Public Offices For Personal Gains
Does anyone still wonder why some people will do anything possible to occupy political positions in Nigeria? During elections, millions of naira are spent by contestants, security agencies are deployed to interfere with the electoral process not minding that there are legal limits to their involvement in an election, thugs are engaged to kill and maim among other atrocities being committed by political office seekers.And you think their desperation to win elections stems from their love for the country and the citizens?
Well, two recent incidents, just like numerous others, can be used to ascertain the genuineness or otherwise of the usual profession of politicians and some other public officer holders that “I want to serve my people and the nation.”
The Enugu State House of Assembly last week introduced a bill for a law to provide life pension for the former governors and deputy governors of the state. The bill which already scaled the first reading sought to make former governors and deputy governors entitled to receive gratuity as well as pension for life at the expense of the state government. It also provides for medical allowance not exceeding N12 million per annum for one surviving spouse, provided that such spouse was married to the governor while in office; free medical services for both ex-governor and ex-first lady until death.
Other provisions of the bill include: adequate security for the former governors for their lifetime; three vehicles to an ex-governor to be replaced every four years as well as a personal assistant on salary Grade level 14; a house maintenance allowance, an annual salary for five domestic staff and a vehicle allowance, each valued at 300 per cent of the ABS.
There are also similar provisions for former deputy governors who would get 200 per cent of their ABS each for house allowance, vehicle allowance and annual salary for three domestic staff; two vehicles, to be replaced every four years, free medical services for himself and his wife as well as N6 million medical allowance for the latter.
Also outrageous is that “When a former governor or former deputy governor dies, the state government should make adequate arrangements and bear the financial responsibility for his burial. “The state government should pay a condolence allowance of a sum equivalent to the annual basic salary of the incumbent to his next of kin.
All these because the ex-governors and their deputies “served” the state for four years or eight years as the case may be. Meanwhile, in that same state and across the nation, civil servants labour for 35 years and can hardly afford shelters over their heads not to talk of functional vehicles. Payment of N30, 000.00 minimum wage to workers, pension and gratuity to pensioners is still a big issue.
Let’s not talk about the national and global economic realities that have skyrocketed poverty rate everywhere and some lawmakers in a state like Enugu that is struggling financially want to continue to enrich a few privileged persons who have benefitted so much from the state through a sleazy pension?
Incidentally, before the dust raised by the widely condemned bill could settle, a member of the House of Representatives Committee on House Services, Hon Yunusa Abubakar, took to a national television to make a case for what he called grossly inadequate allocation for the management of the National Assembly. According to him, the N16 billion allocated for the running of the National Assembly in the current national budget is very insufficient. Asked what will be adequate for the job he boldly said that the amount should be doubled. That is raising it to N32 billion.
He listed what consumes the allocation to include: N40 million monthly for the maintenance of the chambers; about N10million monthly impress for each lawmaker; day to day business of the parliament among others. This is outside their monthly earnings which in 2018 an ex-senator, Shehu Sani, was gracious to disclose runs in millions. According to him, senators received N13.5 million monthly outside their N700, 000 monthly consolidated salary and allowances.
To think that a tiny fraction of the population enjoys all this largess and is demanding for a 100% increase even when millions of the citizens are unemployed, many people are dying of hunger and starvation smacks of the lawmakers’ insensitivity to the plight of the people they represent.
With great endowments in human and natural resources, in addition to vast agricultural potentials, the nation should have been Africa’s undisputed economic giant, a dream country where at least the basic needs of the citizens are adequately catered for. But the ceaseless plundering of the national and state treasuries by public office holders has made living in the land hellish – no food, epileptic power supply, insecurity everywhere, no good roads, no water and all that. The other day’s news had it that four litres of water is now being sold for N100.00 in Gwagwalada and some parts of the Federal Capital Territory. A bag of sachet water previously sold for N60. 00 now goes for between N120.00 and N150.00 due to acute water shortage in those areas.
So, as Hon. Abubakar suggested, it is high time the legislators and members of other arms of government came down from their high horses and begin to conduct their affairs in accordance with the current economic realities of the country. Now, more than ever before, there is a need to cut down the cost of governance and block all the conduit pipes of wastage that are draining the nation’s economy and put the money into useful ventures. Scrapping or merging of the chambers of NASS as has been severally suggested must be given due consideration.
In the case of Enugu, it is hoped that having taken a laudable decision to harken to the peoples’ demand and step down the controversial bill, the lawmakers should take a step further to institute a bill that will repeal the already existing Enugu State Gubernatorial Pensions Law and free the state from the looting hands of former public office holders just as their colleagues in Zamfara and some other states did.
Such a huge sum can be channelled to tackling the perennial water problem in the state and other infrastructural deficits that will make life more meaningful for the generality of the people or invested in the manufacturing sector that will create jobs for the large number of unemployed youths in the state? Until common good becomes the ultimate goal of public leadership instead of personal gains, the nation cannot move forward.
By: Calista Ezeaku
NYSC And 50 Years Of National Unity, Cohesion
The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) has become one of the most revered Federal Government-established schemes that has done the country proud in all respects. It was created by Decree No 24 of May 22, 1973, promulgated by the military regime of the then head of state, Gen Yakubu Gowon,”to keep Nigeria one.” The scheme was primarily conceptualised to strengthen the national cohesion and integration, so that the already fractured nation could be more bonded in all spheres. Without being immodest, NYSC has helped to revitalise the affinity among diverse nationalities of the Nigerian nation and bolstered the values of respect for the culture, religions and customs being practised by each of the ethnic groups.
Though there might be some hiccups in the operations of the scheme since inception, it has relatively lived up to its biddings in some noticeable aspects of our national life. The country can not forget the pivotal roles played by NYSC in managing the post traumatic stress disorder suffered by some Nigerian citizens during the post civil war era. Since then, the NYSC had been a leveller, creating balance across the multi-ethnic Nigerian nation and sending a strong signal that Nigerians are brothers regardless of the noticeable difference in our culture, customs, religions, creeds and political leanings. It has been a spiralling binding force, warding off the cankerworms of mutual distrust, suspicion, class differences, hatred, superiority and inferiority complexes, and all manners of social malaise serving as tremors quaking the country’s foundation since its independence in 1960.
Besides unity, economic prosperity of nation is vital to the survival and wellbeing of its citizens. Under this context, the NYSC scheme has been a strong weapon providing employment for countless Nigerian professionals from all respectable fields of human endeavours. Many of the graduate participants are employed into public and private sectors, thereby rejigging the economy and making it more responsive. Thousands of participants deployed in many states, had got the opportunities of securing permanent jobs after the expiration of their service years. In many developing economies, rural-urban drift had always been the most economic challenge confronting them. But with the advent of NYSC, government has been able to stem the tide to a large extent.
A vivid dissection of how the scheme was being prosecuted connoted the fact that bulk of the participants is deployed in the rural areas. With this, government at all levels has focused attention on the development of the rural sector, so that the corps members can be more comfortable to serve and live among the rural dwellers. The scheme also serves as a unique opportunity for training for leadership. Opportunity is given to corps members to become self-disciplined and capable of becoming future reliable leaders of the country. In fact, the conduct of the scheme is designed to infuse discipline and self-reliance in the participants. Good leadership would without no doubt help a country to achieve socio-economic advancement, all things being equal.
This is because the kernel of the scheme is to ensure that the participating graduate youths are self reliant, disciplined, and responsible and to nurture the true spirit of nationalism. However, in spite of the myriad of benefits inherent in the scheme, it has been confronted with a lot of snags. The challenges of kidnappings, killings, insurgency, social unrest and banditry being experienced, coupled with religious and ethnic strife, propelled agitations in many quarters that the scheme should be scrapped. A copious example was the 2011 general elections’ gory events of killings and maiming of many corps members in some states in the country due to spontaneous violence that dogged the presidential polls of that year.
Many of the participants had also fallen victims of kidnappings and carnages on roads, thereby portraying the scheme as gradually outliving its usefulness. Another devastating trend is the lukewarm and unreceptive attitudes and dispositions being exhibited by participants to their posting to some certain parts of the country, due to pervasive social mistrust that is gaining traction in the country. Unlike in the past, when corps members preferred to be posted to other parts of the country, so that they could go get familiar with their culture, customs and nuances, such spirit is gradually fading out and threatening the potency of the scheme and viability to live up to the buildings of helping to foster relationship, oneness, togetherness, unity and integration across the country.
This forms part of the agitations that the scheme should be phased out or made optional.
A critical analysis of the pros and cons of the NYSC scheme since inception shows that its benefits actually outshine its demerits. I share the humble opinion that the scheme should be fortified rather than scrapped, as is being agitated by some interests. The government should look for ways to introduce leadership training, skill and entrepreneurial training into the programme to be able to confront the current economic reality of today. To further serve as a boost to the scheme, the Federal Government should establish small scale businesses that can make participants really self-reliant after their compulsory one year service to the nation.
This remains one of the ways to bolster the interest of Nigerians in the scheme and cut down agitations that it should be scrapped or made optional. In conclusion, NYSC in the last 50 years has been a strong instrument of national integration and cohesion. It has helped to strengthen our togetherness. I give kudos to our past heroes who conceptualised this lofty idea in their intention to invigorate Nigerians’ patriotic spirit. And I believe that, for the labour of these past heroes not to be in vain, the best the current government owes them is to sustain the scheme and make it more responsive in the discharge of its duties for national stability.
By: Dalimore Aluko
Aluko is an online media contributor.
Failed System And “The Will Of God” Proponents
The 2023 General Elections have been conducted, (barring reschedules and post-election petition tribunals outcomes), but the unpleasant euphoria it generated across the country, will not be forgotten in a hurry. In fact, it will be chronicled in the political history of Nigeria, the “Giant of Africa” that it is ironically one of the most ‘successful’ elections ever held. It is an election that seems to dent the credibility of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as tongues wagged on the conduct of the elections. Sadly, this is happening against multiple assurances by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on her commitment to conducting a free, fair and transparent technology-driven elections in the country.
With several billions of tax-payers’ money, allocated to the Commission for purchase of materials for the conduct and seamless transmission of election results, the performance of the Commission in the considered judgment of several Nigerians, is an assault on the sensibility of the electorate. What is baffling about the election is that key political figures across the country accused of masterminding alleged compromise of the process, tacitly lend support to the public outcry of rape of people’s will, through their public statement and comments on the elections. To several people, the outcome of the elections was an “open wound, truth only can heal it”, borrowing the words of Othman Dan Fodio, the Fulani patriarch. The outcome has generated controversial philosophies and sentiment from the Nigerian public, including the clerics.
One of such philosophies is “The will of God Philosophy”. Considering the outrage on the suspected flawed general elections, with the attendant loss of lives and property, how logical it is to assert that the outcome of the elections is the architecture of God for Nigeria—a predominantly religious country. If that sentiment is anything to go by, that would imply that God supports “the end justifying the means” philosophy. That would mean God approved human’s flawed and inordinate ambition to achieve an end. Should God hold humans accountable for taking life, hijacking a process, and fostering a bleak future for a nation of over 200 million people through the actions and inactions of a comparatively insignificant population.
Bad leaders are a function of the people’s choice, not exclusively God’s. God allows leaders for a people according to who the people are. If a people are corrupt or love corruption, depraved in morals God gives them leaders according to who the people really are. God called Nebuchadnezzar “my servant,” because he was to serve God for an “ignoble” purpose of punishing Israel for their idol worship. After using Nebuchadnezzar as a “king of kings”, God humiliated him. God should not be associated with evil because He is light, thus the nature of God is repugnant to evil. We should not postulate that a faulty process can translate to a glorious outcome under God. Paul’s argument against the theories of Determinism and Machiavelli is “if our unrighteousness advances the purpose of God, why will God punish an offender or culprit for wrong doing?”
God is Omni-benevolent (Wholly Good) in nature, so should not be associated with evil and mischief. There were reports across the country that overzealous and financially induced loyalists of some party stalwarts deprived some eligible voters from voting candidates of their choice. The action partly accounted for the voter-apathy or the abjectly poor turnout of voters compared to the Presidential and National Assembly Elections. Would God approve the gruesome murder of political rivals or perceived opponent to access power or public office? In my considered view, the answer is No. We should not associate God with unacceptable, unethical and morally debasing practices and processes of governance.
However, God can permit or allow a person to emerge a leader through a faulty process. That does not suggest that God supported the process or approved of the person. Several instances abound, no doubt, God by his unrelated attribute of Omniscience knows who should be where and when, but God may not be directly involved or approve all the processes that brought about the emergence of all such person. Man is a free will creature and God respects the will of people in decision taking even on who should lead them, hence God declares: Behold I set before you blessing and curse, life and death but I desire that you choose life. This implies that life is more of a function of choice. It is also a function of God and human’s symbiotic relationship.
It requires Divine and human partnership for God’s perfect will to play out. Even in the case of God’s perfect will ( like Saul’s) rejection is inevitable if man fails to obey God. That God allows evil or anormaly to hold sway does not mean he approved of it. A time will come when evil and its perpetrators will be accountable to God for their actions and inactions. And they will receive their rewards both in this world and the world to come. It was in view of this stark reality that Daniel Webster said, the greatest truth that had crossed his mind was his “accountability to God”. Everyone in all ages will certainly give account of what they did in life. Knowing this, it behoves humans to have a “conscience void of offence before God and man”.
We can not use the “will of God” to justify an exceedingly ugly political incidents in the country.The ideal will of God is peace, not evil for Nigeria. If we construe every event and human action as the will of God then let us make no effort to drive positive change over failed system. We should stop complaining of bad leadership and stop praying against the course of events that do not favour us as a nation. God’s will is a better Nigeria-a product of servant leadership under him.
By: Igbiki Benibo
Lies And The Iraqi War, 20 Years On
There is no gainsaying the fact that our beloved country, Nigeria, is currently in a high-octane dysfunction. Some might argue that it is because of the kind of President we have; but my own argument would be that President Muhammadu Buhari has never been anything different since he took the oath of office on May 29, 2015. In truth, the current dysfunction is not unconnected to the various theaters of war across the country, and we must know that President Buhari allowed this ferment.
The mendacity of 2015 and what Nigeria has become today, even as the unraveling continues is a near parallel to the lies that George Bush and Tony Blair told the world two decades ago. It was almost a year and six months after the September 11 attacks, and America was looking for an avenue to reassert itself. It knew that the intelligence was wrong, yet it was packaged and sold to its allies, including the British. Even though, then Prime Minister, Tony Blair did not see hard evidence, he joined the allied forces and took the British to Iraq.
At that time, Tony Blair was heard saying: “I only know what I believe.” Many may have wondered what he meant by that statement. For some, it was an appeal to the heart; while for others, it was a political sleight-of-hand, a simple way of saying, I have no concrete evidence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq. During the same period, we were also fed with such nonsensical statement accredited to the then Secretary of Defence of the US, Donald Rumsfeld, during a news briefing, he said: “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we do not know.”
In the period leading to the launch of the war on March 19, 2003, the Arab League voiced its opposition to the war in very strong terms. In fact, in retrospect, it was as if the leaders of the Arab League were gazing at a crystal ball when they declared that “invading Iraq would open the gates of hell.” Indeed, after 20 years, and counting, that gate has become a gaping hole that continues to consume vital resources that could have been deployed in other ventures, and most of the crises in the Middle East could be traced to the fallout of the Iraq war.
It is now an open secret that Iraq was invaded on specious intelligence which was primarily sourced from a defector referred to as Curveball, who was also an alcoholic. The events of the last two decades have been tumultuous for the world and the Middle East, but particularly for the Iraqi people, even though one of the core arguments of Bush and Blair made for war on Iraq was for the betterment of the Iraqis – freeing them from the grip of a despot. Yes, Sadam Hussein was removed, however at an awful cost: about 300,000 lives, according to one estimate. Sadly, most of the casualties are Iraqi civilians.
Since 2003, so much has happened due to the leadership vacuum created at the heart of the Middle East with the fall of Saddam Hussein. In Iraq, ethnic and tribal sentiments and mistrust have crippled every government, and as a result, the present government is unable to provide something as basic as water. But then, we have seen major problems like the rise of ISIS and the Caliphate, and the impasse in Syria after President Asad killed thousands of his people without a clear resolution and action from the United Nations; and not leaving out the resultant northward migration of Arab youths to Europe.
Even Nigeria has not been spared from the ripple effects of the bad decision of Bush and Blaire because ISIS has gained a foothold in Nigeria. For instance, a December 2022 article on The Africa Report had the following caption: “Nigeria 2023: ISIS make inroads in Nigeria ahead of elections, says the report. But, the first paragraph of the article was more telling, and it reads: “The ISIS-backed Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) had a “successful year” in Nigeria in 2022, carrying out attacks in the capital, Abuja; Kano; Kaduna; and setting up bases in and around Niger State, according to a report by a Nigerian based intelligence research consultancy, SBM Intelligence.”
As you already know, aside from natural causes, the 2022 flood inclusive, Boko Haram, ISIS and of course rogue Fulani herdsmen are the reason why Nigerian is in a food security crisis. Farmers are unable to cultivate their lands, while those who manage to cultivate their lands are unable to go back to the farms for harvest. Reports have it that in some cases, most farming communities have been sacked to the point of no return. Even though Nigeria was not a member of the United Nations Security Council in 2003, and it is not a member currently, one might ask if our voice was heard in the Committee of Nations opposing the Bush and Blaire rascality. Honestly, I am in doubt if we took a position; or, if we even had the political finesse to play our part as the largest black nation on earth, and the so-called giant of Africa.
For too long, we have stood on the sidelines of history, and international epochs due to our perpetual babyhood. We have allowed international trouble to show up at our doorstep, even when we have no hand in it, but because we lack the clarity to make the right decision, and to take timely actions. The political significance and the full ramifications of the events of the past two decades are a kettle of fish still on fire. But the world, and Nigeria in particular, seem to have learned no lessons from the unholy cocktail of so-called expert advice and political massaging. This much was made plain at the peak of the COVID-19 Pandemic; the experts sent the world into a lockdown without any real scientific proof that the approach would stem the spread of the virus.
But, it did not stop there. Major global leaders used their platforms to spread fear, especially in Africa. For instance, Melinda Gates was on CNN when she mentioned that the developing world would be hit the hardest, making particular reference to Africa. Some might have forgotten her actual words, but thank God for the news media and the internet that never forgets. She said: “It’s going to be horrible in the developing world.
“Part of the reasons you are seeing the case numbers still do not look very bad, is because they do not have access to many tests. Look at what is happening in Ecuador, they are putting bodies out on the streets, you are going to see that in countries in Africa.”Her projections were preposterous; yet when it did not materialise, African countries were accused of not having accurate data. Fortunately, the truth remains that; compared to our population of 1.2 billion people in Africa both the infection rate and the death from the covid-19 pandemic were infinitesimal.Another major case of global group thinking and disinformation is coming from the World Economic Forum, and other global institutions, especially in the issue regarding global warming and what should be done to curtain it. As it is, if most of the advanced ideas are implemented, global GDP would fall, and the negative impact will be more on developing countries like Nigeria.
As I look through the prism of time, and the lies that have been told over and over again by global leaders in the wake of the Iraqi war twenty years on, I am saddened that black Africa especially has not found its own voice. We are still fed crumbs of information in the event of a global crisis that might not be in our best interest. We need to wake up!
By: Raphael Pepple
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