Of jumbo perks and Nigeria’s elected officials
It seems like an eternity since the country experienced an individual who spoke truth to power in the character and manner that the late Senior Advocate of the Masses (SAM) Gani Fawehinmi was known.
Indeed, it is not only surprising but worrisome that Nigerians have been so complacent with the way the political leadership continues in its failure to offer appropriate services and dividend of democracy. However, Nigerians hailed and stood behind the body known as Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) which recently registered a protest through the court to frown at selfish politicians who enact laws to enable them to enjoy jumbo perks in whatever name for life.
The SERAP was so furious that it took the bull by the horn and invoked the law and made some legal incantations before the court against politicians who it considered addicted to self-serving by way of allocating jumbo perks to their offices. The other day, SERAP prayers got a nod from an Abuja high court to compel former governors and public office holders to disclose their life pensions.
Of late, it has become a tradition for most governors and public officials ahead of their tenure to cunningly produce a long list of established state treasury ritual, where they smartly collaborate with the State Assembly members to work out dubious ways to implement jumbo benefits for themselves for life. It is really sad to note that, today’s politics and politicians appear to have abandoned the values that edify Nigeria. Politics and political activities are far different from the politics of our founding fathers who were people-oriented and development driven.
Undoubtedly, it is a matter of deep regret that some former governors and other public officials enjoy a mind-boggling life pension occasioned from jumbo perks they approve for themselves while in office. This is at best a rip off on hapless Nigerians and outrageous, to say the least. When political office holders chose to place a very high premium on their retirement benefits Nigerians have every reason to feel scandalised and fear for their future. This is because the jumbo perks issue does not just corrode trust among the people it does so in democracy at every level. Therefore, in contemplating the ugly scenes in Nigeria’s politics many people have expressed a feeling that Nigeria’s democracy may be staring into the abyss if something is not urgently done to stop the ugly trend.
Somehow the situation seems worse than anticipated when you hear a lawyer like Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Joe-Kyari Gadzama insisting that the parochial legislation backing the huge life allowances of these ex-public officials were unconstitutional and illegal. He said, “The pension scheme is both unconstitutional and illegal. The pension scheme must be rescinded forthwith. The only legal hurdle to cross is that most of the states had already passed obnoxious laws to provide the requisite legal regimes, but the same legislatures can abrogate them.
The present economic atmosphere both locally and globally is not supportive of the sustenance of the sucking and killer pension scheme”. Of course, the most terrifying aspect of the Nigerian political drama is not the revelation that politicians abuse their powers for personal gains. If you did not have that at the back of your mind during their sojourn into government and governance, then you were not paying attention. Considering the well-worn phrase with which Nigeria is often described as a blessed land furnished with a cursed leadership to paint the paradox of a nation endowed with abundant human and material resources, yet have the majority of its people trapped in poverty because of selfish political interest and poor leadership.
The ex-political office holders swimming in the ocean of jumbo perks have demonstrated that they do not even have the least understanding of the issues about governance and how to move the country forward. The implication that Nigerians have been in political servitude since 1999 has become a truism of political analysis that many a politician have left their people far behind and condemned to their provincial obscurity.
No doubt, the past 21 years of democratic rule in Nigeria have been particularly demoralising for many Nigerians. This is because the reputation of the Nigerian political system rests in no small part on its clandestine and shoddy transactions that benefit only those in power and authority. Which is why, despite the endless hectoring and suffering of the masses, it does not register in the minds of the political leaders to be sensitive and reason along the path of the people. Of course, that was why in the not too distant past, the late novelist, Chinua Achebe likened Nigeria to a child in need of nurturing. But, regrettably the conduct of most Nigerians especially those in power and authority makes the child seems orphaned because of greed and selfishness.
As it were, our political leaders have remained insensitive to the plight of the people. They deliberately abandon their moral duty and chose to pollute themselves in pursuit of selfish interest.
The most depressing thing about the ugly culture of politicians in government is that society reacts negatively to a clean and incorruptible politician. He or she is accused of being timid or stupid for not enriching self while in office or create a money-spinning machine to rely on when out of office. Notwithstanding the above, the naked truth about the jumbo perks is that it is outrageous and terrible. It breeds envy among politicians therefore at election period it is a “do-or-die” affair to clinch the post that lays the ‘golden egg’ at retirement.
The nation’s judiciary should be able to stand up firm and come up with a legal framework that would abolish jumbo perks in our political system and constituency projects handled by members of the National Assembly because their duty is to make laws for the country not to execute projects. Public servants should adhere strictly to serve the people and not the other way round. It should be noted that Nigeria cannot as a country of laws allow some people to conduct themselves through parochial legislation to steal the peoples’ wealth. The impression that Nigeria’s politics is such a lucrative business and easy means of access to instant wealth should be discouraged. At this point, with the country’s economic discomfort occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic, what is required from our political leaders and indeed every
Nigerian is patriotism to nurture the country and grow the economy.
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