By Ayobami Akanji
I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion – Alexander the Great
In 1994, a certain Dickson Akoh founded a group called the “Nigerian Leadership and Marshall Corps” (NLMC). As the years passed, he mooted the idea of a name change and, finally, in 1998, he settled for Nigerian Peace Corps, which he registered as a non-governmental organization.
The non-governmental organization is modeled after a similarly named volunteer programme in the United States of America – the National Peace Corps Association with a volunteer strength of 220,000 and yearly budget of $410 million.
However, a non- governmental organization, which prides herself as having solution to the menace of employment in the country, is fighting to be taken over by a government she registered with to be non-governmental organization.
The purveyors of this Corps sometimes or delude themselves on the insalubrity of this exercise, neglecting the reality of duplicity of roles that signing the bill into law will birth. Reading the Peace Corps Bill, one will realise that it has, in the first place, given the game away. It shows how the Peace Corps will duplicate the functions of seven existing organizations, the police and Civil Defence Corps inclusive.
This is enough reason to withhold presidential assent, as no reasonable President would enjoy superintending over warring security agencies. What is even more comical is the serious attention it is receiving from members of the National Assembly, who are aware of the current economic realities in the country but would rather play politics with the bill.
Suddenly, they have realised the dangers of unemployment. They have made existential researches into unemployment and instead of creating bills that will aid state governors to exploit their natural resources, they brilliantly proffer Peace Corps as the solution. They say it will reduce unemployment!
These same legislators refused to confirm nominees into vacant positions in the CBN because the President preferred to keep the face of a man they do not want to see. In an era where scarce resources are being committed to fill infrastructural deficits, where paying salaries in some states is as hard as passing a camel through the eye of the needle, one wonders if these positionss are indeed patriotic or individualistic.
In any case, an online media alleged that some senators were given 500 slots in a yet to be confirmed organization.
Reading the interview the promoter of the Corps, Mr. Akoh, granted a media house, one realises the financial nightmare the organisation would create for government. He said none of the staff is paid less than N40,000 a month. With a staff strength of more than 113,000, the monthly wage bill would be about N4.5bn, or N50bn annually. This is roughly equivalent to a third of Bauchi State’s N168bn 2018 budget and a quarter of Katsina’s N211bn budget. It’s unexplainable how people in the hallowed chambers will allow this bill to be passed without scrutinizing the attendant problems.
While unemployment is an issue, you don’t solve a problem by creating another. You don’t jump up forgetting that the ground isn’t a nice place to land carelessly. It takes a lot to build a nation, it takes nothing to destroy it.
The Federal Government is planning to raise the minimum wage in September. Arm-twisting the President into signing this bill will deny Nigerians the delivery of dividends of democracy. A responsible parliament should help in building the nation, not fighting for things that will jeopardize her financial stability.
- Ayobami Akanji is a strategist and lives in Abuja