N5.2bn versus N90 bn: A dive into the uncharted territory of Nigeria politics

Tony Abolo

As I pen this heading, the first thing that rushes to my memory is the statement in 1970 credited to first Rector of the Midwest Institute of Technology that metamorphosed to be the University of Benin, years later, who said – In Nigeria, the usual, never happens, the unusual, sometimes, the impossible, always.

So it is true to type that whereas the people at the decision making levels at the Federal policy levels felt in their hearts that poor Nigerians were deserving of a N5.2 billion share as student loans, whereas a free decision of a non-compulsory religious pilgrimage as deserving of a N90 billion subsidy.

Come to think of it, subsidies are non refundable; just pure dash, to those who would be spending our “dollars”, even if it was going down the scale in our exchange market, in a Country that is awash with dollars and is super wealthy and with a more self reliant economy.

You begin to ask, why such a scale of preference in a distressed nation which can ill afford to spend its scarce resources recklessly.

Does prudence mean anything to a President Tinubu who is more focused on 2027 than 2024, where we are stuck in a 30.7% inflation, the highest in 60 years.

This is a policy of giving free ride to Jeddah and Mecca to people who by Islamic rules are not clearly obliged to fulfil a “Pillar in Islam” regulation.

In Ahmadu Bello days, he is reported to have said, if you have no means to travel to fulfill a hajj, then stay home. This makes it easier to decide in favour of the very pilgrims to improve their economic statuses in a growing economy rather than ensure they embark on a pilgrimage, for self purification and blessings.

There must be a trade off as Nigeria is a secular state, no matter the deception we have held over the years. We should tell ourselves the stark truth.

Buy how much has Nigeria improved in all global standards or perhaps too, how much has individual blessings translated into a very highly blessed Nigeria nation.

If there is self evident proof of “blessings” return, then as a nation, we must sit and weigh it all on a rational scale. This has gone on too long without any rational questioning. It may then be best that the part of the country that wants to spend its scarce resources on pilgrimages should sink or swim on its decisions.

The entire Country should not embark on an annual expenditure that seems unsupportable. The pilgrimage question is one part of the equation. Then there Commissions and staffers, leaders of delegations all catered for at public expense.

To what good should be the two religions that embark on pilgrimages. If only the amount of religiosity we embark on, on all sides translated to a purer Nation, we all may have less questions too ask.

The immorality and corruption in Nigeria, puts our pretences to religion to shame. The devil we are looking for outside to dismiss abroad and sins we want to remit outside our shores, if we look around carefully, lurk around every nook and cranny of our Country.

So are we embarking on a joke or embarking on a spiritual journey that transforms a nation? The other important side of the trade off is to see how much weighted average we are giving to the beneficiaries of this educational loan.

If after 200 years of independence of America, student loan institutions are still being fine tuned, given our penchant for a cavalier manner of public service management and accountability, is it a best option to set up the students loan scheme?

Is this a way to revamp education and educational institution? Should the funds not be given as direct grants to the schools themselves and make tuition, accommodation and even feeding, free to students, who would graduate, and have neither work nor placing as retained recruits in our universities, even when vacancies exist since so many Lecturers have escaped a not working Country.

At a charitable level, if that was the mind of the Tinubu led administration, what do we make of N5.2billion for the over 1 million students across Nigeria who are going to be the beneficiaries of this emergency scheme, which hitherto were called bursaries, and were non refundable monies.

In the early 60’s and 70’s we had student loan schemes which like everything Nigeria, corruption, ineptitude, and inefficiency destroyed every good intention.

If this policy and student loan scheme is to succeed, there must be an ideological foundation to it. This will drive it as a national focus on resuscitation of our educational system and above all, enable the nation to see that education has a central role in our development plans and policies and a major plank of making the graduands take to key roles in not only self-discovery but make unquantifiable inputs into expanding the national economy.

If this is not part of the component in the scheme, then the APC at the centre is first, playing politics and scheming for its 2027 catch us all “mugu”. N5.2 billion could then be called “hush” or “conscience” money, serving no national ends, excepting selfish interests.

But if there is a national and political will to adequately make it serve as loans to over a million students, then the funds cut no ice.What then the purpose of engaging the N5.2 billion student loan and the N90 billion subsidy money really reads is like a biblical Proverb saying – Cast your bread upon the waters and it will return to you, a hundred fold.

Both funds are just what politicians do. Sow schemes that look like viable programmes which will return as votes in 2027.

But in reality, can Nigeria afford these shenanigan schemes, annual subsidy for pilgrimages and student loans with dubious pay back guarantees when we know, not only do we owe over N30 trillion Naira in National debts.

But the government is still gallivanting the world, still borrowing in dollars and other currency denominations, piling up debts, driving inflation and using borrowed money, plus ways and means, monies to fritter on political calculations.

Why should one man’s 2027 ambition be the template for National expenditures?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.