By Alabi Abdulkarim, ESQ
If there is anything that breaks my heart each time I step out of my house in Ilorin, it is the sight of women begging for money to feed. I have been very devastated about this, because I feel that these women, with no any form of deformity, would also desire for themselves a more dignified means of livelihood. Running after people in traffic or at ATM points to beg for money must therefore not be a life they bargained for.
Therefore, when on Wednesday, 21st of September, 2022, the Kwara State Government, through the agency coordinating its social intervention and poverty reduction programmes, Kwara State Social Investment Programme (KWASSIP), announced the commencement of the disbursement of N20,000 each to 30,000 petty traders, the second of such since the coming onboard of the Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq government, I was beside myself with joy. I was happy, not particularly because of the disbursement per say, but because an intervention that holds so much potential, and one whose result was already manifesting across the State, had women as predominant beneficiaries. I could immediately imagine the multiplier effect on families across the State, as well as the reduction in the growing number of ‘begging women’ on our streets.
Just last month (August), the World Bank State by State poverty index for Nigeria put the rate of poverty in Kwara at 20.4 percent, while the national average ballooned to 65.2 percent from the initial 40 percent often cited by government officials. But the improved situation in Kwara did not just happen by chance, considering that a year before Mallam Abdulrahman Abdulrazak came onboard as Governor, Kwara’s poverty rate stood at 30.2 percent. It therefore speaks to the hard work of Governor Abdulrazak and, by extension, the helmsman At KWASSIP, Mr. Qoyyiy Olododo and his predecessor, Mr. Mohammed Brimah, that the State has now attained a dignified status as the shining star in poverty reduction, particularly in northern Nigeria.
Those who read politics into the life-changing initiative which ‘Owo Ishowo’ represents are either mischievous or lack the capacity to be dispassionate about issues that concern the welfare of our people. While it may sound like good argument to say the disbursement of this second phase of grant to the petty traders is ominous because it is happening just as campaign is about to commence; anyone who knows the history of the programme would readily acknowledge that the disbursement for the first phase, which had a total of 21, 623, also took place sometime in September, 2020. Therefore, it is immediately obvious that the government of Abdulrahman Abdulrasak has been consistent in its commitment to ridding our State of mass poverty.
At a time poverty is said to be rising in Nigeria by at least six people every minute, the Kwara State government remained consistent with its working strategy to support petty traders in order to encourage entrepreneurship, improve the capacity of women to gain sustainable income and therefore curb poverty among the majority of low class families. The grant disbursement, in addition to offering beneficiaries the needed support to expand their businesses and engage in more profitable economic activities, would also help them to earn regular income which would help them meet their daily needs.
Research has also shown that women in Kwara made up the highest number of customers of microfinance banks. But with the grants made available by the Kwara State government, these women can now avoid the often inconvenient path of bank loans. They can now conveniently secure money for their businesses, improve their disposable income and consequently their living standard as well as their social and political empowerment. It is now highly improbable that any of the petty traders who have continued to benefit from ‘Owo Ishowo’ would be caught begging for N100 or be lured with N500 by any politician. Such is the dignity and honour that Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazak is conferring on our women folk in Kwara!
With no fanfare or exaggerated marketing of achievements, Kwara Governor has continued to invest in the places that count and where the benefits are timeless. ‘Owo Arugbo,’ ‘Owo Ishowo’ and the other components of the social investment programme of the State government are clear attestation of where the priority of the government lies. No doubt, this government has shown, beyond any iota of doubt, that the people, ordinary people, represent the fulcrum of its interventions. This is why we would continue to pray that, not ever in Kwara, would we witness a government that think less of our people, but one that think more of them like the current one. May AA continue to succeed, and may Kwara continue to grow under his watch.
Alabi Abdulkarim, a Public Affairs Analyst, is based in Ilorin, Kwara State.