Tinubu’s students loan scheme and hidden truths

We may not be wrong if we name the new student loans scheme after the president, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who signed the bill into law a few days ago. How could there be a new law just a few days after Tinubu became president? Had it been in the works while he campaigned?

He promised he was going to do it but it’s too early in the day as our legislators are not that efficient to get a law rolling that quickly; however, the emergency, except it has to do with their personal comfort.

Gbajabiamila, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, now Tinubu’s Chief of Staff engineered the bill for the loan bank and got it passed before Tinubu signed it into law. So, anybody who reasons that Gbajabiamila may have suggested the idea to Tinubu while he was campaigning for the presidency may not be totally wrong. Ex-president Muhammadu Buhari refused to sign the bill when it was passed to him. Now the glory goes to Tinubu who quickly signed it into law.

Students loan is not new. Nigeria had it when the nation, according to General Gowon former military Head of State, had more money than it needed. The nation’s problem he said with unmeasured pride was not money but what to do with it. Yet electricity was epileptic and a luxury that was not available in many parts of the nation, portable water was a luxury, but thanks to innovative Nigerians who invented sachet water, ignorantly called ‘pure water’, and distributes it in a most unclean manner.

Likely ills of students loan

For want of something to do with this ‘plenty’ money, Gowon thought of students’ loans which were almost unnecessary at that moment in the nation’s history because university education was virtually free. Books were very cheap; you can get the best for the price of today’s handkerchief.

But Gowon still thought there must be a student loan. So, what happened? You could easily guess. Students did what humans generally do with the money they don’t work for: they wasted it. Some of them died while spending those loans. They bought motorcycles popularly called ‘power bikes.’

The university roads became racing tracks. In that process, many of those proud owners of those imported bikes went to heaven or hell very early in life. They died in accidents. Some of them formed the habit of travelling to far places on their bikes. The attitude of ‘stabbing’ lectures became popular. To ‘stab’ lecture was the parlance for abstinence from the lecture for no good reason. The popular saying that nothing is compulsory at the university became real. Attendance at lectures is not, even writing exams. You don’t even have to pass your exams if you wrote them. So, because of student loans which many students got, and which gave them easy access to girls both on campus and outside of it, attendance at lectures dwindled greatly. Many students did not graduate as a result.

So, Nigeria produced its first generation of educated people with a huge entitlement mentality. That generation is the reason for the mess the nation is now. It was their right to be pampered. Not only students loans but also bursaries dished out generously by all state governments. Then Alaba International market in Lagos where enterprising Igbo sell electronics imported from Japan became a busy place as students and civil servants who got their own generous Udoji salary increase with its over-generous back-dated allowances which placed so much in the hands of government workers, flocked the market.
By the way, Chief Jerome Udoji chaired the committee set up to give this unearned largesse to civil servants. Power bikes from Japan and electronics from Japan make that country beneficial to Nigeria’s oil boom. For Nigerians who own the oil under their soil and especially the Niger Deltans, the boom became a doom.

The doom is still on, Nigeria is broke, and its erstwhile central bank governor, Godwin Emefiele is under arrest by the security outfit, (DSS) investigating an alleged mountainously huge stealing of public funds. The country had become a place where stealing has become a way of life.
Tinubu, the new man at the helm was a victim of corruption accusations that featured prominently during his campaign and knew he would be inheriting a mountain of problems because there is no money again. Muhammadu Buhari, his predecessor spent his whole eight years of two terms borrowing from all corners of the world. And the more he borrowed, the more his officials and politicians stole the money. Nigerians trained by Gowon’s largesse has become a generation used to easy money. It just has to come by all means. Tinubu admitted it was not going to be easy, but he is ready to take tough actions. He hit the ground running from the podium as he read his inauguration address: oil subsidy which had become a metaphor for hemorrhaging the nation’s resources is gone, not just will go but gone. Tinubu said he would cushion Nigerians who will suffer from galloping prices with heavy investment in education and infrastructures.

Dele Alake, Tinubu’s spokesperson at the presidency was excited as he presented his boss’s student loan law to Nigerians. Tinubu, he said had made good his promise to give succour to Nigerians who will suffer from oil subsidy removal by the law. Details of it will be worked out but from that day, indigent Nigerians must be sure that they can now be educated no matter how inflation gallops in the nation. They can take interest-free loans at a bank that the new law will set up.
Not in the interest of the poor

But good as it looks, the student loan may not be the best for Nigerians at this time, the nation needs something which is more drastic and helpful to Nigerians, especially the poor. There are many reasons: one, it is very likely that indigent students, the supposed target of the loan will not get it. They are required to be guaranteed by civil servants and students in this category don’t know any civil servants; they are too poor to mingle with those elites. Rather, the money will be accessed by children of the rich whose pockets are already bursting at the seams from money given to them by their rich parents but who always want more. The loan scheme will be one more avenue for stealing by the civil servants who will manage it. Would it happen? It would be because, in its first showing, it was manipulated until the whole thing flopped. Nigerian officials have not changed much; in fact, they have become worse.
Abroad where the scheme works, it does because the students are assured of immediate jobs after university from which the banks will be paid. Here unemployment which does not look like it will get away any soon does not guarantee that the beneficiaries of this loan will be able to repay the loan. Right now, one of the things that made education no longer attractive to Nigerian youths is unemployment. An old man asked me why the youths will want to struggle to go to school when the ones who went had no job. So, the education loan bank is sure to fold up when its working capital dries up because its loan is not repaid. The Tinubu administration therefore must rethink. The Education Loan Bank, like the one before, will not work. And the indigent students will not get it; it will only fund the already rich who know how to manipulate such schemes. If the administration is bold enough and ready to lift Nigerians from poverty and misery, nothing will do than a free education scheme from the elementary to the tertiary level.
There should be no fear that there is no money to fund it. The huge subsidies to the rich that the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Femi Falana has been running in the press and on social media and which surely must have gotten the attention of President Tinubu, is enough to fund the scheme. Add this to the huge amount the alleged malfeasance between Godwin Emefiele, and Hadi Sirika, the immediate past minister of aviation will be enough to fund free education. The rich and their over-pampered children have left public universities for private universities in Nigeria and abroad. Government should leave them there but tax them so that from their huge wealth which they probably stole from Nigerians, they would return a little to give succour to the hapless poor. They must be told they are no longer safe because Nigerians are angry and if the poor are not quickly attended to when the pains of oil subsidy removal settle in, it might spark a revolt that the rich cannot afford. Tinubu will get every kobo he needs if he orders a serious shrinking of the huge salaries and allowances of all the politicians.
The education loan bank, like the one before, will not work. And the indigent students will not get it; it will only fund the already rich who know how to manipulate such schemes.