Thursday, 4 September 2014

One Million Naira Grant to Anambra Indegenous First Class Graduate: One Million questions to Answer

Sometime in October 2014, news spread that the government of Anambra state was issuing a 1million naira to all indigenous first class graduates. It sounded too good to be true because by then, I had come to believe that anyone who is waiting for the Nigerian government at any level to get anything is wasting his time; ranging from power, water, healthcare, and other basic amenities. If you wanted to be comfortable in Nigeria, you have to try as much as possible to establish yourself. Your level of comfort depends on the level to which you succeed in establishing yourself –a case of as you make your bed, so will you lie on it. But after much waiting, and finally in March 2015, the then governor Chief Peter Obi did it. It was like his parting gift to the state, and was all over the news. There were smiles on so many faces. Those who were not affected directly were affected indirectly, and those who were neither directly nor indirectly affected were thrilled by the initiative and magnanimity of the governor.
But I read a news commentary online in one of the national tabloids and discovered that while so many smiled, so many others literarily wept. It was about some eligible candidates not being able to access the said fund. Since then, so many questions have been crossing my mind, and I believe I am not alone in this. I decided to put down some of them so that anyone who cares especially among the government caucus can aid in answering them. Of course, one could generate a billion questions on any issue, but I have decided to limit mine to just a million, at least so that anyone who might care to answer would not be belaboured or intimidated by the volume. I have moreover attempted to answer some of the questions from my investigated viewpoint, or given a clue as to how to answer some of them. Sometimes in matters relating to Nigerian politics, it is better to let the sleeping dog lie, but surely, not when the dog is lying on your bed.
 There are so many reasons why former governor Obi’s initiative was laudable even by those who were not beneficiaries. More than being a means of encouraging hardwork and excellence, it was a veritable tool of youth empowerment in a country where the youths have been largely neglected, and where unemployment is constantly skyrocketing. This is one of the many wise moves of Chief Obi which has credited him with the best governor the state has ever had, and one of the best Nigeria has ever had. However, as I earlier hinted, so many ‘Why Nots’, or ‘Should Haves’ could be generated from this singular act. For instance one could ask why it was the first class graduates and not the destitute, or why 1million and not 2 or 5 in a country where inflation has hit double figures.  But let’s shelve all that and concentrate only on questions bothering the execution of this project.
The dailies reported on Friday March 14, 2014 that Anambra government doled out 160million naira to 160 indigenous first class graduates starting from 2006 till date. But the confirmed truth is that not up to a 100 people received the award. Why was a contrasting report carried by the press? A particular section of the candidates, precisely the clergy, and those who passed through the seminary were deliberately delisted. Why? Well the most affordable answer posited was that the priests were already empowered. This is a big misconception. A priest by virtue of his ordination owns a car as a token from his local community to assist him in his work. But the truth is that the average priest more often than not struggles to fuel his car in a diocesan setting were over 90% of the congregation (on whose benevolence and religiosity the priest depends for a living) are poor rural dwellers eking out their living. The truth is that most priests are just as comfortable as the average Nigerian who is barely able to take care of his basic needs. And if you consider a priest already empowered, what about their contemporary first class graduates in secular universities most of whom are retained as lecturers by their alma mater? Are these not comparatively more empowered? Moreover, how about other first class graduates who are ex-seminarians, and did not go on to become priests, who were also delisted by mere looking at their certificates?
Then again, there was specifically no qualification attached to the criterion for the reception of the award mind you. The report says all indigenous first class graduates starting from the year 2006-and why 2006 by the way? It did not say the award has to be only from Nigerian or from foreign universities; nor did it say that the recipient must not have been empowered before then; and with what parameters do we determine that one has been empowered or not?
The truth is I am most inclined to think that the governor emeritus was entirely oblivious of the idea of delisting all those with a certificate indicative of their ecclesiastical origin with such a flimsy excuse, since I know him to be friendly to clergymen. I think this is just a case of some backyard political rats tampering with people’s entitlements. But why does the government breed and harbour such rats? Is there not enough money to buy rodenticides and save so many from unnecessary heartbreaks?
Moreover why was the project stalled until three days to handover? Why was it even introduced at the final year of His Excellency’s tenure? Was it a campaign strategy for the incoming governor and for the party?  And if we voted for continuity, why has the new regime done nothing to many others who have submitted their results and who were told to wait for the second batch? Are we to wait until another election in four years time for another such bonus while many of our youths keep languishing in poverty? Or are we even to wait till eight years when we are sure to have a change of regime? Or is it going to be a case of another abandoned government project? Why is it that our government bodies always find it difficult to sustain good ideals? Why have other governments in other states in Nigeria not borrowed a leaf from this wonderful ideal, and even found other veritable channels to empower our youths?
It is true that there are so many government projects to be attended to with relatively limited resources. This is why part of the work of the government is to make a scale of preference and place priority on some projects over others. But it must be clear that empowerment of individuals, and especially the youth should rank highest in any government’s agenda because it not only portends a bright future for the society, but it goes a long way to take care of other problems including restiveness, crime, violence and insecurity.
Theophilus C. Nwajiobi  writing from Awka, Anambra state.



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