THose of us who were on the other side of the campaign train in the build up to the 2015 general elections knew that the All Progressives Congress (APC) led-federal government will never pay the promised N5,000 stipend to unemployed Nigerians even if a barrel of crude oil is sold at $100 or above. We knew quite well that the APC did not calculate the huge cost of such desirable social benefit to the nation’s economy even if crude oil is sold $120 per barrel.
In other words, the party did not do its homework very well to factor the financial implication of such ambitious scheme. Most of their campaign promises were like that.
That was why we dubbed them miracles that will take more than one miracle worker to fulfill. Events since the change regime assumed office have confirmed our fears. At best, the promise of a stipend for the jobless Nigerians was a campaign gimmick to win votes. Having seen the futility of its promise, the APC is now giving various excuses, which are quite untenable anyway, why it cannot pay the stipend. A promise, no matter the circumstances, should be kept whether the oil price is low or high. That is exactly what the PDP and indeed most Nigerians would like the APC government to do. We are tired of their excuses and shifting of blames. Nine months in office is enough for a new regime to start accepting responsibility for what is happening to the economy because if things went well, it would of course claim the credit.
There are other mouth-watering promises the ruling party made that space will not allow me the luxury to dwell on in detail. Permit me to summarize that the party and its flag-bearer, President Muhammadu Buhari promised to fight corruption, defeat the insurgents, revamp the economy, enhance exchange rate between the naira and the dollar or one dollar to one naira exchange rate, rebuild the economy, create jobs and reunite the country. In all these, it is only the fight against corruption that the government has been glued to since in its nine months reign with some level of success, though Nigerians are asking that all recovered loots, so far, should be made public. Besides, the government is yet to convict any person on corruption charges since it commenced the war against corruption.
We shall give it the benefit of doubt that the war against corruption is still on course. Sorry, let me not forget so soon that the government not long ago claimed that it has “technically” defeated the Boko Haram insurgency, yet the sect keeps surprising all of us with occasional bombings in what has been regarded as soft targets. Soft targets or not, attack is an attack.
We want a situation where the sect will be defeated finally and the North-East freed of all manner of attacks. That will be when it will be safe for the government to lay claim to victory over the sect.
Initially, Nigerians were told that Buhari said in Saudi Arabia that he will not pay the N5,000 stipend to people that have no work to do, that he would channel such resources to create jobs for able-bodied men. This, to me, makes a lot of sense because we have many jobless people and N5,000 stipend every month to 20 or 30 million Nigerians will not be easy to finance. Not even the padded 2016 budget can see that through.
When the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) reminded the APC that it has deceived Nigerian voters by reneging in its promise of paying allowance to jobless Nigerians, the APC-led government retracted its first statement and said they will pay the N5,000 stipend to only vulnerable and poor Nigerians, according to the Vice President’s spokesman, Laolu Akande. That to most Nigerians is an afterthought, a sort of damage control measure. The new proposal has its own problem as well. It will be extremely difficult to differentiate between unemployed and the vulnerable/poor Nigerians. To me, the two are in the same boat because they are poor and hungry. The jobless and the poor need the stipend. Besides, its implementation may be politicized.
While the confusion is yet to settle, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, added another comic twist to it by saying that Buhari campaign promises were based on $100 per barrel of oil. He explained that the current economic realities will force the government to reduce some of its promises.
I can agree with him that with the dwindling federal revenue, the government may find it difficult to fulfill some of its numerous promises but I beg to disagree with him that the campaign promises of Buhari were based on $100 crude oil price benchmark. That argument sounds absurd.
This is indeed the first time, Nigerians are being told that election promises are based on how much money crude oil will bring. We now know why things are upside down.
Even if that was the case, Buhari did not tell us that his promises were anchored on a particular crude oil price. I think that Mohammed can tell that to himself alone.
Available records showed that the APC kicked off its campaign in November 2014 when our oil sold for $79 per barrel. And the price even tumbled more before the polls. This fact renders his argument baseless.
A government that came to power on the template of change and personal integrity of its flag-bearer should be honest enough to tell Nigerians the truth always. Its later attempt to subvert the truth is futile and unconvincing even to illiterate Nigerians.
If the government says the truth, I believe that Nigerians are no fools and they can understand. But the current effort to pull the wool over our very eyes, using illogical deductions and rationalizations by agents of the government to hoodwink us amounts to adding insult to injury.
We know that the APC government like others before it is not quite different. The APC and the PDP are virtually the same in terms of orientation and outlook. We are used to promise and fail by governments in Nigeria. The only difference between the two major political parties is only in name. The fact that a party chants the change slogan does not really mean it will do better than its predecessor.
However, my prayer is for the ruling party to do better than its predecessor. Very soon, the APC government will mark one year in office. I hope that they will have something tangible to show Nigerians as their achievements.
Nigerians want results and not the litany of excuses being offered on why things are not working by the party in power. Integrity demands that government be truthful to its citizens. This policy flip-flop is not expected in a change regime.
Burdened by the promise of change and great expectations from Nigerians, the APC government is duty bound to keep to its numerous promises and where it cannot, it should say so unambiguously. The break dance over the N5,000 stipend is avoidable.