaming the markets beguiling traders with handouts in the name of support. This is ridiculous in the extreme!
This is obviously no way to empower people neither is it a way to alleviate poverty, create wealth or practice financial inclusion. If it is not an outright fraud then it is a clear exhibition of intellectual languor, lack of conceptual skills and commitment to the affairs of the people by the government. More than any before it, this government has by its numerous gaffes shown lack of integrity, intensity, intelligence and ingenuity in handling the affairs of the country.
There are many ways to practice financial inclusion. If the government is desirous of empowering the people, they should make wilder consultation and adopt a holistic approach rather than this limiting it to the traders who are predominantly from a section of the country believed to be supporting the opposition.
The government of Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida in an effort to promote financial inclusion deregulated and liberalized the financial sector, licensed private banks, established Peoples Bank, community banks, strengthened the regulatory frameworks, among measures. The OBJ government did some far-reaching reforms aimed at improving the payment system and financial inclusion, but we have not seen the initiative of the present government.
When the dictator General Sani Abacha increased the pump price of the petroleum product from six Naira to eleven Naira, he created what was then called Petroleum Trust Funds (PTF), which the incumbent president managed, in order to cushion the effect of the increase on the citizenry. Again, when GEJ increased the pump price of fuel in January 2012, he created SURE-P for the same reason. But when PMB increased the prices, the increase that is unarguably the highest and the most outrageous in terms of size and degree in the history of the appropriate pricing of petroleum product in the country, he created no palliative measures whatsoever…and there have been a lot of shilly-shally in the debate to pay workers living wage. Even the much advertised campaign promises were repudiated immediately after the election.
It is disheartening that those wielding power together with PMB are the ones known in the past as the Progressives, those who profess welfarist ideology, those who in the past have pretended to be more patriotic, democratic, responsible and more caring than others; those who claim to be on the side of the masses. And yet the masses of this country have never been so dispirited and estranged as they are now under them. Five months to the end of their four-year tenure they have not been able to articulate any programme to empower the people other than selective handing traders the paltry sum of ten thousand in exchange for their PVC numbers in the name of empowerment. Again, this is ridiculous and shame-making in the extreme.
I must state unequivocally here that collecting peoples’ PVC number under whatever guise other voting is clearly an electoral offence that is condemnable. Nigerians must be wary of the antics of unscrupulous politicians and voting for financial inducement. It is left for the people to decide whether to collect #10,000 and eat for a day and mortgage their future for a pittance. If you sell your vote for a mess of pottage then you must not complain when the reality unfolds. Joseph de Maistre (1753 – 1821) the French moralist and philosopher put it rightly when he averred that every society deserves the leadership it has. Nigeria vote for the leader you deserve!
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