| By Tola Adeniyi |
I AM not happy. And I am almost certain that most Nigerians are not happy. In fact, as for many Nigerians, they are not only sad but confused. Seriously confused. I am not confused but very sad.
I really do not know what to make of our present circumstance in the face of a National Assembly that is poised to foist business as usual mantra on the country. And I must quickly exonerate members of the National Assembly on the excuse that whatever may be happening in the hallowed chambers is not entirely their own making. It is the game they met on ground that they are playing.
Millions trooped out in March and April yearning for change. And the change they wanted was not just merely substituting Jonathan with Buhari. It was not just substituting the PDP with APC. As far as Nigerians are concerned, and this has been proved several times, it does not matter who is leading them. Nigerians do not care whether their leader wore a heavy turban, an abeti-aja, a bowler hat or feathered cap. What they are interested in are provision of security, electricity, quality education, robust health care delivery, jobs, good roads and enhanced transportation infrastructure. They want also transparent leaders who, by personal example, will stamp out corruption which has defaced the nation and has made Nigerians disrespected all over the world.
This piece is not concerned about who the leader of the National Assembly is or the procedure that produced him or her. Political parties and key players in the parties know how they do their thing. What is however crucial and critical is that Nigerians can no longer tolerate or endure the character of the previous legislatures in the National Assembly. Nigerians no longer have stomach for the kind of legislators that would rush over a hundred bills in less than ten minutes after fritting away four solid years.
A National Assembly is sometimes more purposeful and more powerful than the executive arm of government. I dare say that no executive arm of government can succeed without a strong and articulate and knowledgeable legislature.
What we have got in Nigeria has always been a mixture of the good, very good, the bad, very bad, and the ugly, extremely ugly characters populating the National Assembly and the legislatures in various states of the Federation.
There is no way we can separate the characters in our legislatures from the many ills that have plagued and continue to plague our polity. The simple oversight function which is a key component of the duties of a legislative assembly is criminally ignored. All that we hear are squabbles over salaries and perquisites of office.
If state Assemblies and national Assembly had been thorough in the mandatory oversight functions, all the stealing, looting, brigandage and gross misappropriation by the executive arm of government could not have taken place. But alas! The legislature and the executive have been arms in glove in perpetuating frivolous fraud in government.
The cry now is about lipstick and powder allowance, or money for agbada, babanriga, coat and tie with bowler hat to match. National Assembly members are up in arms about their so-called wardrobe allowance. It does not matter if the wardrobe allowance is one thousand naira. The truth of the matter is that a government that has not been able to pay the minimum wage of paltry eighteen thousand naira to its workers should not be talking of paying for the dresses of their legislators. Were the legislators going about naked before they were elected into the house? Is it now a sin that the poor masses that voted them into power should now be burdened with providing clothing for them? It is immoral and ridiculous to be talking of wardrobe allowance.
Whoever put the clause of wardrobe allowance in whichever law that created it should expunge it today! Today, not tomorrow!
We knew that unless the reputedly no-nonsense Buhari put in place machinery that will trim the huge salaries and benefits of the National Assembly members his government would easily be overrun by the gluttony of the Assembly. As I wrote last week in my article titled The Shape of Things to Come, old members of the National Assembly are too wealthy and too powerful for the majority new comers. When it comes to Ghana-Must-Go politics, the old members in the Assembly will overrun not only their Johnny-just-come colleagues but the Executive, if care is not taken.
It will just be business as usual!
The thrust of this column is actually about the so-called Constituency Allowance. Legislatures are given huge sums of money to provide amenities for their constituencies. We hear the legislators boasting about bore holes, motor cycles, sewing machines and sundry articles for their constituents. What is the business of the legislator providing transformers and generators? What is the business of legislators providing blocks of classrooms? Are legislators contractors? Are they elected to steal the functions of the executive or to replace the Minister of Works?
It is the greed and confusion in the polity that created room for this serious money guzzling anomaly. And once the legislators are bribed with these huge sums, they invariably turn blind eye on the looting that goes on in the Executive and in the Agencies of government.
The Constituency Allowance must be scrapped.
Quite frankly, what Nigerians wanted were part-time legislators that would be entitled to sitting allowance. And such part-time legislators are not required to meet for more than once in a month and twelve times in a year unless there is an emergency situation. Nigerians wanted legislators that have their own careers and businesses. Not jobless men and women who have turned political jobbery into money making venture.
Now we have legislators who even employ about four or five advisers/assistants/bag carriers! All these frivolities are paid for by citizens who can hardly feed their families.
Something urgent must be done to radically change the face and texture of the National Assembly and its sisters in the 36 states of the Federation. Unless this is done, and done very quickly, the Buhari government will just be a continuation of the Jonathanian continuity. I must add that it will just be the continuation of the 16 years of looting, looting and looting. 16 years of incomparable waste.
May this government, voted in with the greatest enthusiasm not end up as a disappointment and betrayal!
Uncle Sad Sam taught us how to be sad!
The pen is the tongue of the hand, the silent utterer of words for the eyes —Henry Beecher
— Jun 29, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT