FEMI MAKINDE examines in this piece the necessity of making political offices less attractive in order to attract visionary and selfless leaders that will take Nigeria out of the woods
Nigeria has not been able to join the league of developed nations after almost 60 years of political independence. According to political commentators, this is obviously so due to leadership problem. Although Nigeria is blessed with some of the best brains in the world, the nation has not been led by visionary and selfless leaders except a few individuals, whose legacies of sacrifice are still around.
Many people were sceptical of the transition programme of Gen Abdusalami Abubakar which ushered the nation into the prevailing democratic rule. Due to this scepticism because of the previous transitions to no-where by Gen Ibrahim Babangida and the late Gen. Sani Abacha, some of those who ought to have contested elections in 1999 stood aloof and before they could change their minds, the ex-military officers and others, who participated in the transition programme, had entrenched themselves in the system and many of the policies of those in government were how to feather their nests rather than to serve the people and politics became the most lucrative venture in the country. Political office holders as well as public office holders dissipate so much energy on increase their emolument and other perks of office. Little wonder that state Houses of Assembly members have mounted a strong front to push through the Parliamentary Pension Bill.
The desperation for power and the outrageous pay made it impossible for an averagely rich persons with wonderful ideas and vision to join the few elite in the political class.
Those in the executives are making stupendous wealth at the expense of the nation and the jumbo pay of those in the legislature is killing the economy. For example, the President, Vice President, governors and their deputies live large and are entitled to pensions after spending a maximum of eight years in office. The 469 members of the ninth National Assembly will receive an upfront of N4.68bn as welcome package. The amount, which translates to almost N10m for each lawmaker, will be paid before they do any work. The welcome package for the lawmakers, some of who barely passed the West African School Certificate Examination with no record of business success before venturing to politics, can only be earned by some of those in the highest paying jobs in the country.
The too much money for political office holders while majority of the populace are wallowing in abject poverty has been said to be the reason for the violence, rigging and desperation to win or retain offices.
Many have said elective and appointive offices must be made less attractive in order to attract the right calibre of people that can take the country and each state out of the quagmire of underdevelopment.
The Secretary-General of the Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr Kunle Olajide, in an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH said politics had been turned into a big business and most of the political players were in it to make money.
Olajide stated, “Politics should be seen as service to the people with the sole objective of legacies just like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sardauna and Nnamdi Azikiwe. I am in absolute support that we must demonitise politics. In order words, we must ensure that political offices are no longer as juicy as they are now. There is too much money being expended on them now. In fact, we have a few brilliant people who should be contributing to the GDP in their areas of specialisation, but because they see politics as the shortest route to wealth, they have abandoned their callings and gone into politics.
‘Unless we demonitise the political system, the Revenue Allocation and Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission should considerably reduce political office holders salaries and allowances. This should affect the legislature and executive arms of government. This will allow only the genuinely interested Nigerians, who want to serve their fatherland, to go into politics. If will cut down their emolument, this will attract only the right people into politics and businessmen will leave the scene.”
The Chairman of the Social Democratic Party, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, who is a former Nigeria’s Ambassador to Germany, also told SUNDAY PUNCH that political offices should be made less attractive.
Adeniran said, “Making political offices less attractive is the right way to go. Apart from this, you don’t just bring in just anybody. We don’t need to bring in political jobbers with no value to add. We should start attracting quality people to the executive, legislature and judiciary. We need people who know the importance of legislative business in the life of a nation as our lawmakers. We don’t need people who will go in there sleeping and raking in millions every month.
“We should also attract the best legal minds into the judiciary. In order places, the best lawyers are invited to the bench. We should not just bring in those who cannot succeed as private legal practitioners to the bench. But when we have people who lack competence on the bench, that means the country is in big trouble.
“Political office holders should be made comfortable but when you have people whose values are upside down, no matter what you do for them, they will still steal. We must be reasonable in cutting down their salaries so that it will not be counterproductive.”
A former spokesperson for the House of Representatives, Eseme Eyiboh, said Nigerian needed to recruit the right people into the right places and make them work in order to develop the nation.
Oyiboh stated, “There is no conscious effort by the people to hold leaders accountable in Nigeria. Democracy has made provision for electoral cycle which is that in every election, the people have the opportunity to elect new leaders or re-elect those in power.
“Our leadership recruitment process is very faulty. People keep talking about emolument of political office holders but this emolument is an exception thing generally. We need to put the right people in right places and the institutions will work and regulate themselves.”
A former Governor of Kaduna State, Balarabe Musa, also told SUNDAY PUNCH that Nigeria would attract the right leaders if the nation could remove money as the deciding factor in elections.
“Politics is decided by money and that is the problem we have in this country. We must eliminate the deciding role which money plays in our election, reducing salaries of political office holders is immaterial.
“If will reduce the role of money in elections, we will be able to get quality people into leadership positions. The huge amount of money used to decide elections is the reason for corruption in the system and the criminal waste of resources. Although money was in politics before but it was not the deciding factor like it is now.”
A member of the board of the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement, Prof. Nnamdi Aduba, who is a professor of Law at the University of, told SUNDAY PUNCH that politicians had kept milking the nation at the expense of Nigerians. He argued that the fund, which was supposed to be used to address the security problem, challenges in the health, education and other sectors, had either been expended as salaries of politicians or embezzled.
Aduba added, “The emolument of political office holders now is criminal. It is absurd that legislators are earning almost a million naira per day in a country where over 70 per cent of the population are living in abject poverty.
“What we should do is to make legislative work part-time. That was what was done in the First Republic. It should not be a profession; we should make it part-time. It saddens me to see the legislators living in opulence in a country whose citizens are very poor.
“They are still foot-dragging on the implementation of N30,000 minimum wage for workers but political office holders are living in opulence including the executives. We really need to do something about this urgently because the nation’s economy cannot sustain their lifestyle.”