"Senators fight Senate President over his N250 million Quarterly Allowance ...Deputy gets N150 million, Principal Officers, N78 million, Rank and File, N45 million"
"Bankole: Melaye's group tenders contract documents"; Bankole embezzled N11bn - Reps
These are some of the headlines in Nigerian news papers recently. Whenever we see such headlines, before we know there are denials by the accused and the citizenry never knows what the real situation usually is. However, these monies talked about are not personal. The monies are not proceeds of personal businesses. They are state funds. Funds that belong to all Nigerians that are supposed to be used transparently by our representatives in the houses of legislation.
This is why I have always wondered how many of our legislators studied civics. When I was growing up in the early and late sixties, civics was a key part of the education curriculum in Nigeria. I am not sure in what form it has been taught in the last 20 years. But I think our legislators need a few lessons in civics.
I watched in dismay on television the display by our so called representatives on the issue of corruption in the house. I don't care who is right for now. All I care is that both accusers and accused have displayed very dishonourable traits. Where is the respect for our country? Where is the honour in their names?
What annoys me is that these so called legislators have nothing to show in their constituencies despite the fact that they represent various constituencies. There appear to be so many things on paper but in reality people are suffering. If I may ask all parties how many people are in each of their constituencies? How many children, how many elderly, how many are not going to school? How many have no food to eat? I bet they can not answer. Yet they are arguing about money.
We know it is all about them! them! and them! The whole issue is about money and how much each of them will grab. It is a big shame. They have all been in that house for three years. When it is good for people they keep quiet. Oh Nigeria! What is happening?
Despite significant steps towards democratisation in the last decade, problems of consolidation of the gains of democracy are evident every where because of what President Jonathan termed greed and self centredness. Too often, steps towards the type of democracy we want to practice have been disappointing. We see that our democracy only brings benefits to a few in terms of more equality or better governance and is leaving the majority people disenchanted. But our representatives are not seeing and listening.
The challenges of building virile and strong democracy in a weak state like ours have become more pronounced in recent times with our level of insincerity and lack of consideration for the future.
In Nigeria, it is evident that the country is only able to play little or no role in the delivery of services and currently even unable to guarantee human security as well as transparent ways of doing business. This may be the reason why it is not valued by its citizens.
Formal institutions at national level have become little more than a piggybank for individual power holders, or at best for the particular communities from which they spring. That is what is happening in the legislative houses at the moment.
As a result, I do not see how the political elites can increase their commitment to a sustainable democracy. These legislators should know that there will continue to be pressure from individuals and civil society to work at improving the functioning of democracy - to adapt institutions and electoral processes so as to give more voice to doing the right thing at the right time and at the right place, to strengthen the rule of law, improve transparency and limit the role of money in politics.
Information available in public domain indicates that there is a break down of trust among the legislators. During their term of office, political leaders often become unpopular because of their own behaviour. The actions of these politicians will inadvertently continue to lead to limited or no trust in our political institutions. Leaders find it easier to blame the world or their political opponents for being distrusted than to accept that distrust is their own fault.
A leader that abuses his/her authority has a big negative impact on trust. Corruption at any level or form can lead to a waste of scarce resources and the conspicuous enrichment of a narrow political elite. Those who are out of favour may resort to name calling. Leaders however forget that promoting the rule of law and bureaucratic fairness is the single biggest step that they could take to increase trust. I hope our representatives will see and hear.
In a country where the minimum wage remains at N5, 500 a month, it is not only absurd but will be considered a sin against God whom most of these representatives profess to worship when we hear the amount of monies being embezzled or inappropriately spent.
Section 70 of the 1999 Constitution stipulates that, "A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall receive such salary and allowances as the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission may determine." It is evident that lawmakers have a lot of allowances which do not yield commensurate developments and impacts on their constituents. Despite this huge amounts available to them through the RMAFC and those reported to be allocated to themselves by themselves, they are not satisfied and still indulge themselves in embezzlement of funds meant for other purposes. That is the kind of representatives we have. How can we then be proud of them?
I do understand that many of them were chosen by political godfathers so their allegiance is not to the citizens they claim to represent. This is why votes must count in the next election. I am optimistic that Jonathan will do something that will put his name in marble in the history of Nigeria.
Still on representation, my ten year old son watched the match between Nigeria and Greece. His best friend in school is Greek and he had proudly told his friend that Nigeria will beat Greece. He called me to confirm and with my strong faith in Nigeria I did confirm that we will beat Greece. As the match finished he called me to tell me Nigeria has lost and his friend is so happy that Greece won. He then posed a question to me that made me shiver. Daddy, how can we trust Nigeria again?
How can we trust Nigeria? This is the question our young ones are asking us. Our representatives have the opportunity to do things the right way through adequate preparation and planning as well as transparently now. If we don't we shall bring up children who will be the leaders of tomorrow and that will have no trust in their country and that will be dangerous. So God help us.