Every generation is often presented with opportunities to offer definition, scope and direction to its nation. This extends to the construction of defining values, the anchoring of the nation’s progress and creating an all-inclusive space for its development.
For our forbearers, who struggled in support of Nigeria’s independence, it was the newly acquired independence, the liberation from the colonialists and the rebuilding following, the seminal opportunities presented, for a new social system and mobility for a new class, the middle class.
However, seven years later many of them found their initial hopes dashed. The idealism of independence was replaced with the realism of a civil war to keep Nigeria one. The members of the same united family who rejoiced on the 1st October 1960 now found themselves in different armies waging a brutal fratricidal war of against each other.
Many were grateful that the nightmare ended at the beginning of the 70s with the refrain ‘No Victor, No Vanquished’. This presented our nation with another opportunity, one of tearing down walls, ending the legacies of an avoidable war, whilst taking advantage of the newly discovered oil wealth. Sadly four decades later, we are still awaiting our Uhuru after many false starts.
As a nation, whilst the legacies of our forbearers are defined by dashed hopes, corruption, mindless violence, militarism and wasted opportunities, we must ask ourselves how we want our children to tell our own stories.
In moments of great challenge exists an even greater opportunity for us and for our nation. We must construct a vision for Nigeria rooted in values that can make our nation the last best hope of Earth – values that are anchored upon fairness, opportunity, the respect we have for and the responsibilities we have to one another. We must construct a belief in a Nigeria where good jobs are there for the willing, where hard work is rewarded with decent living, and where we recognize the fundamental truth that the politicians in Abuja cannot prosper with stupendous allowances while other parts of Nigeria crumbles with poverty – that a successful democratic, polity must deliver a sound economy with thriving businesses and flourishing families.
In a Nigeria still riven by ethnic suspicions and rivalries, coupled with monumental corruption, forging the kind of future described above will not be easy. It will require the opening of a front, which requires new ways of thinking and a new spirit of cooperation. It will not be easy, there might be frustrations but it is not impossible if we seize this moment to look beyond our differences and focus on the challenges that affect us all, we can meet them and it remains our best strategic choice within the prevailing international political economy.
We can choose to remain on the same path to failure we have travelled since independence, or we can come together like generations of other nations before us and forge a future where we create a value based vision, upon simple promise, which can be at the heart of the Nigerian idea, a Nigerian dream that was articulated by President Goodluck Jonathan in his declaration for presidency. That Nigeria can be a place where everyone has a chance to make it if he or she can work very hard and play by the rules.
We believe that it is this chance that gave many of us from the east, north, south and the west, the opportunities to attend some of the best schools and obtain the best education our country had to offer. It is that promise that has led us to set up this front we call ‘The Nigeria Front’ to rise above the stench of failure and to confront our unique challenge as a nation. To proffer and offer solutions to begin to create a nation that believes that no matter how great the challenge or how difficult the circumstance might be, change is always possible if we are willing to be consistent in our fight for it, work for it and above all believe in it.
It is towards this end that we open with a new front on the issue of the jumbo pay and allowances of the Nigerian Legislature.
A new mandate presents opportunities to revisit the old ways of doing things, renewal and to make amends. We therefore urge the President to commence his new administration by addressing the inequity and wantonness in the legislature’s remuneration package and send the right message across the nation.
We refer to a previous comparative analysis of the issue, revealing the sheer scale of the Nigerian legislators’ earnings with other countries showing that how it is unsustainable and unrealistic. Previous facts indicate that whilst a lawmaker in India earns $23,988 (N3.7m) per annum a Nigerian senator earns about $1.2m (N182m) per annum and a member of the House of Representatives earns N127m per annum. ??
This on many levels is unsustainable because Nigeria has a meagre per capita income of $2,249 per annum when compared against the United States’ $46,350 and yet Nigeria’s federal lawmakers are the highest paid in the world, higher that of the United States who earn $174,000 per annum.
Mr. President, however, the current state of affairs shows that the legislature has increased the scale of profligacy. The year 2009 shows the Senator earned N240m in salaries and allowances while the House of Representatives’ counterpart earned N203.8m. ?
In the meantime the national minimum wage is N18,000 (monthly) with many states experiencing difficulties in its implementation. The minimum wage represents just 0.13 per cent of a senator‘s salary. A minimum wage earner will need to work for at least 777 years to earn a senator‘s N182m annual pay. ?
Further breakdown indicates that a senator earns N498, 630. 137 a day, N20,776.28 per hour and N346.270 per minute. In other words, a senator’s daily pay is twice the annual pay of the minimum wage. A senator’s hourly pay is also more than the monthly pay of the minimum. ??Similarly, minimum wage is just 0.18 per cent of a member of the House of Representatives’ pay. A minimum wage earner will need to work for at least 542 years to earn the N127m annual salary of a member of the House of Representatives.
Based upon these facts, we urge Mr. President, The Senate President and The Speaker of the House of Representatives as a matter of urgency to use their respective renewed mandates and good offices to prevail upon the various organs of state to revisit this issue.
To you, members of the Nigerian electorate, we say, identify your senator or member of the House of Representative, present the facts contained here and pressure them to address this issue. Let us make corruption History!
Dr. Olu Ojedokun writes on behalf of The Nigerian Front.