By Godwill O. Okoobo
At 91 years, I still have much love for my country Nigeria to prompt me to write this message. In my opinion, the greatest malady that has plagued the world in general and Nigeria in particular is selfishness, greed, avarice, power, hatred, bitterness, anger, unforgiveness, envy and the grand master CORRUPTION all rolled into one.
It all began in 1960 when on gaining independence from Britain, we took power and left behind RESPONSIBILITY. All along, as long as we, our family, community and tribe are comfortable, what happens to other people, family and clan does not concern us.
If one were to write and expatiate on this matter from the various perspectives I believe, as the Bible says about Jesus deeds on earth, “the books that will be written will fill every space of the earth”. I have therefore decided to treat the subject from only three angles:
National, state and local government assemblies
I have always felt that politics ought to be an avenue to serve one’s constituency in particular and one’s country in general and not for making money or acquiring wealth. That view is strengthened when I read of assembly men in Europe and America who serve their constituencies for up to 30 years, meaning that they delivered on their election promises and serve selflessly as true servants. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of our legislators at the three levels of government.
I think it was Prof. Itse Sagey who blew the whistle many years ago when he informed Nigerians and the world at large, using facts and figures, that the salaries and allowances being paid to Nigerian Senators and House of Representative members were the highest in the whole world. If I remember correctly, the figures quoted were N14 million and N12 million per months, respectively.
Put side by side with the minimum wage which then was N18,000 per month and now N30,000 per month what sort of comparison do you want to make? David Mark and Aminu Tambuwal as Senate President and Speaker, House of Representatives who ‘bequeathed” the inheritance to them are Christian and Muslim, respectively, and so are members of the National Assembly. For all I know, comments and criticisms by well-meaning Nigerians all these years have fallen on deaf ears.
Not much is known about the salaries and allowances state legislators receive. At least I have not read of any criticism from the public. But we do know that they paid themselves severance allowance after serving four or eight years; pension with other entitlements like cars, houses, security and domestic servants allowances, etc.
(In the mad rush to contest election to the National Assembly, for the money sake, state governors always beat them to the race because apart from those severance and other alalownces, state governors who have pocketed security votes for eight years are more financially empowered).
Local government assembly
Nothing again is known about the salaries and allowances of local government chairmen and councillors, but we do know that the so-called grassroots development envisaged in creating 774 local government areas in Nigeria has not been justified.
On the contrary, not only that no form of development takes place in local government areas, I heard that local government chairmen and councillors always go to their offices only when the federal allocation comes in. After distribution to godfathers and stakeholders, they disappear until when the next federal allocation comes in.
National challenges vis-a-vis reconstructing Nigeria
I am not the originator of this idea. I know many well-meaning Nigerians believe that one way of meeting the country’s challenges (currently limited to security, economy and corruption) is through restructuring the country.
Unfortunately, most contributors advocate their type of reconstructing for selfish, tribal and ethnic or group advantage. Some advocate more states and more local governments even when everybody knows that many of them are not viable.
Although I am not a constitutional expert, but I have made my observation on the events in Nigeria all these years since Independence in 1960. The country had at a stage operated four regions that were viable with groundnut, cocoa, palm oil and palm kernel reigning.
The problem emerged when the military took over government and introduced, though a federal structure with states, but a central command which they were used to.
With nearly all powers vested in the Federal Government, what should we expect from 36 states and 774 local governments. Now all states and local governments rush to Abuja for monthly allocation. How many states or local governments generate 50% of their annual budget?
Without beating about the bush I venture to advocate as follows:
- A Federal Government with known responsibilities
- Six regional governments along the lines of present geo-political zones and with the responsibilities of the old four regional governments.
III. 109 municipal local governments (headed by a Mayor) along the lines of senatorial districts. (We had Lagos City Council in those days).
- Federal, regional and municipal local government police (it is a negation of a federal structure to attempt to avoid the setting up of state and local government police).
- With the exception of municipal local government councillors, federal and regional legislators to serve part-time and receive only sitting allowances (this system will attract men and women who sincerely want to serve the country; for example, professionals who have had successful practices like the former Vice President the late Alex Ekwueme).
- All regional governors (or premiers) to be divested of responsibility for security and so no security votes for anybody.
VII. No pension or severance allowance for legislator on leaving office.
VIII. No Nigerian worker in public or private sector should earn more than the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
- Not more than three political parties should be registered.
- Because of its importance to the survival of Nigeria, I want the 2023 presidential election to be fought on the altar of reconstructing Nigeria.
Galatians Chap. 6 vs 7 (Good News Bible)
“Do not deceive yourselves; no one makes a fool of God. A person reaps exactly what he plants”. Some people call it the “Law of Karma”: So, my simple message to Nigerians in particular and to mankind in general is to know from now that anything you say or do at any level: family, community or national level, expect either a reward or punishment.
For years or centuries, mankind has fooled God. We relegated His commands to love our neighbour as ourselves. Why do you think God allowed this virus to come to this world to humble us? Pope Francis said as much in his recent prayers for the world against the virus:
“You humbled the proud and powerful. The economy is crashing, businesses are closing. We are moving in circles, looking for some cure to this disease when in fact we need to humble ourselves and ask you for guidance and wisdom. Maybe this virus is your way of purifying us … so as to bring us back to you”.
Remember, the reward or penalty for human action can last to the fourth generation.
May God bless and save my country Nigeria
My God bless and save the whole world.