Category

COLUMNS/OPINIONS

Category

Of Selfish Politicians And Outrageous Cost Of Governance

By Victor Agi

In one news making the round, some lawmaker politicians have passed a bill for an absurd pension package that will be beneficial state lawmakers as long as they live. While the speaker will be receiving a whooping five hundred thousand naira monthly, the deputy will smile home with two hundred thousand naira, and other members are to collect a hundred thousand naira pay every month at the expiration of their term in office.

The cumulative cost of this controversial bill sponsored by the leader of the Bayelsa House of Assembly, Peter Akpe is better imagined, as every knownHonourable member of that chamber, including those who served in the old Rivers state of Bayelsa origin, are all entitled to this humongous package, all to the detriment of the development of the state.

While the bill has not been accented to by the Governor, His Excellency, Seriaki Dickson, one wonders the rationale behind the brazen absurdity, which does not add any value to the ordinary man on the street of Oloibiri and anywhere else in the state.

Comparatively, some will argue that this is even a fair bargain when place side by side the severance packages of some former Governors, their deputies, and members of states House of Assembly. Punch investigates recently and reports that “fourteen governors, their deputies and 434 state lawmakers who will not be returning to government will be going home with N2.06bn”.

Well, this figure only reflects the official emoluments accruable from the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), as many states have schemed gargantuan severance allowances for governors and other public officers. In one state for instance, a billion naira worth of houses is to be built to “reward” a governor, for perhaps, agreeing to serve the state (how ridiculous), while in others, the insensitivity allows for houses to be built in any choice location in the country.

It is even more laughable that some of the former governors and political office holders, who are now serving either as senators, ministers and in other political offices are entitled to these packages, and one wonders what is the position of our laws on this irrational arrangement.

Concerned with the rising insecurity and contributing to a motion by Senator Sani Shehu on the “Senseless killing of Briton and the abduction of three others in a holiday resort in Kaduna State by armed bandits” recently, Punch quoted Senator Andrew Uchendu (Rivers East) as saying: “if we sell three of five vehicles we own and use proceeds to engage youths, crime will reduce”, and added that,the country urgently needs to find appropriate economic policies to engage idle hands to forestall rising cases of insecurity.

The senator’s submissions are quite revealing. To think that a Nigerian senator is entitled to five vehicles, multiplied by 109 senators, which will not be far from what is also obtainable at the lower chamber, speaks volume of the cost of running our government. There is no magic to why we should not be the poverty headquarter of world, and little wonder why we are so “blessed” with desperate politicians who are ready to go any length to win elections. Who doesn’t like free things, after all? Maybe few people.

The frivolity in our cost of governance speaks to high heavens. From the highest office in the land, down to the least political appointee, it is commonplace to have retinue of aides who, often time, are relatives of the “oga at the top” or who got those appointments as political compensations, while the real workings of governance suffer tremendous neglect, as funds are either diverted to the inconsequential servicing of aides or outrightly embezzled.

It has become so much of a concern that same politicians who perpetuate these acts have used it as a subject of campaign to scuttle votes for another round of dismal performance. Rather than reducing the cost of governance, successive administrations have done little or nothing to address this Nigeria, nay, Africa political setup that has tended the continent to its regrettable status among comity of nations.

From security votes to travel allowance and reckless jumbo packages for political office holders and aides, Nigeria remain one of the best places to be a politician. While we claim to copy our brand of Presidential Democracy from the United States of America, one wonders while we are yet to read reports of congressmen who live in rented apartments and use public facilities. A New York Post report in 2018 has it that some congressmen, due to the high cost of living in Washington, “have turned professional squatters at night, hitting the sack in their Capitol Hill offices”. Rep. Dan Donovan was quoted to have said that: “if we go to the point where you have to rent or have to buy [in DC], then only millionaires would be members of Congress”.

To think that a Nigerian senator is entitled to five vehicles, multiplied by 109 senators, which will not be far from what is also obtainable at the lower chamber, speaks volume of the cost of running our government. There is no magic to why we should not be the poverty headquarter of world, and little wonder why we are so “blessed” with desperate politicians who are ready to go any length to win elections. Who doesn’t like free things, after all? Maybe few people.

Yet, these congressmen still love their country and are ready to go the extra miles to make life better for the people of the United States of America. While not positing that government officials should live below the reasonable means, and advocating for the U.S. standard for our government officials, moderation should be our watchword if we are to make a leap from the current bleak situation of our country’s underdevelopment.

In our case, it was revealing when the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Emir Sanusi Lamido, alleged that the National Assembly gulps 25 percent of the overhead in the nation’s annual budget. The ordinary Nigerian who have witnessed and lived with flamboyant lifestyles and open inequality of our politicians do not hesitate in believing his submissions.

In Canada, while some sections of their law has it that government officials are entitled for some leave “with or without pay”, as provided in section 6 of the Provision of the “Terms and conditions applying to Governor in Council appointees”; in Nigeria, government officials get all sorts of massive leave packages and allowances, and it’s not uncommon to hear every other year how much is budgeted on government officials’ kitchen, wardrobe, furniture and other allowances, which runs into millions of naira, at the expense of quality services to the people.

These represent systemic problems that are equally dangerous to our development, as much as corruption. Our political offices are way too lucrative, and conveniently so, for meaning development to happen. It accounts for why the performances of our budget over the years in capital projects have not been good enoughto actually revamp the economy and position it on the paths of growth; meanwhile politicians and government officials have found a new hubby in vote buying into millions and billions of naira.Their new modus operandi is as treacherous to our collective existence as corruption, which has become soft landing for our reigning government’s inability to meaningfully deliver dividends of democracy to the people. The very essence of democracy is largely defeated in an electoral process marred with vote buying and other electoral vices.

Regrettably, it is seemingly difficult to change these narratives in our nation, because the same people who should be responsible to change some portions of our laws that inadvertently allows for siphoning of public fund are the beneficiaries. Taking actions to arrest this disturbing issue of high cost governance is like biting the finger that feeds you to our politicians, as patriotism is now only a word.

It takes genuine love for one’s country to be a serving Rep, like Rep. Dan Donovan and dozen others to sleep in rented apartments and offices and not mini paradise as we have in Nigeria, yet, they are passionate about serving the American people. Our political office holder should not only be stunningly successful in transferring ideologies, but much more important, is understanding the workings and the spirit of those ideologies to local needs. We can have our own brand of presidential democracy that is most suitable for the developmental needs of our growing population.

Regrettably, it is seemingly difficult to change these narratives in our nation, because the same people who should be responsible to change some portions of our laws that inadvertently allows for siphoning of public fund are the beneficiaries. Taking actions to arrest this disturbing issue of high cost governance is like biting the finger that feeds you to our politicians, as patriotism is now only a word.

Our government should also realize that political offices are positions of trust, and that the growing distrust in governance is breeding a people that will soon revolt. It is high time our politicians borrowed a leaf from happenings around the world and redirect efforts towards sustainable growth and development, rather than building castles and empires only for selves and cronies. Nigeria is a time bomb waiting to explode and we must all watch closely.