Farouk Martins Aresa
We all know that the more ministers, commissioners, local chairmen and councilmen there are to justify our agitation for more states and 250 ethnicities, the more money leaks from treasury for political and ethnic champions. When there are more government employees than those of private employers, youth’s employers are displaced. There will be more money for politicians’ aggrandizement and corruption but less for infrastructure and universities budding businesses.
Encourage selected projects after youth corps with loan remissions to spur business creation at the universities in agriculture, storage facility and nontoxic portable refineries in the Niger Delta.
Instead people agitate for more ministers, commissioners and creation of states as if these will create jobs and solve problems. Ethnic activists are so optimistic; they think the more political creations we have, the fewer disenfranchised as most people will be happy when each state is represented or each village is celebrated at state capital. The result will be peace and harmony.
Unfortunately Yoruba, Benin, Igbo, Ikwere, Hausa states, Beroni etc. are more divided than ever within. Hoped that by the time we had equal representation; more states would have satisfied over 250 ethnic problems. Reality dictates that these political appointments are unsustainable. For each appointment, there are support staffs that must actually do the work. It starts from super secretary to the lowest staff apart from logistics for the functioning of each department.
It is ironic, when the new administration in Nigeria delayed the appointment of ministers since there were permanent secretary working on the job anyway, people became suspicious. They were not concerned about the amount of money saved in terms of salary and support of these political appointees or recovery from looters. There was even one lawsuit to force the President to immediately appoint ministers. Are these agents of contractors looking for goodies?
More states have started on the right foot of El Rufai, likely cut in inflation by pledging to cut political salary in half is what the Country needs. It will send the right message to the markets; that inflated salary of the politicians who could afford to buy everything has been cut. But if this is not followed with a cut in the salary of super civil servants, there may not be enough savings to pay workers’ salaries. More important, the polity may not take politicians’ pledge seriously.
The details of the cut itself have to be worked out transparently. Fifty percent cut at the top may make sense if it is progressively followed by 40, 30, 20 and ten percent cut at the bottom. Market men and women will probably get the message as a sacrifice everyone has to make to prevent Zimbabwe inflation. The reason for that is: politicians like to deceive electorate by raising salaries they cannot pay and if paid, know full well it will not buy much in the market.
Trying to solve some of the problem by cutting the salaries of political appointees into half and reducing their number to the barest minimum is a start. Though most people believe that their visible salary is just a token of what they actually loot since their allowances, peck of office and contracts are the hidden treasures. Most of the Senators and Representatives that have taken clothing allowance in the past pretended as if they have never heard about it when blown open.
Creation of more states by ethnic champions has actually led to calls for even more that have bred new and unanticipated problems that most African countries were not prepared for. In many African countries and Nigeria in particular, we found that the richest states like Lagos and Akwa Ibom have the greatest amount of debts. In the case of Lagos as the highest internal generated revenue, their debt has skyrocketed breading even higher level of corruption.
Dissatisfaction among other states has grown because of ethnic minorities that felt they were not well represented at the apex level either as governor or as chairman of local council. Their only way of redress is to create even more states and local governments to amend imbalance among the disgruntled localities. What we thought will pacify the electorate in term of equal representation and voices either at the center or at the states have led to feelings of alienation.
Lobby for the juiciest ministerial position is so intense, oil minister top the rest. People were aware for many years that politicians pay themselves humongous salaries first before they start paying the workers, the pensioners, leaving little for schools and hospitals to be properly equipped and furnished. Many of the universities have been reduced to glorified classrooms while private schools and colleges built from contracts loot, prosper by charging exorbitant fees.
In the meeting with governors, President Buhari was quoted that the old outrageous impunity, lack of accountability, and fiscal recklessness have to stop even when he had acknowledged in the past that he had little control over the states. If he is determined to stop them, there are many ways to skin a cat. One is not to guarantee World Bank loans by Federal Government that usually become odious. Governors are just after contracts, even for Toronto discarded trains.
Oby Ezekwesili blew their cover during the reign of OBJ, that governors used local government allocations to siphon money into private accounts. Their threats to sue fell off. Prosecution with teeth by Buhari can reassure us that many see walls of courtroom, never escape jail. A few that were stupid ran out of Nigeria when they could have pretty well bought justice at home. Oh one crossed his leg docketed; and Ribadu cleared him after he became his presidential candidate.
The toughest job is going back to six regions, three in the North and three in the South. The least numbers of local councils in each region to maximize efficiency and reduce the amount of political appointees drastically. Otherwise politicians will be throwing statistics around about tiny percentage of their salaries out of entire income of Nigeria that we do not even know!