Saturday 7 August 2010

Nigeria: Our exorbitant government

The brood of corruption
It can be so easy to be blind-sided with the claims and counter-claims of Nigerian politicians and lose sight of the serious piece of information that underlays the mudslinging.
The former President Olusegun Obasanjo had in a recent interview accused the National Assembly of corruption and offered examples and figures to justify his claim.
However, members of the minority parties did not take this lying down, they accused the ex-president of grandstanding, spreading falsehoods without substantiation and rounded that up with saying he was their grandfather in corruption [1].
Slush funds to each for favours
The conflated interviews and statements of the President Obasanjo and various minority members of the National Assembly give an interesting insight into the workings of our legislature and probably our democracy too.
The president opined that the legislators allotted bogus allowances to themselves and inflated budgets with the view to profiting from the allocations because they chose their preferred contractors and consultants in the execution of the projects.
The legislators accepted that accusation then confirmed that President Obasanjo in the quest for a third term in government bribed legislators with NGN 50 million (c $330,000) each, then challenged the press to seek audited sources of income of the ex-president through his tenure.
Cost of corrupt enterprise
They were all agreed that politicians are corrupt but tried to subscribe to pedantry by asking the ex-president to identify specific legislators who are corrupt, but that is beside the point.
The core issue is that the Senate costs 3% of the national budget, no mention is made of the additional cost of the Representatives, but even if that cost an additional 2%, it beggars belief that such a non-productive sector of country can drain 5% of the budget.
One senator offered that the recurrent expenditure in our democracy always exceeds the capital expenditure, the latter being what really benefits the people.
Each legislator according to the ex-president now costs more than NGN 250 million (c. $1,7 million), I would suppose that means annually.
Telling it as it is
He laments the lack of transparency which cannot be asserted if the National Assembly would not pass the Freedom of Information Bill that has languished in the legislative doldrums for years.
At least, we cannot say that the ex-president does not know what he is talking about when it comes to the cost of the legislative arm of government and he believes they are costing too much for the Federal Government to maintain.
Whilst he compared the cost of the legislature in 1999/2000 to today the article in the Vanguard failed to provide that comparison correctly because the current cost of NGN 250 million per head is the same as the $1.7 million quoted in the article at today’s exchange rate.
Exorbitant is unacceptable
But the most important piece of information in these exchanges is really in the statement made by the Minority Whip, Senator Olorunimbe Mamora and he said, “My sincere view is that the cost of running government is exorbitant in Nigeria.
Taking the word exorbitant, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary [2] defines this as not coming within the scope of the law or exceeding the customary or appropriate limits in intensity, quality, amount, or size.
The WordWedOnline [3] volunteers: Greatly exceeding bounds of reason or moderation and [4] suggests: Exceeding all bounds, as of custom or fairness with excessive, aberrant, flagrant and extreme as synonyms.
This corroborates views [5] I have expressed variously about the outrageously lucrative perks of Nigerian political office, irrevocably damaging the democratic landscape with people going to unmentionable extents [6] to grab office and remain indefinitely incumbent.
Change has to come
It is means on the basis of cost alone, our democracy is unsustainable but one does wonder how change can be made to bring the costs down to reasonable, fair, just and equitable.
In the end, we can only thank the ex-president and the legislators for volunteering information we have never been able to obtain by any other means, we wish they continually taunt each other with abuse, accusation, blame and chicanery, the results might just be their undoing and the hopefully the making of our democracy.
Long live Nigeria and death to the leeches that have bled her to a chronic anaemic state.

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