By Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye
Gen Muhammadu Buhari’s inauguration as President of Nigeria on May 29, 2015, attracted a mammoth crowd at Eagle Square, Abuja. That was after he led the All Progressives Congress to make history by defeating then incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, who contested the presidential election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party.
On May 29, 2016, he celebrated the first anniversary of his administration. Although it could not be described as an elaborate ceremony, Buhari addressed the nation in a nationwide broadcast early in the day as was customary on such national milestones. He later hosted State House correspondents and members of the National Assembly, separately, as part of activities marking the anniversary.
However, on May 29, 2017, there was a change. It was a different kind of celebration. Buhari was not around to take the front seat as expected. He was in faraway London, United Kingdom, where he is currently attending to his health.
Since he fulfilled the requirements of Section 145 of the Constitution by transferring power to his deputy before embarking on the medical vacation, there was no vacuum, or so it seemed. His absence provided Acting President Yemi Osinbajo the first opportunity to address the nation and speak about the administration’s achievements in the last two years.
Two days before and a day to the commencement of the Ramadan fast, Osinbajo had paid an unscheduled visit to Garki Model Market, Abuja. The visit, which was part of the activities marking the second anniversary of the Buhari’s administration, was essentially to interact with traders to get first-hand information on the cost of goods and other food items in the market.
On Democracy Day, Osinbajo spent his time at the State House Conference Centre, Abuja, showcasing the achievements of the National Social Investment Programme, with the theme: “A Smile for Every Nigerian,” as part of activities to mark 18 years of uninterrupted democratic rule, and the administration’s two years in office.
While the Special Adviser on the Social Investment Programme, Maryam Uwais, reeled out the achievements of the programme in two years, it was the testimonies of the N-Power beneficiaries that caught people’s attention.
The Acting President disclosed that the portals for N-Power to absorb an additional 300,000 candidates would be reopened on June 13, 2017.
It was indeed a unique way of marking this year’s Democracy Day. Many Nigerians hope and pray that things would get better as the administration enters its second half and as other programmes being initiated by the government start yielding positive results.
The select few opportuned to be beneficiaries of the Federal Government job initiative, N-Power, painted a pitiable picture of the conditions they were in before fortune smiled on them.
Among them were a physically-challenged, first class graduate who was jobless for seven months after graduation.
The N-Power initiative is aimed at empowering Nigerian graduates and non-graduates between the ages of 18 and 35 years with a stipend of N30,000 monthly over a period of two years.
One of the N-power beneficiaries Nwanjel Alfred was jobless for five years before he got lucky and was posted to Nomadic Primary school in Plateau State as a teacher under the N-Power Teach graduate scheme.
“Before now I was jobless. I graduated from the University of Jos in 2011, where I studied Biology Education. I have always had a passion for agriculture but did not have capital to start. With this N-Power, from the stipends I have been getting, I was able to engage in Irish potatoes farming in which I have planted 15 bags of seedlings. I’m hoping to harvest up to 50 bags of potatoes between June and July.
“I was posted to Nomadic Primary School in Bokos Local Government. I teach all subjects. I read biology education so I know all the methodologies to teach so that is not a problem at all.
Magaji Bala from Kaduna State, was jobless for seven years before the N-Power job came along. He was upset that he lost out in the YouWin programme of the last administration because he thought it was not real until he saw people that he knew who won grants worth N10 million.
He said: “The main benefit of this programme, for me, is that I have a job now. I wake up and I have somewhere to go and I am very busy now. And the financial benefits is that I can save to start my business. I am a veterinarian by training and so I want to start a small agro-allied store and have a poultry by the side. Also, this has placed me in a position where I have become knowledgeable and experienced in primary health care. We give vaccines and we work with partners like the WHO, UNICEF and several other platforms. It has given me the opportunity to learn so much and I can now say I know a lot about vaccines.
“I was out of job for seven years before I got this one. I graduated, went for my service year and almost two years after that without a job, I went back for my masters programme. I was at a point close to despair. It was hell. You wake up in the morning and you have nowhere to go to, your day is just there not planned.
“I like the fact that I didn’t have to pass through anybody to get this job. I had missed the opportunity to get a grant from YouWin and I was angry with myself. A friend of mine had told me to write a proposal and if it was good enough I could be among those that would win N10 million grant to start up a business. But I ignored it and didn’t apply because I doubted it; when people actually got the grant I was upset with myself.
“From then I promised myself that I would never allow such an opportunity to pass me by again. So when I heard about this I was the first to apply and, thank God, I got it.”
Ali Samuel from Plateau State, a visually- impaired teacher
“I finished my P.ED education from Federal College of Education, Robuchi, in 2016. I was unemployed until last year April when I used my NCE result to apply for this programme and I was surprised that I was among those that were given employment without having to know anyone or press any button.
“I was posted to Gindiri Material Centre for the Handicapped, in Jos. It is where the physically-challenged are included in the Nigerian education system through the provision of proper educational materials and training.
“I work there as a Braillist, I produce, translate, transcribe printed material or audio to Braille to enable the virtually-impaired read.
“Initially, I was posted to a regular school and I was not able to cope although I can teach regular students. I was posted to a primary school, where I am expected to teach all subjects including handwriting, which is a challenge since I cannot write immediately. It was not justifiable for a blind person to teach handwriting to someone who is not blind. Luckily, when I complained to my focal person, Dr. Ismaila Hamza, she sought permission from the office of the Vice President and she was permitted to transfer me to where my services would be needed most.
“I’m passionate about teaching mathematics and sciences to the blind and you know our method of learning is unique, we use Braille, that is, we use our hands to read and write. I was opportune to learn mathematics in a secondary school and I was able to learn a lot of the scientific symbols and to make expressions in equation terms and calculations.
“My students are grasping what I’m teaching them even though we just started in March as I spent January and February in a regular school before I was posted to my present post.
“I’m so appreciative of what I am doing because I’m impacting knowledge to my students, who are also virtually-impaired. I also assist other teachers who teach blind students in a regular school even at A-levels and tertiary institutions when they have challenges teaching the blind and I derive joy in that,” he said.
Nwore Valentine: I’m a beneficiary of N-Power. The programme has done a lot for me. When I passed out of school, I was going to different places looking for job, and for one who has interest in teaching, I was going from one school to the other looking for a job but was unsuccessful. Finally when N-Power came, I applied reluctantly and, luckily, I was accepted without having any political heavyweight backing me. I was posted to Easy High School, Ebonyi. I teach Government because I read Mass Communication. I think my students have improved in their reading culture because of the type of method I employ, which is friendly and being a young person they seem to relate well.
“Financially, I have improved, I no longer depend on anybody for support and from my little savings I have been able to buy computers; I intend to open a cyber cafe so the arrangement is on course. I’m ready, I’m only looking for a shop now.
Dike Ebere Charles, first class graduate of University of Maiduguri
“I’m an N-Power beneficiary from Kano State. I have been looking for a job since I graduated from the University of Maiduguri with a first class in Human Anatomy in 2013, despite the threat of Boko Haram and the weather. I was not retained in my department and I had the opportunity to serve at the University of Uyo. The head of department recommended me for employment and I started lecturing there but again I was not retained because of the issue of Treasury Single Account. So since then I had been in search of a job, I was even searching for scholarship to go for my masters, I nearly gave up but my mother continued to encourage me. She suffered a lot to ensure I became a graduate, the first graduate among her eight children. I’m the sixth child and she struggled to ensure I graduated and then they were all expecting the job to come but none was coming.
“I’m good at teaching and my students were usually amazed and doubted if I was indeed a Corper during my service year in University of Uyo. While waiting for a job, I got admission to study for my master’s at Bayero University, and I was having issues with my logistics when I heard of N-Power. I reluctantly applied after a friend urged me to. I was successfully and was posted to School of Hygiene, Kano, where I teach Human Anatomy and counsel students, too. Presently, at Bayero University, the head of department has been trying to see that I’m retained but they are also being frustrated with this issue of TSA, they don’t have the finances to employ even though they want to.
“I would be happier if employed in a place of my dreams, with better pay, but I appreciate this opportunity and I relate well with my students. I’m running my master’s now and would like to go for my Ph.D. It would not be out of place if I get professorship at a young age, I’m 29 now. That is my dream,” he said.
Mohammed Suleiman :
Honestly speaking, from my experience with N-Power, the federal government has tried. The programme has helped a lot of us to be gainfully employed because, before now, we were doing nothing.
I’m representing Gombe State, I’m on N-Agro, I have a passion for farming. Before now, I had been into poultry farming but I had to stop due to lack of funds to continue the business. With the monthly stipend from this programme I have been able to restart the business and so it is going on.