Nseobong Okon-Ekong engages Bimbo Daramola, a former federal legislator who has come with a novel welfare scheme he presents as a spell-binder to the teeming population of restless Nigerian youths
Congressman Bimbo Daramola, a former member House of Representatives, (2011-2015), represented Ekiti North Federal Constituency 1, Ekiti State. I choose to answer Congressman. He is possibly the first Nigerian legislator from the House of Representatives in Nigeria to answer to that title; and not the common place Honourable for clear reasons.
The reasons include 1. Winning an election does not make you a honourable man, an armed robber getting the dynamics right can safely defeat an innocent man, it’s worse today when the shape of the political environment is determined largely not because of the content of your character, or depth of sensitivity for the plight of your constituents or any other noble cause but by deliberate exploitation of the vulnerable or direct rape of the highly vulnerable either economically or social status or greed.
Secondly Honourable is a term used under the parliamentary system as it is in the United Kingdom and not the presidential system of democratic rule such as we have in the United States of America which of course we fashioned it after.
But let me not veer into my political views because your interview is basically life after the parliament.
I am the fourth child in an all-male five children home, of my Parents Chief F. A Daramola and Mrs. Joan Taiwo Daramola (late); both educationists. Let me not bore you with primary school story, but I went to the great Christ’s School Ado Ekiti and proceeded to have a first degree in Geology from the then Ondo State University now Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti, that was in 1989; subsequently got a Master’s Degree in Business administration from University of Ilorin.
I did NYSC in Kaduna at a firm called Water Surveys Nigeria Ltd, and four months into youth service I got a permanent job as a geologist in the same organisation for siting the most productive borehole by UNDP standard in Birnin Gwari (a geologist’s nightmare with regard to siting successful borehole at the time, Northern part of Kaduna State).
I had my stint as a banker at Savannah Bank Plc, and later resigned to undertake private business, I am not one so cut out for contracting for so many reasons so I rather follow my God given ideas. The Nigerian Students and Youth Corps Members a.k.a Naija Green Card is the most recent of such. Done a few others such as designing the Commonwealth Head of Government 2004 logo, produced and co-directed the first of its kind documentary of President Olusegun Obasanjo GCFR titled From Prison to Presidency, Published for the first time ever the JAMB approved Questions & Answers (1994-2003) with CD-ROM.
I met the then General Olusegun Obasanjo in the quest of pitching an idea that will help his presidential campaign in 1999. And I got co-opted into presidential campaigns and that was the beginning of my active political trajectory with my traverse through the bid for a seat in the House of Representatives in 2007, a bid that failed because of unprecedented scale of rigging, and subsequently I ran again in 2011 and I won. My tenure ended in June 2015.
The Nigerian Students and Youth Corps Discount Card also known as the Naija Green Card being the affectionate street lingo for ease of recall and recognition is a social safety net and if you like a social protection plan as could so be described in the fitting matrix of palliatives scheme for the citizenry as being undertaken by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
This initiative is a response to the graphic situation of the plight of the young population as represented in part by this identifiable and verifiable category in this broad youth demography.
When I was in the House of Representatives I devoted a lot of attention to issues that border on the young people who qualify as the successor generation.
I am strongly inclined to the fact that anybody that is from age 45 is like a dry fish that cannot be bent so chances are that age 45 and above may not be able to do much in terms of paradigm shift of a new Nigeria, consequently I believe attention should be given to these young Nigerians within the impressionable ages, and so if we must berth a new Nigeria conscious investment must be made into the process of grooming the emerging successor generation.
I believe every young Nigerian must be given a fighting chance to become whoever they want to be, but the reality today is that there is no systemic structure tailor fit to enable these young Nigerians to aim for the best. The odds seem stacked against them.
God forbid Nigeria breeding a successor generation that is laden with hate, delusional and disillusioned, we will all bear the consequences which definitely will not be palatable.
It is in this nation about three decades ago when education is greatly subsidised, where students are two or at the most four in a room compared to sixteen in a room today, back in time the students used to get served good food in good measures, laundry done for them, scholarships, grants, sponsorships and all forms of support structures in favour of the then young Nigerians.
Today’s picture is the opposite of the above, now the picture is that 27 state governments cannot pay salaries, unemployment, spiraling inflation, shrinking value of the Naira, dwindling income stream, parents and guardians now keep their jobs when they have taken pay cuts or negotiated wages etc.
This is the gory picture today, unfortunately not the fault of the incumbent administration but that does not obliterate the fact that this is the sight to behold and what estimated millions of young Nigerians are exposed to. The undeniable fact is that these young Nigerians are the ones who are at the receiving end, the worst hit. Whatever shrinks or dwindles or takes away the income stream of their parents or guardians eventually ripples to them, that is why school drop-out rate is on the rise, these young Nigerians are devising street ingenuity to survive on campuses.
For example now we hear different combinations such as 001 meaning no breakfast, no lunch and only dinner, or 010 meaning no breakfast, only lunch and no dinner or 100 i.e. breakfast, no lunch and no dinner, and in some cases 000 which is no breakfast, no lunch, no dinner, so how do we raise competitive children from a baking room that has this picture? Do we expect that parents and Guardian who have not been paid for 7 months will be able to give enough to the kids on campus? To feed? Buy books? Clothing? e.t.c that is the picture today.
So we have the option to rise up to this challenge in a manner that recognises this challenges but proffer ways to meet them half way and show that we really do care, if we play the ostrich we will be caught in the web of the consequences of this unfortunate scenario. So I chose to do something to bring succour.
To do nothing will be inexcusable, for instance is it conscionable to have those who have modest income stream pay the same amount for a product or service and a student or youth corps member pays the same amount for that service even when we realise that those who even have some form of income stream barely could keep their heads above water.
So the questions these are the questions and the realities I am faced with more seriously after my exit from the parliament that motivated me to try to do my little bit by ensuring that these vulnerable people have options, opportunities and alternatives and leave them to make their critical decisions and they can bear the consequences of their choices, it will not be that nothing was done holistically. That is the picture that led to Nigerian Students and Youth Corpers Discount Card a.k.a Naija Green Card.
In specific terms I and my team in distilling the above generic essence wants to achieve three things, 1. Make life more meaningful and qualitative to these young Nigerians by ensuring that for the first time ever we have an integrated and systemic discount culture in Nigeria that is driven by welfarist instincts.
Today individual businesses have different categories of discounts and loyalty packages for specific products and services, but from now we will have this integrated, systemic platform that will warehouse thousands of such disparate entities either already offering or we get them to offer the vulnerable demography starting out with the students and the youth corps members.
In the face of the steady impact, we have been approached to undertake Federal Civil Servants Discount Platform and Military Discount Platform. We are delighted that the Nigerian Students and Youth Corp Discount Card in only 6months has proved to be a succour that led the other two entities to approach us to undertake a similar platform. But we will need to consult our huge partner’s base before we take these other two on.
Secondly this Naija Green Card platform is not to promote consumerism alone rather it has the inherent opportunities of helping the young students and youth corps members to acquire skill and entrepreneurial training; thereby also earn income to supplement their income from parents and guardians. Lastly it is also to promote education and knowledge through the Academic Village portal, which is like Lecturers Beyond Borders. On this platform students particularly can connect with lecturers outside of their direct institutions and share in their knowledge.