President Umaru Yar'Adua has begun to sound the right notes amidst the enveloping conundrum of the polity – some lone sane voice in the wilderness?
First was his directive for salaries of top Federal government functionaries – right from the President himself, his Advisers and Assistants, down to Ministers and their Assistants, Perm. Secs, etc. – to be cut by as much as 20%! In the end, the government hopes to save some N2.5b annually thereby.
Second, just when his PDP party men began to lose their heads with the malevolent and completely incongruous (to the emptiness at mid-term) call for 2nd Term for a – health, energy, and national imperatives - challenged president, he stood up, at no less appropriate an occasion than his party's National Convention, to denounce the call and put the hungry political jobbers and sycophants where they belong – in the cooler – " Sorry, no 2nd term consideration, for me or anyone until last quarter of 1st term. Go get a life"!
On the salary cut, for the life of me, nothing could be more meaningless and even counterproductive.
Yes it may signify the president's concern about the runaway economic downturn, but is some N2b per year savings what we're talking about? In a system where this level of officials don't depend on their salaries – many don't even know or care whether it's paid or not – and the main livelihood comes from 10% or self-awarded contracts? All the president is doing by this pay cut is making them go even more mercilessly at the throat of the economy. What a pity.
Listen, Mr President, this country is running out of life. It is fiscally mal-structured and unhealthy. It is carrying a weight it cannot support. Were it to be a corporate body, the undertakers must have donned their garment by now. How on earth can two-thirds of a country's budget go into just paying salaries and allowances to thousands of functionaries without functions, leaving little or nothing to meaningful or sustainable development programmes? What needs to be pruned, sir, is not salaries, it is the over-bloated workforce.
First, there is need for this country to face up to the fact that this encumbering presidential system is the height of malady. If we were not ‘black peoples' (black in the head and black in the mind), consumed and driven only by individual self interest, we would have realised this long ago and gone back to the parliamentary system of governance or something truly "home-grown", as we like to say. We can't support a system whereby 75% of the economy is to pay huge salaries and allowances to a mere 2% of the population. The President has hundreds of so-called "Assistants", the Vice-President has scores of his own, right all the way to governors in all the 36 States, National and State Assemblies, etc. It is sickening.
As for the 2nd Term-in-the-cooler masterstroke, thanks, Mr President, let's get down to work!