Our Democracy Too Expensive


The decision by the National Assembly to slash their jumbo pay could not have come at a better time. The move is a first step in the right direction and an indication that if we actually want a better country, we must start with ourselves.

Although the so-called slash does not affect the jumbo salaries and allowances of lawmakers, cutting the overheads of the legislature is commendable.

Yet, more needs to be done to reduce the cost of governance. We have always said that the cost of our democracy is running down the country. Government at all levels must begin to think of ways of cutting down on overheads.

The Federal Government must begin to have a re-think about the number of ministries and parastatals under it. The duties of most of them overlap, which is, why most of them are not really effective. In fact, some have become outright redundant and only serve as a drain in the country’s lean resources, made lean in the first place by the cost of governance.

Every year, millions of naira is budgeted as security vote. What security? The president wastes more millions recruiting aides that do nothing. Even these aides also have aides and there goes our money. State governments are complaining that they cannot pay the minimum wage of N18,000 when so much is being wasted on bullet-proof vehicles, foreign trips and other frivolities. When would we have enough sense to re-order our priorities?

As the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, and other labour bodies prepare for another round of strike, government must sit up and address the problems of this nation if we must continue to have a country.

We don’t need experts to tell us we are spending too much on government while infrastructure suffers. Public officers, both serving and retired take home millions of naira monthly while those they serve starve.

The helplessness of the common man is appalling. People sleep under bridges and live in places not fit for animals, yet government officials cart home millions of naira. There is an urgent need to address the cost of governance. We must not wait for the North African experience before making that move.

A situation where government officials, elected or selected, never mind, drive around in bullet proof vehicles they don’t need is annoying. This is 2011. The world is moving and we are not even crawling. While other countries are demystifying governance, we continue to take governance as something sacred. Those whom we elected or rigged into power have become our nemesis. It is time to take another look at the military-made constitution that waste so much on so few.

Nobody would come to help us if we fail to address these issues now. A situation where a barely literate elected government official earns more than a professor is unacceptable. It stinks. Government must start to reduce the waste. It must begin to address things that other countries have already addressed years ago and now take for granted. We cannot afford to be left behind.

If in 2001, we still cannot get our priorities right, then we cannot thump our chests and call ourselves a country.

If our legislature can realise that the cost of our democracy is too high, then all other organs of government should follow suit. Let us cut all we can to make the country better.

The federal and state governments can borrow a leaf from the gesture of the National Assembly and begin to re-order their priorities. The state assemblies and even the local governments are not left out. Buying new vehicles for councilors and paying huge amounts as allowances to the sometimes barely literate individuals is nothing short of insulting our collective intelligence.

Something must be done about this now.

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