By Joesf Omorotionmwan
THERE are vital indicators that every occupation in this country ends up at the National Assembly. In our English language class, years ago, a student proclaimed: “When he slapped me, I saw a thousand stars”.
Our teacher quickly told us that that was a classical example of a hyperbole. In the farm place, by the time a thief confesses that he has stolen only one row of your yams, you are better advised to rush to the farm to check your stock. Chances are that the entire barn is gone. These are currently playing out at the National Assembly.
In the field of journalism, it is also permitted that you do the proverbial stone throwing at a house so as to locate the exact position of the landlord. Here, a group of journalists who smell a rat could go to the Commissioner for Coconut Resources and ask: “Mr. Commissioner, sir, we hear that N50 million is missing from the coconut account”.
The astonished Commissioner would at this point get up from his seat; go and close the door to his office, which he had deliberately left open and now speak to the journalists in the lowest possible tone: “Yes, some money is missing but not up to N50 million”. Trust the journalists to prod further: “How much is involved….? Can you tell us how it all happened?” This could be the type of ball that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi played to the National Assembly to which they are responding very well.
The Governor of a country’s Central Bank is perhaps the most qualified person to speak on the economic health of the country. At the eighth convocation of Igbinedion University, Okada, Edo State, Sanusi expressed the fear that a situation in which the National Assembly alone is gulping 25 percent of the recurrent expenditure is inimical to the growth of the nation.
The CBN Governor rightly advised that if our economy must grow, there is no alternative to focusing on policies that would bring development through increased capital expenditure.
In the National Assembly’s rage, one may not expect them to be perfectly coordinated. But that is still no excuse for feeding us with half truths and deliberate misinformation. By Monday morning, November 29, a fuming Deputy Leader of the Senate, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, rushed to the press to pour out his vituperations and to inform us that the National Assembly consumes only 3.5 percent of the total budget whereas Sanusi was speaking of 25 percent of the recurrent budget.
Two days later, the National Assembly beefed up its claim on the budget to only “17 percent of the total overhead cost of the Federal Government” (VANGUARD, Thursday, December 2, 2010, pp 1, 5).
Wife snatchers would readily admit that they practise their art on men that they can beat up. That probably explains why the National Assembly is picking on the CBN Governor who merely restated the obvious – that the National Assembly is a major drain pipe on the nation’s economy. Has OBJ not said so on several occasions?
Which columnist in this country that is worth his salt has not been shouting on this? Are they not aware that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) is in court, seeking to have them to slash down their bogus salaries and unmerited allowances? Are they listening to the voices of reason from across the country, that they should be paid sitting allowances instead of the enormous resources now being wasted on them?
Hear Nasir Kaka, Director, National Orientation Agency (NOA) in Lagos: “Political office is now a gold mine…. Politicians have no conscience…. They just collect constituency allowance and do nothing for the people they represent” (The Sunday Observer, November 7, 2010, pp 1-2)
Talking of percentages is like speaking in tongues. Percentages do not reveal actual figures and they do not paint accurate pictures. Whatever the percentage mix accepted, one way of appreciating the bottomless pit called the National Assembly is that its consumption, for instance, reduces our allocation to the restive Niger Delta region to fritters. At times in the National Assembly, we could be looking at the size of the annual budgets of about four states combined being poured into one waste pipe occupied by men who do virtually nothing.
The National Assembly is perhaps oblivious of the enormous harm it is doing to itself by the spate of invitations to its perceived offenders. Just yesterday, it was the INEC boss, Prof. Jega. Today, it is Olusegun Aganga and Sanusi. If these men must remain mute in the process of doing their legitimate duties, where is their right to free speech?
You would have been better off going to pick your officials from the ranks of the deaf and dumb. Very soon, these invitations would portray the Assembly as a bunch of loafers who have nothing to do than to disturb serious minded people from doing their duties.
We may not be unlucky but our time to be lucky has certainly not come. We are begging “our masters” at the National Assembly to reduce the pay, which they set for themselves. Our Finance Minister has gone to inform them that their pay is being slashed in the estimates. The estimates will soon be submitted to them; that means that both the yam and the knife will soon be in their firm grip.
They will reinstate whatever figure is favourable to them. We are facing an election year in which the only person that could have done something to enforce a reduced pay for the legislators is the President, a major contestant. We are therefore handicapped, so to say. But in all of this, officials must not be hindered from telling the truth, even where nothing is done as a result of that truth. So, let Sanusi be!