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It’s Nigerian lawmakers vs the masses

On March 28, a new Nigeria was birthed when the majority queued to elect President Muhammadu Buhari against the devilish wish of the Peoples Democratic Party’s chieftains who had avowed to rule Nigeria for 60 years, either by hook or crook. Indeed, Nigerians sacrificed tremendously, from voluntary donations towards electioneering to voting and keeping vigil to secure our mandate.

In the same manner after the election, the public has not stopped demanding to know what our lawmakers earn in salaries and allowances but they keep trying to play a smart one on our collective intelligence. This is why we need not relent in our efforts to take those in our legislature heads-on.

This brings me to the Senate’s refusal to openly debate the report of its Ad-hoc Committee, set up to review its jumbo pay, and the 15 days plenary cum 12 weeks recess, which costs Nigerians about N13 billion in emoluments for the lawmakers. I think this should prompt us to ask if we are not being short-changed in this social contract or is democracy meant to protect a few at the expense of starving masses?

Sadly, the senate president and majority of the lawmakers who are supposed change agents ought to be very much interested in working round the clock to bring the change Nigerians are yearning for to reality. It’s also surprising that those of them who claimed to be masses-oriented lawmakers have lost their voices while counting their bounty without passing a single bill in so many days after inauguration. What a betrayal!

We are talking about lawmakers collectively cornering N13 billion for a 15-day plenary, which was not devoid of fisticuffs and allegations of forgery. By implication, this same amount of money could establish over 60,000 unemployed Nigerian youths, as small scale businessmen with N200,000 each. After all, we have millions of businesses that are worth less than that. Even a lay man could understand that N13 billion would go round all Nigerians if we want to ignore its deeper economic implications.

 

Let’s face it, as electorates, we employed our lawmakers as our representatives through our votes. Among us are civil servants who are owed their meagre salaries, frail and old pensioners begging for payment of their entitlements, about 50 million frustrated unemployed youth, over one million IDPs and 10.5 million out-of-school children facing a bleak future. These should make us query why our supposed servants and representatives earn this much at our expense, since the majority of us are living barely above or below the poverty line. Does it make sense that an employee earns more than his/her employer?

Among the armies of unemployed youths, there are thousands who are able and willing to serve as lawmakers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for salaries less than N150,000 monthly. Youths who take the risk to serve their fatherland in remote villages across the sea and desert within the shore of Nigeria where politicians will never visit except during electioneering, have proven this over the years. Some highly patriotic and eminent Nigerians wouldn’t even mind doing it free for the love of their country. So, why should we be paying this much to our supposed servants?

One argument in favour of the bicameral system which we practice is that it ensures fair representation but this argument cannot stand in face of the realities on ground with regard to Nigeria. Can we be truthful to assess the positive effect of the laws made by our lawmakers since our return to democracy to see if they truly represent us? Of course, the truth is obvious.

At this juncture, our collective agitations should be that their salaries and allowances be reviewed to reflect our present economic realities. As having a say in what they earn is not out of place because we are no inferior partners in the social contract that makes them our representatives. Let’s say no to jumbo allowance for lawmakers; let’s demand their obfuscated jumbo pay be made open for public scrutiny or we occupy National Assembly if they are adamant.

If we could overcome the PDP after 16 years of its misrule, pummelling our lawmakers to take a pay cut should not be impossible. Telling them to quit if they don’t like the pay like Kenyans did to their lawmakers is very simple and I am sure we cannot be seen as Orubebe.

 

Oluwasanjo writes from Abuja and can be reached on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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