Before We Crucify Our Lawmakers , By Ali M Ali

Restive citizens   are up in arms. They want to ‘shoot’   lawmakers.  Reason? Wardrobe allowance. Our legislators were going to gulp the staggering sum of N8.64 billion to look different from the rest of the citizens. Another account said the sum is actually N9 billion. ‘Digitalized’ countrymen and woman in cyber space are running form pillar to post posting protest notes.

All these have been rested I hope by the submission yesterday by the Senate President himself, Bukola Saraki. When he received in audience the chairman of the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), that actually the allowance is just slightly above half a million naira. That, in actual fact, this colossal amount being quoted covers all allowances. Some Nigerians are still incredulous.

My friend in actual and virtual, Bramah Yahaya has already evolved a hash tag #occupynass. He, like most patriots, is miffed that a Senator of the Republic is taking to his tailor the princely sum N21.5 million to sew cloth. An honorable member is taking N17.5 million to nourish a wardrobe they truly   don’t need.  There are 360 representatives and 109 Senators. Do the Arithmetic. I see billions enough to revive several comatose textile firms.

Yahaya is not alone. Another cyber friend Bilkisu, an often-satirical voice, was at her cynical best in commenting on the on going hoopla. She is of the considered opinion our tangentially vain legislators should be sewn a uniform and not given clothing allowance. “If the legislators truly want to serve Nigeria, they should wear a uniform. That is what most of the patriotic people serving Nigeria wear” she wrote on her wall.

Wardrobe is not the only allowance lawmakers collect. If you add furniture, housing, car and others, our lawmakers have become a hemorrhage to the national treasury, which must be plugged-at, all cost. You can now see why the rush to run for election and run to the National Assembly. Our legislators are easily the most pampered in the world. And they know it. Some of them think the rest of society doesn’t know that they are pampered for doing nothing other than sit on their fannies and jack up budgets annually.

Consider, if you may, this. The Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) approved 200 percent housing allowance of legislator’s annual salaries, 300 percent as furniture and 400 percent as car. As soon as the proclamation of the National Assembly, a representative collects N3, 970,425 as housing allowance. A senator gets N4, 052,800.It gets sweeter. Every Senator gets N650, 474,400 while a Representative gets N5, 955,637.50 furniture allowances respectively. Still, Senators are paid another sum of N8, 105,600, vehicle allowance while an honorable member of the House receives the sum of N7, 940,850.50,

These allowances are statutory and duly approved. Restive Nigeria shouldn’t   bad belle our distinguished Senators and honorable Members. We should try to empathize. Alone, a wardrobe allowance of over N20 million may seem much for a single individual. Tarry a while. No politician, elected or appointed, eats his allowance alone. I know how this sounds. The reality of our politics is such that supporters’ loyalty is sustained only through the provision of “stomach infrastructure”.

Our legislators are routinely crucified. Their foibles and follies wickedly magnified and their conduct, minutely scrutinized. Some of the lawmakers, over time, did not help dispel public disgust by their involvement in gargantuan sleaze. They betrayed the self fulfilling prophesy of abetting corruption in the hallowed chambers. Such isolated but widely reported instances contributed to the general perception that the National Assembly is a cesspit of graft.  Compared to the brigandage and even banditry of the executive arm of government, our lawmakers, warts and all, deserve   some of the perks sanctioned by law.

Unlike the executive, our lawmakers don’t have a budget. They lack any ‘security vote’ to dispense patronage. The ordinary voter given to “stomach infrastructure’’ is unconcerned   about the constitutional role of a legislator and an executive operative. As far as they are concerned   both politicians assumed office by the power of their collective votes.

In days of yore, it used to be “amala politics. In the days of the late Lamidi Adedibu, the strong man of Ibadan politics, balls of amala ruled.   He popularized the idea that party and politicians’ supporters are like   dogs who must be served a piece of bone, from time to time, in order for them not to stray. Except, by the late politician’s logic, amala was the tool to permanently keep supporters at the bottom of the political ladder on leash.

Kid yourself not. Politicians   are all the same-harlotry and unprincipled. At the level of leadership or followership, only a countable few will stick to ideology and resist the urge to chew a piece at the sight of amala stewed in their favourite soup.  They are honest liars.

We often look in the direction of USA to draw parallels when operators of our democracy serve themselves    more than they serve the people without shame. Unlike our pampered legislature, some congressmen in the America are known to sleep in their offices to save costs. Washington DC is a pretty expensive city even for lawmakers earning American pay, to dwell in hotels or expensive apartments. To save costs on rent, some congressmen and even women are known to spend nights in their office to live within their income .Not so here.

The bills do not judge a legislature in our shores he sponsored but by the size of amala he has distributed and other inanities like the type of customized SUV he drives.

So sad.

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