Why Atiku, Tambuwal, Ooni, others endorsed Naija Green Card –Initiator
The Nigerian Students and Youth Corpers’ Discount Card (Naija Green Card) was launched about one year ago to help Nigerian youths aged between 18 and 35 to cope with the biting economic realities. In this interview with select journalists in Abuja to mark the first anniversary of the card, its initiator, former congressman Bimbo Daramola, talks about the journey so far. Dele Anofi was there. Excerpts:
The launch of Naija Green Card with pomp and ceremony in Abuja about a year ago was not without some scepticism, considering that it is entirely new in this environment. How has it been so far?
It has been a long journey, this one year we are celebrating. We have reasons to celebrate Nigerians, our card holders, our partners and stakeholders – the Universities, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and indeed all the personalities across the country who deemed it fit to endorse our product. They have been our inspiration this past one year.
When we started on 21st March 2016, we had a view of where we were going, but we never anticipated how the journey was going to be. But here we are today. Nigerian Green card is one year old, and this is the first and only platform as far as I know, which offers the Nigerian youth the opportunity to have insurance or defense against the prevailing social economic realities. That may not make sense to people that earn some level of income. They may trivialise it. To them, it may not add up right now because they have some stream of income. However, when you have to deal with the harsh reality of the fact that up till when the latest tranche of bailout was given to states, 27 state governments have not paid salaries of their workers for months, you begin to get worried, because that is enough to make us uncomfortable. What becomes of the children of these workers who are expected to be groomed into respectable adults in the nearest future?
We must reconcile ourselves to the fact that as long as the society gets challenged and we find it difficult for people to stay focused and on track, we are losing the society gradually.
It’s been one year of trying to fill the gap. This is not an isolated case. Every responsible government is driven by welfare. That is the truth because without welfare, the purpose of government is defeated. Section 14 of the constitution says the primary purpose of government shall be security and welfare of the people. That is why, even in developed economies, you find situation where people give food stamps, adult insurance, social welfare, name it. All kinds discount platforms for adults and young people. But as long as there is a vulnarable demography, then there no basis for presiding over that section of the people as a government.
We have brought this to the table as a social intervention scheme, a palliative that will help these young people deal with the realities on ground. Inflation is biting, recession is there, of course, these must have consequences. But there must be a response. Somebody must rise up to it.
Let me give an instance: a woman was complaining to me that government was not paying attention to training teachers. She said a company wrote to the government that it wanted to train its teachers but the government replied that it had not paid the teachers for seven months. The implication is how would the government pay money for the training of those it had not paid salaries for months? That’s the graphic reality of what we are bugged down with.
We are starting this small, but as we speak, we a have a record of 9,000 card holders, estimated 10,000 partners across all sectors of our economy for all kinds of goods and services – healthcare, aviation, hospitality, name it. I don’t know of any platform of its kind in Nigeria with such a record. We are here but not yet there. But one thing is clear: we are on the right track of helping our youths.
It seems this success story is tailor-made without challenges, what is the magic?
Far from it. We have our own share of challenges. Having to drive this project is taking a whole lot of money; highly capital intensive. You might think that 9,000 card holders is a lot, but it not. We have had to personally invest our energy, rigours, a whole lot of money has gone into this. But the joy is the testimonials that we get from the field that urges us on that we are on the right track. For instance, a youth corps member that served in the National Assembly told us that though she has been able to get things done with her Naija card, the point is she wonders how the initiators can be this considerate. That is the result of getting our hands dirty and fingers burnt in order make life better for these young people.
Why we are doing that is because if we don’t take care of the society, the society won’t take care of us. We have to get people employed to work for us, get them engaged. As long as we have a situation where these young people are disoriented, hating their environment, we are going to breed more people doing yahoo yahoo, internet fraud, breed more prostitutes and other criminals because these are instances of instant reactions to a society that is failing. We have to have a long stretch of the interpretation and undertaking of how to groom a society that works.
Social security is not in the main to ensure that individuals in a country get more money; it is so that you don’t get to the point where you get desperate and pick hate against your country. We believed in a country that grooms a wealthy society and well taken care of. The challenges are numerous. It has taken a lot dragging it to this point. We are also faced with a major challenge in a cynical and skeptical society. We have instances of some people posting some unfair things about this project because they don’t believe somebody can reel this out. But out of unbelief, disbelief, oh it can’t happen, nobody has ever done it in Nigeria, oh can it work, and on and on, we remain undaunted, and that is why the endorsement of the card by some prominent and credible personalities becomes a huge step forward. We have to thank them for believing in the future of the young generation by believing in the project.
It is no mean feat to have the likes of Turakin Adamawa, Atiku Abubakar, a former Vice President who has devoted his life to Nigeria, young people and the welfare of people, which is what this project represents. This project revolves around Nigeria; the future of Nigeria as enshrined in young people and of course in their welfare. So, that is the spirit in which Atiku Abubakar backed this project. Not only him, we also have the vibrant governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, a former Speaker (House of Representatives) who is doing so well for his state. The very first state to have a deep reflection of what it takes for social security to be impactful. Now everyone is talking about social welfare and palliatives.
The other day, I saw on television, Bauchi State talking about social protection for young people and so on. That is wonderful and this is the heart of it. I want to seize this opportunity to appeal that Nigeria begin to have a deep knowledge of what government and governance is all about. When Tambuwal decided to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Sokoto State government and Naija Green card to place its students from Senior Secondary School (SS) 3 to youth corps members on the project, it is to tell the world that he doesn’t want destitutes, prostitutes, fraudsters, yahoo yahoo and other preventable crimes among his youths, but a bunch of young people who are not under pressure. He doesn’t want his youths to deal with the socio-economic pressures that are likely to push them off the cliff. That was what Tambuwal did and that is the spirit of the MoU. With this, he has breasted the tape of the reflective governors in the country. This is one governor that should be celebrated, not because of the MoU with us but for thinking about the future of his citizens beyond building schools.
Building schools is not the ultimate but building the society. So, what matters most is build the society before building schools. We must have the mind of the people coordinated and concerted before you can go to school. That is the way to go. States should begin to think more about building its youths.
We also have the NYSC on board; the Director General (DG), Brig Gen. Suleiman Kazaure. The card has also been endorsed by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi. This, to a large extent, has been able to cure the angle of disbelief and unbelief. Nigeria is a huge country, the logistics of making this happen is huge. Notwithstanding, we expect that when people have a deeper reflection and knowledge of what this initiative is all about, then we should be on the track to cure some of the ills that are threatening to consume all of us.
Having achieved all of these within a year, the target for the next one yesr must be a bigger, more ambitious one…
We are projecting over five million card holders on this platform. We are positive because all the details are concluded. We are storming different higher institutions in the six geo-political zones and soon to embark on sensitization tour of more higher institutions, starting with the University of Ilorin. We have been to Nasarawa State University. We were in University of Abuja, same for University of Lagos as a well as University of Calabar among several others. Already, we have an MoU with the NYSC to enrol corps members in the 37 orientation camps around the country for every stream and batch of mobilization. Since this card is not meant for youth corps members alone, we are looking out there to those within the age bracket of 18 to 35 years. As such, we are reaching out to different youth groups. State governments are also a target, considering the fact that many can no longer pay bursary award. It is our belief that going by the Tambuwal initiative, many would want to emulate that. The fact of the issue is that a state government card holder will have the advantage of saving a great deal within a year by enjoying the various discounts from our partners.
How do you determine when a holder is no longer eligible?
The card is secure and fool proof. We have no challenge on how to disconnect a holder who grows out of the age bracket. The card is valid for one year, so it has to be renewed at expiration. During that process, with our data, we simply deactivate any ineligible subscriber.
The partnership of prominent Nigerians like former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Sokoto governor Aminu Tambuwal, Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi among others must have brought something to the table for this card. How far have these partnerships impacted on it?
Atiku’s endorsement of the card is very significant because it led credence to the fact that we are doing something noble. If not, the Atiku we all know, with his political clout and global business network will not dare touch it. He was always telling me that he couldn’t have been where he is today without the opportunities Nigeria gave to him. That as a young boy growing from Jada and Ganye in Adamawa State, it was all of these opportunities when aggregated that brought him to where he is today. So, he is committed to give back to the society as much as he can out of his immense means. While we were making the presentation to him, at a point, he looked over to one of his aides and said, we need to sign this on. He mentioned one of his business interests. Then on conclusion as we made to leave, he told his aides, we should take this to the American University, that is his school based in Yola. So, that endorsement has brought that to the table. Beyond that, to have an Atiku Abubakar who is not flippant, doesn’t talk too much but does a whole lot for young people of this country is a statement that the card is credible. Then, equally important is the fact that an Atiku Abubakar endorsement will go a long way to assuage the fears of our cynical and skeptical society about the card.
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