By Dele Sobowale
“So we for the first time put in the budget a line for what is called NSIP; that is N500 billion for NSIP and that is the largest of its kind in the history of the country.” Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, at the NBA 58th Annual General Conference, Abuja, August 28, 2018.
Professor, Pastor Osinbajo, SAN, also declared that his Federal Government, not our own, has employed 500,000 graduates. Please don’t laugh; this is a serious matter. Granted, we have been told times without number that “Every government is run by liars and nothing they say should be believed” by I.F. Stone, the Buhari administration has in three years established a record for “inexactitudes” uttered by everyone of its top officials as might never be broken by any other hereafter. And, on no occasion do they resort to untrue statements than when an independent body had issued an unflattering report on the State of Nigeria under the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Somehow, though, I had thought that the intellectuals and “Men of God” among them would rise above the low level of the rest. National Publicity Secretaries of Nigerian political parties are selected for their ability to pronounce falsehoods with a straight face. Some even become ministers afterwards!!! Professors and clergymen were expected to exhibit certain high standards. But, what does Nigerian politics not diminish? Increasingly, one is beginning to reach the conclusion that in this country today you, “You cannot adopt politics as a profession and remain honest.” Left to me now, I will accept the words of an ordinary pick-pocket rather than those of almost all our “politrick-cians”.
OK, I admit lawyers and absolute truth are almost like two parallel lines that seldom meet. But, in our youth we were told that “there is honour, even among thieves and Area Boys.” If you snatch a handbag and find five thousand naira in it, you don’t tell your gang it was only one thousand five hundred!!! The VP unloaded on his co-lawyers a statement which will be presently demonstrated to be false in every material sense. But, first permit me to put the VP’s declarations in its context for that day.
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom had, in South Africa, announced to the whole world that Nigeria is now home to the highest number of the world’s poorest people. She even went further to remind us that we are running away from the rest of the world by creating seven extremely poor people every minute. Let me help you out on the meaning of that. That means 1600 fellow Nigerians every day and 5,900,000 every year are headed for abject poverty right now. Please remember that as you make up your mind about next year.
However, it was not only the UK’s economists who had declared Nigeria as the almajiri capital of the world. The Brookings Institution in the US had in June, before the VP wasted our funds on his jamboree to the US, declared Nigeria the poverty capital of the world. When the World Poverty Clock, another global institution announced a few weeks after Brookings that Nigeria had overtaken India as the country with the largest number of people living in abject poverty the reaction from Buhari’s government was swift and predictable.
“An ambassador is an honest man sent to lie abroad for his country.”—Sir Henry Wolton, 1568-1639.
Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister was the first to issue a rejoinder. He announced, as usual deliberately incorrectly, that the report was based on 2010 data. Nothing could be further from the truth. In 2010 Nigeria could not have had 87 million people living below the global poverty line. But, that is Buhari’s international representative for you.
Higher in rank than the worldwide envoy, is the VP. When the UK Prime Minister unloaded her damning verdict on Nigeria, Osinbajo was quick to respond at the NBA conference. You have already read what the erudite scholar and Professor said in response. It was pure drivel. Here is why. And, I start by taking on the VP on his words – which did not even reflect the truth.
You read that the FG committed N500 billion to the NSIP. That was pure fiction or a figment of somebody’s imagination. The proof of my statement will be provided shortly. But, first, let us accept the statement that the FG under Buhari had committed N500 billion to eradicate poverty. Even if the entire amount was given to the 87 million extremely poor people it would have amounted to less than six thousand per person per annum or about five hundred naira per month or less than twenty naira per day or less than ten US cents. Since extreme poverty is defined as people living below two dollars a day, how on earth does our Professor expect ten cents to make any impact?
“There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth.”—Mark Twain, 1835-1910.
I don’t know the VP that well; unfortunately, for the destitute in Nigeria and the rest of us, the VP had exaggerated the government’s contributions to them to the breaking point. The FG budgeted but never delivered N500 billion to NSIP and the government has not engaged 500,000 graduates. Here is the evidence.
In September of 2016, Mrs Uwais, wife of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, who was placed in charge of what then was called Social Welfare Programme, now NSIP was asked about the details of the programme. It was also in September 2016 that the Minister of Finance announced that only N70 billion had been released for the Progarmme with changing names. Until the end of 2016, not more than N110 billion was committed to that programme. The same was true of 2017, the social welfare or poverty reduction initiative received less than N130 billion. Everybody knows what has happened in 2018. The budget was not passed until June and little money had been given to Mrs Uwais. So, where on earth did the VP get the figure N500 billion from? Less than N300 billion had gone into this project in three years and Osinbajo knows it.
It was bad enough that someone at the topmost levels of government would stand in public and proclaim expenditures that were never made. It is worse when the more sordid details of the total failure of this scam are being swept under the carpet by a clergyman.
First the FG has not employed 500,000 graduates because there has never been enough funds to pay them if employed and the facts are available with me. Second, nearly seventy percent of the funds released had not gone to the kids for feeding or the poor promised N5000 per month or to teachers. The bulk of the money had been spent on administrative expenses. It is Mrs Uwais and the office staff, not the poor people who collect the lion’s share of the funds. That is why the VP’s office had refused to open up the books for audit or to provide the names and locations of beneficiaries for verification. Let Pastor Osinbajo provide the names of the 500,000 graduates employed for us to see. I can bet my life it does not exist. It is all fiction.
ADVICE TO VP ON THIS MATTER
“Politicians are their own grave diggers.” Will Rogers, 1879-1935.
Be careful what you say. If a new government comes into office in the future and decides to probe NSIP, they must naturally start by asking what happened to the N500 billion you claim was spent on this project each year from 2016. Will you then tell them that less than N300 billion was actually spent in the three years under review? Who will believe you? Aburo, be careful!!!
PA OLATUNJI DE SOUZA PASSES ON
Pa Egidio Isiro Olatunji de Souza passed on Wednesday August 22nd, 2018 aged 87. Pa De Souza, was a staunch Catholic until the end.
Burial arrangements are as follows. Wake keep at St Leo’s Catholic Church, Ikeja: Thursday, September 13, 2018 ; 4.30 – 6.00pm prompt.
Funeral Mass on Friday, September 14, 2018, by 10.00am at Holy Cross Cathedral, Lagos. Internment at Ikoyi Cemetery, behind Radio Nigeria. Entertainment of guests at Yoruba Tennis Club.
Pa Souza is survived by his widow, Mrs Ibidun de Souza (nee Browne) and three children among who is Professor Olakitan de Souza.