Tony Ishiekwene

Fairly recently the president of the Federal republic of Nigeria, Umaru Musa Yar'Adua drafted a memo/letter to the chairman of the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Hamman A. Tukur on the need to review downwards the bloated remuneration of political office holders in line with the global economic meltdown otherwise referred to as credit crunch. Nigeria was suffering already from the economic downturn as a result of the huge fall in oil prices in the world market- a country of non-thinkers and lousy politicians who have all along believed that so long as there is oil the money will flow and there is no need to do anything to diversify the revenue base from a mono-culture economy to one where we can produce and earn revenue from multi-sources. We must praise the president for this action as so much of Nigerian budget is spent on servicing the bloated bureaucracy leaving very little for infrastructural and capital expenditure for development. 

To be sure, Nigerian political office holders behave as if Nigeria is the richest country in the world. They want to be paid outrageous allowances in addition to their already bloated salaries in an economy so poor than the idle politicians will admit. Otherwise why should legislators be asking to be paid Housing Allowance, then Furniture allowance, Domestic allowance, Recess allowance- and listen to this ridiculous one- Wardrobe Allowance? They see the huge oil money flowing in from the Niger Delta and they assume only them have the right to the billions of Dollars accruing to the federation. They forget that that money was meant to be shared by 140 Million Nigerians and if that money was fairly shared, by the sheer size of the Nigerian population, the average Nigerian cannot earn up to $1000.00 a year which translates to about N150,000 a year or N12,500.00 a month, at the current exchange rate. The lousy politicians in Abuja, the 36 state capitals and local government secretariat ought to know that they should never earn more than N12, 500.00 a month whether in Salaries or allowances or total emolument. 

Our politicians must get to know that Nigeria is not a rich country by any stretch of imagination! The $20Bllion or just about that earned largely from oil is what will be used to tar all the stretch of road covering about 

It is baffling how the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission works out why it dishes out so much riches to the political office holders at the expense of long suffering 130 million hungry and penny-less Nigerians. 

Alhaji Tukur and his ilk at RMAFC wants to compare Nigeria with US and UK when it comes to allocating payment to politicians in power justifying this with total GDP, without using this to determine the minimum wage of ordinary Nigerian workers. It is ridiculous to compare a poor country like Nigeria to US when it comes to politicians pay. What RMAFC should be using is GDP per capita which is total GDP (total national earnings) divided by the population of Nigeria. With GDP per capita you will discover that despite huge oil earnings, Nigeria is a poor country, poorer than Ghana, Togo, Cameroon, Benin and many lowly African and Caribbean countries. 

Its shame the calibre of leadership we have in Nigeria. They are allotted so much money in emoluments besides the freedom to steal in quantum that the politicians engage in. Over 60% of the annual budget is allotted to public officers' salaries and emolument. And then these political officers, including legislators at both the federal and state levels corner all construction and supply contracts for the little capital expenditure votes using phoney companies and fronts with which they collect contract money for job they may never do or perform very poorly. And then you wonder why elections are a do-or-die affair. Politicians in Nigeria just earn too much for doing little or nothing. 

Look at the poor quality of debates in both the upper and lower chambers of the national Assembly, which most times are even empty as they hardly come to work, and when they do, some spend the time sleeping on duty! Just imagine the "Bow and Go" slogan of our senate president when the senators ought to be fully drilling ministerial nominees as presented by the president, because they are too lazy or bereft of ideas on what questions to ask the nominees. Now compare that poor conduct with the US Senate as they drilled nominees from new US president Barack Obama. You only need to see the drilling of Senator Hilary Clinton to see what it takes to be a senator or even a minister in US. She was nominated as Foreign Secretary designate and the senate of which she had been a two-term senator drilled her to the pops like they never knew her before. If it was the Nigerian Senate, it would have been: Ah madam, or your Excellency (remember Hilary was a former first lady, when Clinton was president) welcome ÔÇŽooo. You don't need to worry you are one of us. We know you are capableÔÇŽÔÇŽ Carry go! Just "bow and go." And then you wonder why we suffer from all ramifications of poor leadership when square pegs are always put in round holes. 

It is high time our politicians began to understand that the country is not rich. Uninformed people always argue that Nigeria has Oil and other mineral resources (largely untapped) and therefore Nigeria should be a rich country! Yes, we do have oil and we produce and export a sizeable quantity, netting in about $35 Billion from Oil export annually, probably less now with the drop in oil prices because of the global economic meltdown. But this accounts for about 90% of total annual foreign exchange earnings and about 70% of Nigeria's annual Revenue. So take away Oil and Nigeria will be dead!

Oil has made Nigerians lazy, particularly the leadership, and has produced a largely indolent, uninventive and unproductive elite willing to milk the country's little earnings at Abuja, Lagos and mostly the State Capitals. Ministers, Governors, MPs and even head of Corporations and Parastatals all mismanage and steal the millions under their trust because they believe Nigeria is very rich. They see these millions of Dollars or Billions of Naira and they start stealing without thinking about the 130 Million Nigerians and the massive land space of about 950,000 Sq Km, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Sahara Desert. I don't think many of these thieving elites and politicians realise that even in Africa, never mind Europe and America, Nigeria has some of the worst economic indices, with a huge population and land mass to cater for. Nigeria has the highest population of people who live on less than $2 (Two Dollars) a day- a whooping 90%, closely followed by Mali with about 88% of its population. South Africa has 35.8% of its population living on $2 a day, while Egypt has the best record at 18%.

Of those living on $1 (One Dollar) a day, Nigeria is second on the list with 70% of its population living on the equivalent of $1 a day, only marginally better than Mali who has 73% of its population living on less than $1 a day. With a GNP per Capital (Gross income earned per year per person living in Nigeria) of less than $300, Nigeria can only be regarded as a miserable poor country, far worst than Jamaica with a comparative index of $2,700 per person a year, Namibia at $2,000, Botswana at %3,300 , Angola at $633, Zimbabwe at $542, Cameroon at $540. Even next-door Benin Republic that we look down upon is on an average individual basis richer than Nigeria, with a GNP per Capital of $357.

People only look at the total earnings for the whole country. With a GNP of about $37 Billion a year Nigeria is probably rich, occupying the 54th position in the world league of richest nations. But as the president pointed out, and rightly too, the country is massive both in population and land mass for the money it currently earns that if evenly spread across the country is pitiably poor! A country like Luxembourg may not be earning as much as Nigeria with an annual GNP of $18 Billion- less than half of Nigeria's annual earnings- but with a population of only 450,000 persons and a total land area of only 2,500 Sq km, it has the highest GNP per capita in the world with a massive $39,000 (Average Thirty Nine thousand Dollars per person a year.)

Nigerian politicians must wake up and start thinking ahead, doing research on global economic movement and the need to diversify the economy. Otherwise sooner than later the treasury will dry up and there will be no money to allot to their selves as if they alone own Nigeria and the hapless 135 million other Nigerians can die of hunger and neglect.