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2019: Gimmicks politicians deploy to woo the electorate

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Since the return of democracy in 1999, politicians and political office holders have devised many means of wooing or tricking voters whenever elections are near. Call it stomach or pocket infrastructure, call it youth or women empowerment scheme, it is not as realistic or laudable as it sounds.The timing and implementation is political, while the motive is questionable. The process is not only shrouded in secrecy, it is manipulative and deceitful. Ahead of 2019 elections, governments and politician at all levels have floated all kinds of loan and empowerment schemes to get the support of the voters in 2019.

It would be recalled that just few days to the Osun governorship election, the federal government through the Bank of Industry (BoI) and Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) launched ‘Trader Moni’ in Osun State, a product through which traders could access loans of up to N10,000 at the first instance.‘Trader Moni’ was launched in Iwo, Iwo Local Council Area of the state by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo. Performing the official launch, Prof. Osinbajo said the traders’ mini programme was part of the federal government’s social intervention aimed at funding micro-business in the country.

Osinbajo, who said no government in the history of the country has done such economic boosting programme, said the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government has done well in the area of people’s welfare.The vice-president said that the ‘Trader Moni’ programme will help in boosting micro and small-scale businesses, petty trading and commercial activities across the country.

He said the beneficiaries would be given a loan of N10,000 each, which would be repayable within six months, adding that any of the beneficiaries that pay back the loan within the stipulated period would qualify for another bigger amount of N15,000. Across the country, politicians seeking elective offices in 2019 are in a mad rush with empowerment schemes and loans to entice the electorate. The list of such schemes is endless. While some are given in cash, others are designed as loans. Ahead of the last governorship election in Ekiti, the outgoing governor Ayo Fayose started youth employment scheme that was suspended immediately his anointed godson and PDP governorship candidate, Olusola Eleka lost the election to the APC candidate, Dr. Kayode Fayemi. These gimmicks which politicians usually use at the twilight of their administration or during elections has become a political tradition in the country as electorate always look forward for it.

Some of the electorate believe that it is only through such schemes that they can benefit for supporting the politicians’ ambition, saying that majority of the politicians don’t care about the voters until when elections are near.

2019: Rivers Govt Woo Workers, Traders And Young Entrepreneurs With Free Interest Loans
By Kelvin Ebiri, (Port Harcourt)
AS the political potboiler in Rivers State gathers steam, government has caught people’s attention recently with its interest loans scheme to State civil servants and some professional bodies.Some political observers think that in a bid to woo voters ahead of 2019 general election, the government has deliberately opened State coffers to beneficiaries to support the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) retains power in the state.

Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, who observers believe desperately needs a second term in office to validate, if not justify, the claim that Rivers State is a PDP state is merely taking a leaf out of populist schemes from his predecessors, who amid intense opposition, left no stones unturned by offering sops and handouts to woo voters.

Recently, Governor Wike inaugurated Committees on the administration cum disbursement of the civil servants revolving loan scheme dedicated to those between grade levels 1 and 13 and the Rivers State N200million monthly traders and young entrepreneurs interest free loan scheme. Wike said that the civil servants revolving loan scheme was first initiated by the Peter Odili administration; neglected by the Chibuike Amaechi administration.

“We have approved an interest-free revolving loan scheme for civil servants. The annual sum earmarked for this programme is N1, 200,000,000.00 (one billion two hundred naira) only, with a monthly disbursement of N100, 000,000.00 (one hundred million naira only.“We have also approved another interest-free loan for owners of small businesses to access to enhance their businesses, create jobs and grow the economy.“ An annual sum of N2, 400,000,000.00 (two billion four hundred million) only, has been set-aside for this purpose with a monthly disbursement of N200, 000,000.00 (two hundred million naira) only”

Under this scheme which the governor said is targeted at indigent workers, the sum of N100m monthly will be made available to the committee for disbursement.Similarly, N200 million monthly traders and young entrepreneurs loan scheme, is meant for every businessman or woman resident in Rivers State. The essence of this scheme, according to the government is to encourage young entrepreneurs how are often victim of loan sharks, to grow their businesses unhindered by access to funds.

But this is scheme which seems to be coming on a platter of gold, also followed a directive that the loan beneficiaries must reside in the state and must be registered as voters in the state.The ruling PDP which appears not to be in shape to repeat it’s 2015 clean sweep at the polls, has been battling challenges, including its perceived disposition of the security agencies particularly the Special Anti Robbery Squad SARS to aid the opposition in the polls.

Ahead of what promises to be a nail-biting electoral slugfest next year, the government has gone all out to woo the prospective voters among them the Nigeria Automobile Technicians Association in the State which has already endorsed Governor Wike for a second term, citing his performance as the reason behind their decision.

During the association’s visit to the Government House, Port Harcourt, the governor had reminded them that the only power they have is the permanent voter card which is a potential tool to chase away the ruling APC out of power.“Members of the Nigeria Automobile Technicians Association, Rivers State Branch will benefit from the monthly N200million Interest Free Loans set aside by the State Government.  The funds will be released to different traders and young entrepreneurs on a phased basis,” he said.

Chairman of the association, Stanley Amadi, has assured the governor that 20,000 mechanics in the state will work hard to ensure he emerges victorious at the polls to allow him complete all ongoing projects and consolidate on the gains of his first term.Offering freebies prior to elections to lure voters is deeply ingrained in Rivers’ politics. Thus, whenever election season approaches various groups fall over themselves to benefit from such largesse.

The government has also promised Rivers women drawn from the 23 business development scheme worth N500million to be domiciled at the State Microfinance Bank and managed by the Ministry of Women Affairs. The beneficiaries are, however, to jealously protect their permanent voters cards as that is the only weapon to uproot the APC in 2019.Amid the freebies galore, the State government has also flagged off a private hospitals loan scheme (PHLS).

Thirty seven hospitals in the state have already accessed N500 million loan to upgrade their facilities and improve their services to the people. Seven of the beneficiaries are non-indigenes, while 30 are from Rivers State.Recently, the Governor Wike, revealed that the failure of private medical practitioners to service their loans have made it impossible for the state government to start the second phase of the N500million Private Hospitals Loan Scheme.

Governor Wike declared that the N500million Private Hospitals Loan Scheme introduced by his administration recorded a 90 percent repayment failure rate on the part of the private hospital proprietors.

In Ondo, Politicians Use Employment Opportunities, Food Items And Money To Lure Voters
From Oluwaseun Akingboye, Akure. 
BEFORE now what politicians used to lure voters during elections were edible things like rice, salt, goats, chicken, vegetable oil, rams and cows in some cases. These items are distributed across the units, mostly before elections. An octogenarian, Mrs Helena Ikuejamofo, who recounted his experience to The Guardian, stressed that during the time of election, politicians would bring rice, salt and other eatable things for us to vote for them. 

“Those things were distributed in groups according to every member’s party, association, groups and relevance in the society. Though they were not in large quantities, but everybody would take it and feel so important to be remembered.”However, there was a major shift in the gimmicks employed by the politicians since the return of democracy in 1999.

As soon as the elections had been won and lost, many of the politicians who were fortunate to get appointment from the council to federal levels used it as an opportunity to lobby employments for their wards, loyalists and supporters. The army of employed supporters, who benefitted from this political largesse of their leaders serve as the assessment points and political scorecards for the politicians ahead of next elections. One of such beneficiaries of the largesse, who works with Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, who pleaded anonymity expressed his deep appreciation and unalloyed loyalty to a former National Assembly member that used his influence to empower the youths. 

According to him, “I can never forget what honourable has done in my life and hundreds of people from our area. Every little opportunity he has always been used for the people, especially the youths. “We have had representatives in the past who abandoned the people, but his impact is felt everywhere. That is why some of us who are grateful will always follow him to wherever he goes politically, even if decamps to fire.”

And when the nation slipped into recession and there was financial crises, politicians resorted to empowerment programmes in a ludicrous manner by distributing grinding machines, clippers, clothes, motorcycles, cars just to mention few to their constituents. It was not as if the edible items approach has been jettisoned, it is still relevant at some occasions, but the scramble for the empowerment programmes by the voters takes the centre stage now. And recently, the expectation by many Nigerians that the Peace Corps bill would be signed to law by President Buhari, led some of the politicians in the state to lobby for the employment forms for their people. 

Most of the National Assembly members in the state, who supported the bill in the floors of the Green and Red Chambers, procured thousands of Peace Corps form and distributed freely to their loyalists. There was a particular House of Representatives member in the North District of the state, who publicly distributed the forms during one of his empowerment programmes after he had reportedly paid the N45, 000 charged per candidate as training fees. This dragged on till 2015, when All Progressives Congress (APC) defeated Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the presidential poll. The reality dawned on the former governor of Ondo State, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, that the assembly election, which was to come a week after the mass defeat of its PDP candidates during the election posed imminent danger for him if he did not win majority of the State Assembly seats. 

Mimiko and his loyalists, deployed gimmick to fight for survival and the new trend in Nigeria election, “See and buy” birthed in Ondo State. 
Explaining how it works, one of the LP stalwarts who followed Mimiko to PDP in 2014, Kingsley Ayeni, revealed that money in large sum, for the first time in Nigeria politics was taken to voting centres by the party members. 

“Then, we could not afford to trust the voters due to the exigency of the majority needed at the Assembly. So, every voter would have to thumb-print the ballot for PDP and show it to the party agents who confirmed it. “And after the process, the voter is entitled to a financial reward that ranges from N1, 000 to N10, 000 depending on the area and personality of the person involved.”

The “see and buy” approach helped the PDP-led government in the state to win 21 out of the 26 seats in the House of Assembly. Though several months after, especially in the build-up to the 2016 governorship election in the state, the people continued to point accusing fingers against themselves for allowing the financial inducement to override the chance they had to impeach Mimiko. 

As widely spread, especially among the commercial motorcycle riders when the state instituted a stringent policy for them to be registered, they lambasted those whom they tried to discourage from receiving the N1,000 “See and buy” money but retorted that “o se ila,” meaning “the money is not too small, it can cook okro soup.”

Nonetheless, the immediate past administration of Governor Mimiko embarked on some “Caring Heart” initiates as fondly tagged by the government, like the award winning Mother and Child, Agbebiye Safe Motherhood, Neighbourhood Markets, Free School Shuttle Bus scheme, Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Mega Schools, Cocoa Revolution Project (CRP) and others. In no small measure, these programmes endeared him to the common people of the state and enabled him to break the age-long political jinx as the only governor who served two terms, 2009 to 2016, since the state was created in 1976.

The state witnessed the ugliest trend of “see and buy” during the last governorship election, when reliable sources alleged that bullion vans were used to brought billions of naira to the state to ensure the APC candidate, Akeredolu, won the election. According to the President of Movement for the Survival of the Underprivileged (MOSUP) Mr. Dappa Maharajah, the nation witnessed the worst of monetised election as money was flying around the polling units. 

Maharajah, who described it as the highest height of indiscipline and corruption rocking the nation’s electoral system, said: “It was a brazen display of money politics and vote buying like bargaining for tomatoes in the market place.“And this is why I am not surprised at whatever happens in the state today because the end, no matter how much anybody tries, would always justify the means.”

The MOSUP boss explained that governance is more of a social contract between the leaders and the people, “but in Nigeria over the years, the transactions have always been without conscience and on a platter of trade by barter. “The people sold their votes to the politicians and the politicians bought such before they will election. So, where is the justification for accountability? Let the truth be said, have the people not got their reward before the government is sworn in?”He urged Nigerians at large to introspect themselves and discourage the unethical practice of selling their votes for a pittance. “The story of Jacob, Esau and the porridge should be a lesson to us all.”

State Govt Commences Emergency Road Rehabilitation, Gives Scholarship
From Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi  (Jos)
AS the 2019 general elections draw close, political intrigues and manipulations are ongoing throughout the length and breadth of the state.Local government council election has been scheduled to hold on October 10. The major opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has gone to court to challenge the election, saying that it was a great design by the Plateau State Independent Electoral Commission (PLASIEC), which is an appendage of the state government to skew the exercise in favour of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as the four local governments excluded from participating in the election are PDP strongholds.
 
Again, there is no doubt that since the whistle for 2019 electioneering campaigns has not been blown by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), campaigns by politicians in the state are shrouded in secrecy. Both the political aspirants and their foot soldiers are involved in these political undercurrents in the state as financial gratifications and exchange of various gifts among them cannot be ruled out.
  
Some of the political actors who are currently occupying one position or another will either recontest their positions or seeking higher political offices. Many political appointees in the state who feel they cannot combine politicking with government job in the state have resigned their appointments.
  
For example, the Secretary to Government of the State (SGS), Rufus Bature, last week announced his resignation, because he wants to contest the seat of Senator of Plateau North Senatorial District on the platform of the APC. Government has also approved the resignation of Commissioner for Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Relations, Hitler Dadi to enable him to contest Langtang North and South Federal Constituency seat.
 
The State Governor, who is the sole governorship aspirant of APC, last week presented building materials to some communities that were recently attacked and those where communal crises took place. The government also presented consumables worth millions of naira to Internally Displaced Persons’ camps spread across eight local council areas.To further woo the electorate during the 2019 elections, government recently embarked on an emergency filling of potholes across Jos/Bukuru metropolis to the admiration of both commuters and drivers.
 
Two weeks ago, 4,000 NCE teachers who were recruited as primary school teachers on ad-hoc basis in 2016 have been confirmed as the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) had done the screening. Also recruited by the state government were 830 secondary school teachers.It was also the claim of the state government that 8000 unemployed graduates across the state have been absorbed through N-Power in various programmes which include N-Teach, N-Health, N-Agro, N-Tech and N-Tax. This is in addition to school feeding system and conditional cash transfer to market women and men and small- scale industries in the state.
   
It has been observed recently that the State Governor Simon Lalong  has frequently attend ceremonies such as birthdays, burials, cultural festivals, services in the churches and mosques, where he markets his government’s policies. The governor has granted scholarships to students in secondary schools, colleges of education and commissioned projects like boreholes, renovation of primary and secondary schools.The state government is not owing workers’ salaries, except gratuities and arrears of no-work, no-pay which it inherited from the previous administration.
 
The PDP in the state is only trying to capitalise on the weakness of APC government in order to woo the voters. For example, it talks about complete absence of infrastructural development, insecurity that has defied solutions, the herders/farmers attacks in the northern zone of the state.To woo the electorate to its side, PDP alleged that APC refused obey the rules of law especially with the dissolution of democratically elected local governments before the end of their tenure. It also describes government of the state as being run from the diaspora.

   
The PDP which whipped up some sentiment alleged that the creation of chiefdoms, districts and village areas is just in papers because the beneficiaries of such creation have not been given any staff of office and salaries since 2006 that it was gazetted by the government of Joshua Dariye but set aside by the administration of Jonah Jang. When Lalong became governor, he brought the same gazette back, yet the beneficiaries have not benefited from government in terms of emolument and office paraphernalia.

State Govt Recruits Workers, Politicians Pay School Fees Of Children Of PVC Holders In Kwara
From Abiodun Fagbemi (Ilorin)
THE political coinage of ‘Stomach infrastructure’ is the most common method being employed by politicians in Kwara state to woo electorate ahead of 2019 general elections. The doyen of politics of the 51 year-old state, Dr Olusola Saraki had pioneered the system that made him the darling of many peasants until his death few years ago. At present, many aspirants have branded rice and other grains in varying categories of weight, distributing the same to eligible voters after careful perusal of their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs).

Besides, many of the politicians have since relocated to their residence, leaving open their gates for eligible voters to troop in and out unhindered. Permanent stewards are stationed at such compounds preparing free meals for uninvited guests at will especially lunch and dinner. The Guardian investigation in Ilorin the state capital showed that many inscriptions like: ‘Beware of Dogs and Snakes’, ‘Electrocuted Appliance is on’ have disappeared from such buildings just as the barking sounds of the ferocious trained dogs have ceased. 

Sources said many of the aspirants now distribute embossed clothing materials. Besides, some of the politicians were responsible for part payment of the school fees of the children of those who could produce their PVCs. Despite this, many aspirants are clever by withholding their resources until when elected as candidates of their political parties. Even some members of the ruling party in the state Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are part of those dangling carrots before the eligible voters. 

Already, the State Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed has approved the employment of 1,850 basic and senior secondary school teachers in the state to fill teacher shortage in sciences subjects and create fresh employment in the state.Ahmed approved the employment following separate requests by the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) and the Kwara State Teaching Service Commission (TSC), according to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Communication, Dr. Muyideen Akorede on Wednesday.
The two organisations based their requests on existing teacher shortage in the state, especially in English Language and Science subjects.
 

According to the Senior Special Assistant (Media and Communication) to the Governor, Dr Muideen Akorede, the breakdown of the recruitment showed that the Governor approved the recruitment of 1500 SUBEB teachers and 350 Senior Secondary School teachers.
He noted: “The teacher shortage in the state persist despite recent interventions by the state government through its Kwara State Youth Empowerment Program (KWAYEP) and the federal governments NPower Scheme, prompted the state governor to grant the fresh approval for employment.

“Governor Ahmed also directed SUBEB and TSC to advertise the positions in the media and ensure that due process is followed in the recruitment while ensuring spread across the 193 wards in the state. “


Abia Governor Lifts Embargo On Employment, Offers Traders One-Year Free Shop Rent
From Gordi Udeajah Umuahia
THE electioneering campaigns for the 2019 elections have provided elective office seeking aspirants and those seeking reelection to begin to sell and resell their manifestos to the electorate.For those seeking reelection, they are using their campaigns to give account of what they have done on which the electorate are assessing and passing their remarks.

Few days ago, Abia State Governor Dr Okezie Ikpeazu while opening his campaign office in Umuahia, announced that president Muhammadu Buhari recently approved the establishment of the first free export zone in the southeast zone at Aba.While reacting to the development, Mr James Ukah queried why this was approved by the president towards the end of his four years tenure and described it as a ploy to sway the Southeast votes in his favour. Also one of the gubernatorial aspirants of APC and former state deputy governor Dr Chris Akomas listed completion of the Abia Dry Port project as one of the projects he will actualise if elected governor. The project was approved during the Obasanjo presidency.

 
Abia residents have given interpretations to some decisions announced by the state government that looked like a ploy to get their votes in the coming elections. These include that the state government will settle all workers and pensioners arrears before the end of the year. The governor while addressing Isiala Ngwa South constituents who organised a reception for him, said that he will dualise Umuikaa-Omoba road.On their own, elected lawmakers who are seeking reelection at state and federal levels are revisiting projects in their constituencies some of which they claimed to have attracted promising to use their next tenure if reelected to ensure their completion.
 
What is also common among them are claims of having secured employments for their constituents and the various ways they have empowered them at different times even as some have quickly organised more empowerments.It was recently reported that the state government has offered a one-year free shop rent to traders at Ubani Ultra-modern market Umuahia. A gesture seen by many as another way of indirectly luring the traders to vote for the governor who is seeking reelection. For many years, the state governments from the tenure of governor Orji Uzor Kalu through Theodore Orji and Ikpeazu had imposed embargo on new employments in the state public service.
 
While this scenario prevailed, government of Ikpeazu about three months ago, as preparations for the 2019 polls became imminent, lifted the embargo and followed it with subsisted radio announcements inviting applications from employment seekers for all classes of positions in the state public service. Describing this move as a clear election gimmick to sway votes to the PDP, an unemployed masters degree holder of many years, Mr Ikedi Okore said that the government would be taking a risk” because if at the end of the day, people were not employed, it would backfire. However, the state Information Commissioner Chief John Okiyi Kalu faulted those that do not believe the sincerity of governor Ikpeazu, asking them to wait and see its fulfillment.


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