FG’s applause and the notes from the streets

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By Ibraheem Abdullateef

Federal Government of Nigeria, on Monday, commended Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq for the creation and impressive handling of the Kwara State Social Investment Programmes (KWASSIP) in the last one year.

KWASSIP, a social investment version of Kwara, comprises Ounje ofe, Owo Arugbo, K-power (for youths development e.g, Digital Kwara), and Owo isowo modelled after the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) of the Federal Government has become people’s favourites.

With an understanding of the acute social and economic shortage on the ground, Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq visited GEEP Headquarters in August last year, in Abuja, to understudy the template. As has become characteristic of such travels, he harvested the idea and developed it to make the processes fool-proof, accessible, and open to all.

Columnist Ibraheem Abdullateef interrogating one of the beneficiaries

While I posted the graphic of the commendation letter on my WhatsApp page, some people had challenged me that anyone could get that from the Presidency. I laughed. I know the FG’s veneration unsettled them. Well, that is good for us. But it doesn’t mean as much as what the beneficiaries say. Perhaps if my friends would follow me out one day to see the army of happy, committed traders Kwara is building, he’d be losing sleep by now.

There is a Latin saying, Vox populi, vox Dei, that means, “The voice of the people is the voice of God.” Many persons hold this time-tested saying to be true, especially as regards democracy. The prayers from these people may have qualified Kwara for the World Bank CARES project as enunciated by Chief Operating Officer, GEEP, Uzoma Nwagba.

One of those who smiled home after benefitting from KWASSIP

But I would wait for yet another hypothesis, the third one, before I become that Latin’s saying believer. When the Yorubas consult Ifa thrice and it reveals the same thing, they say it’s cast in iron; which means it is final. This time I’d attribute the success to good planning by a committed team and dint of hard work.

When Kwara State Social Investment Programmes (KWASSIP) was initiated by Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq as a social and economic stimulus targeted at the indigents, petty traders, old people, and the youths, little believed that it could work wonders. Most especially on social media. Only for the reviews from the streets and eventually, Abuja, to have been remarkably venerating in just a year of its establishment.

We were at Pake, Ilorin, during disbursement on Monday. The place was filled and lively. Men and women of different ages stood in two, three talking about the state of the nation. They are those whose definition of a performing government is determined by a number of roads, schools, health centres, and water pipes fixed, not subvention or appointment to their godfather’s boys.

“Ramoni doesn’t know what he is doing. He is saving us, not our businesses, from dying. My business is what we depend on in my family, a dip in it means we will starve, now he provides #10,000 to boost it, I…” she was going to say something I didn’t hear.

“While I was coming today, Iya Habiba, did you know my neighbour said I shouldn’t waste my time? She doesn’t believe it is real. Here we are. I can order for more beans to increase production. I didn’t know anyone before I got this, but I know God and won’t stop praying for the Governor,” apparently a bean cake seller said replying her counterpart, as she tucks the money into her wrappers.

Buoyed by their conversation, I began interviewing others. Sikirat Suleiman, a bread seller and a mother of two from Iponrin, Ilorin East, feels dignified and valued; “sometimes it is not the sum of money that matters, it is the fact that we are remembered for good. I am forty-two year old. I have seen enough. That one is not being flogged on the line or parting with a cut from her money is new,” when talking as a beneficiary of Owo-Isowo, the wave-making state’s microfinance scheme for petty traders.

People may forget everything. But won’t ever forget who puts them down or pulls them up. I heard again from another person who would forever be grateful to the government.

Usman Zainab, 22, with about a three-month-old baby strapped on her back sells Egusi and Maggi at Oja Oba market. She told me she was just engaged, apparently, during COVID-19. She had no job. What she did was going to her mother’s shop to help sell pepper.

“The enumerator met me at her shop. I said it was mine. But the truth is, I just go to help, so as not to sleep at home. I hope this money starts me up in the same business. My mother said she began it, too, with same amount years back.” Hope. Survival. Life. That is what Owo-Isowo, a component of KWASSIP has come to be for people on the streets.

But does it necessarily follow that the voice of the people or the voice of the majority is the voice of God?

They say Allah is all-knowing. So, He’d judge. But the people shall judge you with what they see and feel. What some of the 3,000 Digital Kwara enrollees in the last cohort said were attesting. Students. Graduates. Entrepreneurs. And even professionals loved the experience and the values gained.

Kwara, via KWASSIP, is making economic resources go round and the impacts remind me of a Mahatma Gandhi’s quote: “Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow men.” He must have had Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq in mind.

The FG’s applause and the notes from the streets are copious evidence.

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