Trader Moni, the federal government’s controversial micro credit scheme is gathering more momentum as 2019 general elections draw near, but opposition politicians insist it is vote buying by other means.
When the federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari in collaboration with the Bank of Industry (BoI) and Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) launched the ‘Trader Moni’ scheme, the much that was known about it was that it was meant for traders to access loans of N10, 000 at the first instance and N15, 000 or more thereafter without collateral security.
Ever since then, Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who has been the face of the micro credit scheme has be touring local markets, telling market women and their male counterparts that the programme was part of government’s social intervention aimed at funding micro businesses across the country.
‘Trader Moni’ programme, Osinbajo says, will help in boosting micro and small scale businesses, petty trading and commercial activities across the country. As a result of the endemic poverty in the country, many of the traders are grabbing the loans with two hands. That is why the Vice President is adulating the All Progressives Congress, APC government, claiming that no government in the history of the country has ever embarked on such welfare programme. Wherever he went for the launch, the event was characterized by fanfare and razzmatazz. The markets usually wear the looks of a day of carnival or political rally. At such markets, traders, through their market associations usually make elaborate preparations for the ceremonial event. That was the situation in Osun, Lagos, Jigawa, Abuja, Cross River, Oyo and several other states where the scheme has been launched. Thereafter, many of the traders await the disbursement of the money patiently.
But coming just a few months to the general elections in the country,the government and the programme have come under severe criticisms largely by the leading opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party PDP, and its leaders. There are grave allegations of a concerted effort to institutionalize vote buying through the ‘Trader Moni’ scheme by the ruling party.
For instance, Bukola Saraki, President of the Senate recently accused President Buhari and his government of using the programme as a ‘sophisticated vote-buying’ plot to win the 2019 presidential election. That is also the thinking of many Nigerians.
Last week at a media briefing in Abuja, Saraki bluntly declared that the government was sidelining the opposition from the launching of the programme across the country, thereby creating an impression that it is meant only for supporters of the ruling party. A bewildered Saraki wondered why the Vice President started appearing at the launch of a programme that has been going on since 2015. “The worst part of it is that he goes with the women leaders of his party and governors of his party,” he said.
Saraki suggested that in view of the fact that the money being disbursed is drawn from the federation account; the Vice President should have taken women leaders from other political parties along. “But all I see is APC women leaders. It equates in a way to sophisticated vote-buying, because if it’s not vote-buying, you should have been doing this since 2015,” the Senate President lamented.
He also questions why all of a sudden, in 2018, ‘Trader Moni’ became the biggest programme of the government. To further drive home his allegation of vote-buying, Saraki said the party was collecting Permanent Voters Cards, PVC in the process.
But in a counter statement, the Buhari campaign organization described Saraki’s position as a wild allegation. It said, “Saraki’s statement makes his position untenable; for it is preposterous for him to criticise the Executive for implementing a programme in the budget duly passed by the National Assembly which he leads.”The conflict between the Senate President and the executive arm of government is quite understandable. Ever since he abandoned the ruling party to return to the main opposition party like several other top politicians who feel sufficiently dissatisfied with the way the APC is run, he has never been on the same page with the executive arm. Even before he left the party, he disagreed with the leadership on several issues.
The APC further posed a question to Saraki, suggesting that the market-to-market tour of the Vice President is part of the continuous process of governance: “Does it mean that the implementation of programmes of government equates to vote-buying; should governance be suspended because of politics?”
However, that does not seem to address the fundamental issues raised by the Senate President – specifically, having only APC women leaders and governors in the Vice President’s entourage, and making what appears to be a veiled attempt to influence voters with money.
Saraki is not the only notable political figure who has raised the alarm over ‘Trader Moni’. Shehu Sani, a Senator representing Kaduna Central on the platform of APC in a message he shared on his Twitter handle last Saturday, subtly admonished beneficiaries of the scheme to collect the money being distributed by the Vice President, yet use their PVCs wisely rather than allow their votes to be bought over.
“Oh yea plebeian, collect thy belated cowries coined as ‘Trader Moni’; thou shalt use it wisely and prayerfully; But thou shalt not part with thy PVC and thou shalt not accept any invitation to fly the Broomstick at night,” he admonished sarcastically.
Similarly, another social media message by a woman through WhatsApp has raised more questions than answers. The message, which has gone viral reads: “About two months to election, the ruling party is going around sharing money in the form of ‘Trader Moni’. Where were they when you couldn’t afford to buy food? Where were they when your child was sent home because of school fees, and you couldn’t afford to pay the fees and your child had to miss so many days at school because you couldn’t afford to pay school fees?”
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The message, which dwells extensively on the difficult economic times Nigerian have been going through in recent years further requests the people to “Ask them where they were when the money you used to earn that was enough to feed the family for a month, can no longer feed the family for two weeks; ask them where they were all these years, over three years, when hardship hit the land; when insecurity hit the land, and you couldn’t afford so many things that you could afford before?
They were nowhere to be found. Now it is time for election and they go around under the guise of ‘Trader Moni’, giving people N10, 000 to mortgage your life, the lives of your child, to mortgage the lives of your unborn generation, to be enslaved forever, for you to be kept down, and your child not to have good quality education.
“When they give you N10, 000, ask them about your children who are in the university; who today, are staying at home because ASUU is on strike. When they come with N10, 000, ask them, what you would do with N10, 000. Don’t be fooled, it’s all about the election. To them, you are not human being. The only thing you’re good for is your thumbprint and that’s what they care for and that’s why just a few months to election, they come to you with N10, 000. All the while you cried before, they never listened, they closed their doors, they turned their back on you. Think well,” the messenger admonished.
No doubt, that is the voice of the opposition. But have some Nigerians gone through the harrowing experience illustrated by this messenger? Yes!
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