Many Nigerians including opposition parties, civil society organisations and youths have said that the All Progressives Congress senators’ opposition to the N5, 000 monthly stipend promised unemployed youths by the ruling party is a sign that the 25 million poor Nigerians may not get the welfare package promised them by the APC.
The party, as part of its campaign promises, prior to the March 28 presidential election, had vowed to initiate a social welfare programme that would pay at least N5,000 to 25 million poorest and most vulnerable citizens, which would be tied to the demonstration of their children’s enrollment in school and evidence of immunisation to help promote family stability.
It also promised to pay N5, 000 allowance to unemployed university graduates after concluding the National Youth Service Corps programme without securing a job.
The party further promised to provide one meal a day for primary school pupils as part of its programme to encourage school enrolment.
However, APC senators during the week shot down a motion by Mr. Phillip Aduda of the Peoples Democratic Party urging Buhari’s administration to fulfil the campaign promise to pay N5, 000 allowances to unemployed youths.
In view of this, opposition parties, civil society organisations and youths, among other Nigerians, described the action of the APC senators as a sign that Buhari’s administration would not fulfil his other promises, especially the vow to N5, 000 monthly to each of the country’s 25 million most vulnerable people.
Going by its promise to assist 25 million indigent Nigerians, the administration will spend N125bn (that is, N5, 000 x 25 million) in the first month of commencement of the programme.
In a year, it will spend N1.5tn (N125bn x 12) on the programme and in four years, when the administration would be ending its tenure, a total of N6tn (N1.5tn x 4) would have been spent on the programme – an amount that is N1.6tn higher than the country’s annual budget for 2014.
While the APC senators are believed to have opposed the motion calling for payment of stipend to unemployment youths because of the financial state of the nation, opposition parties, CSOs, the labour union and youths are asking Buhari not to renege on the promise.
While the initial promise by the party was to pay N5, 000 monthly to 25 million most vulnerable Nigerians, Buhari’s running mate at the last presidential election, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (now Vice President), said during a TV programme, that the payment would be done in batches of 5 million beneficiaries annually.
“We will give N5, 000 to the poorest 25 million over a phased period, if their children are enrolled in school and participate in immunisation,” he said.
Osinbajo said it would cost about N1.35tn to pay all 25 million people at once, which he said made the party decide on paying in batches of five million people a year, adding that the party could do more “depending on resources.”
The PDP had described the rejection of the N5, 000 monthly stipend for the unemployed youths by the APC senators as a sign that it never meant to keep any of its promises.
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Olisa Metuh, in a statement issued in Abuja on Thursday, described the APC as a “party of hypocrites.”
He claimed that the party did not have the intention of honouring any of its campaign promises.
Metuh said, “The PDP declares that it is absolutely obvious to all that the APC came to power riding on monumental lies and deceit in making promises they had no intention to keep.”
In the same vein, the National Secretary of the Labour Party, Mr. Kayode Ajulo, expressed doubt that the APC would honour its promise to indigent Nigerians, saying it had so far shown a propensity to break promises.
He described Buhari’s recent claim that Nigeria was broke as a ploy by his administration to abandon its responsibilities.
He said, “The APC has sold Nigerians a dummy; the party deceived Nigerians. The party’s attitude is uncharitable. We should not believe that Nigeria is broke. The country is not broke in the sense that as of today, we are still selling our oil, though the price of the oil has gone down.
“The question is: what is the benchmark on which the country’s budget is based? And how much is Nigeria selling the oil?
“Secondly, paying the poorest of the poor was not the only promise made by Buhari and the APC. The President promised Nigerians many things, but it’s unfortunate that he has failed to fulfil them, which is why I said he is uncharitable to Nigerians.
“It is unfortunate that somebody will make promises and fail to fulfil them. Governance is a social contract which requires that every party to the contract must fulfil his part.”
Also, the National Chairman of the Unity Party of Nigeria, Dr. Frederick Fasehun, described both the APC and its promise to pay N5, 000 to 25 million Nigerians as “deceptive.”
Fasehun asked Nigerians to hold Buhari’s administration accountable for the failed promise.
He said, “I have not seen or heard of any promise made pre-election by the APC which it has fulfilled post-election. I know the party was only deceiving the people when it made that promise.
“They came in and said the treasury was empty. So, how can you pay N5, 000 to millions of poor Nigerians out of an empty treasury? They have been deceiving us and will continue to do so until we caution them. They don’t need to govern us with lies; they should tell us the truth. They only deceived the Nigerian people to get to power and now that they are in power, they don’t even know what to do with it.”
In his view, National Conscience Party presidential candidate in the last elections, Chief Martin Onovo, said he did not expect Buhari to carry out the welfare programme since he has denied his party’s campaign promises.
Onovo said, “Buhari has denied all the promises he was said to have made. It is a matter of integrity; he has denied all the promises made by his party and his campaign organisation. So, it will be improper to expect Buhari to fulfil a promise when he has denied that he ever made one.
“Even Buhari has denied the promises posted on the APC’s website. The first thing is to confirm that he made the promises before anyone can begin to hold him accountable for them.”
The General Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Mr. Peter Ozo-Eson, said politicians had been known to fail on keeping promises, while urging the President to fulfil his party’s promises.
He said, “You know politicians, they make promises during campaigns and when the reality comes, they realise that it is not always the same to deliver on all they have promised. I think if Nigerians are to take politicians seriously, it is important that they keep to their word.
“First of all, even when the campaign promise was made, what struck was did we have the database or information base to be able to implement that policy? It is important that when politicians make promises, that we are critical in evaluating those promises. We ought to be able to see if they are realistic or not.”
The spokesperson for the Ijaw Youth Congress Worldwide, Mr. Eric Omare, also described most of the campaign promises made by the APC as “unrealistic.”
He said the party’s insincerity was obvious because it failed to show clear ways by which to achieve its welfare programme.
Omare said, “The promises were deliberately made to deceive Nigerians into voting the party into power. So, there was no intention from the outset to fulfil those promises because most of the APC members have been in government and therefore had an idea of what was going on in the government.”
Omare criticised the APC senators for their recent action, saying, “Even if the APC cannot fulfil that promise because of the present economic situation, its leadership has a responsibility to explain that it is our promise to provide N5, 000 to these sets of people but because of the prevailing economic circumstance in this country, we can’t fulfil this promise.
However, the National President, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council, Mr. Okechukwu Isiguzoro, called for the resignation of President Buhari and other APC political office holders should the administration fail to honour its campaign promises to Nigerians.
He said, “If it was a ploy to deceive Nigerians by raising their hope, using the change slogan, then the APC people in government should resign. If they cannot keep their electoral promises, it is better for them to resign and leave the position for people who are ready to listen to the yearnings of Nigerians and treat them right.”
Chairman of the Northern Elders Council, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, also said that the APC administration would not be able to fulfil the promise on social welfare.
He said, “The APC-led government cannot fulfil it because it will cost a lot of money and it did not work out all the cost. If you want to do something like this, you must have a blueprint on how to achieve it, but the government does have any blueprint.”
The Spokesman for the Northern Elders Forum, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, refused to comment on the issue, saying he had decided to stop commenting on political issues till December.
“So you have to pardon me; no comments from me for now,” he said.
The President of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, told one of our correspondents on the telephone that he was busy and promised to call back.
He, however, did not call back as of the time of filing this report.
The recent action of the APC senators triggered uproar on social media by Nigerians who are mostly youths.
On twitter, the #Our5k has been trending in the past few days, with many of the comments critical of the APC administration for its failure to start the payment of N5, 000 to unemployed so far, as promised.
Also, on nairaland.com, the situation has been the same.
For instance, @TobeAsomugha tweeted: “We have learnt from @APCNigeria that not all promises are meant to be kept. Most of them, like #Our5k were mere beer parlour talks”
@ebuka_akara also tweeted: “Dearest @APCNigeria, pay us #Our5k with 5 months arrears ASAP!!! That’s N25,000. Debtors.”
On nairaland.com, someone identified as GEJmustGO, said, “Is this not a conspiracy? Why will the APC senators be the ones to reject the payment of N5, 000 monthly allowance to unemployed youths? Did they forget that it was Baba Buhari and Papa Osinbanjo who made that promise?”
Similarly, a poll organised by SIGNAL, an online newspaper, asking Nigerians to vote either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the demand by youths for the Federal Government to implement its promise to pay stipend to unemployed graduates recorded 592 votes in 24 hours.
Seventy-nine per cent voted ‘Yes’, while 21 per cent voted ‘No’. However, the APC National Publicity Secretary of the Party, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has refuted claims that the party would renege on its promises, saying it was fully committed to fulfilling its promise to pay social security to 25 million vulnerable Nigerians.
Mohammed said in a statement he issued in Abuja on Friday, while reacting to an earlier statement by the PDP.
He urged Nigerians to ignore the “mischievous” attempt by the PDP to confuse and mislead them on the issue, saying his party had devised creative means to pay the money and also fulfil its other campaign promises to Nigerians.
The statement explained that the non-implementation of the payment policy so far was because it was not included in the 2015 budget, which was prepared by the PDP-led administration, and also because of the need to first block all financial leakages.
“Contrary to the wrong information being peddled by the PDP, the Buhari administration is poised to lift millions of Nigerians out of extreme poverty by providing social protection and safety nets with another N2.5tn Special Intervention Fund,” the party said.