“You must not let any one man be too poor, and you must not let any one man be too rich. That the same mill that grinds out the extra rich is the mill that will grind the extra poor, because in order that the extra rich can be so affluent, they must necessarily take more of what ordinarily would belong to the average man.”—Plato.
Shehu Sani’s partial revelation of the over-bloated salaries, allowances and other packages senators arrogate for themselves has once again thrown the nation into a sudden state of hysteria. Although the Kaduna senator will not be the first to be so pricked as to remove the budget of the house from the umbra of Nigerians’ consciousness, his outburst however has for the umpteenth time brought the attention of the whole world to the aberration that has become the defining factor of Nigerian democracy—avarice.
Perhaps the most far-reaching amongst those that have had the temerity to venture into the unacceptable spending of the lawmakers was Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II who as CBN governor revealed how a mere 469 persons that make up the national assembly forcefully take a fourth of whatever a country of almost 200 million earns. Even as the lawmakers shamelessly tried silencing the royal man, he stood his ground, regaling the nation with copious documents to back his claim. The rest they say, is history.
With everyone barking, keen observers who have followed this familiar trajectory could say for certain that the mass hysteria hovering across the nation would fizzle out with neither a scratch nor bite inflicted on the lecherous style of government we are so accursed by. With this firmly within the know of the criminals in the national assembly, the strategy is to wait until a new tragedy befalls the nation and fiam, the national anger is directed outwards. We’ve been here not too long ago, weren’t we?
My usage of the word criminal is perfectly in order. A criminal is an individual with a record of crime. Beyond the very fact that the national assembly has become a safe house for failed state governors whose criminal records are magnified by the stone-aged backwardness and flagrant indebtedness of their respective states, we must not lose sight of the fact that the national assembly has since been convicted in the court of public opinion for housing the most unscrupulous elements in one fell swoop. The national assembly is deserving of mention in the Guinness Book of World Records for consistently housing the most perpetrators, the most daring and the most audacious gang of thieves on earth. Or where else would you find 469 crime peddlers sit except beneath the Nigerian dome? While the executive arm are not immune to this, their office at least does not derive legitimacy from the sanctimony of oversight, checks and balances.
The argument marshalled by politicians each time issues surrounding their bogus earnings are brought to the front burner on the irritating nature of their subjects always demanding for their own ‘share of the national cake’ is an indictment on them, not us. For it is on record that the greed of politicians that causes them to swim in opulence to the detriment of the masses is solely responsible for the wretched conditions Nigerians are in, one that has stripped us of our dignity and proud standing. The lawmakers should stop insulting us with such balderdash.
The financial madness that has come to characterise Nigeria’s governing architecture is reflective of a much greater malaise afflicting the whole of the African continent, one that blurs the line between public good and private gain, between decorum and predatory politicking. As the charismatic Kwame Ture noted in Pan Africanism and the new world order, “Africans seem to have a monopoly of corrupt leadership. I mean the scum of our race dominates us. I mean these pigs seek individual luxury in the midst of mass suffering of the suffering of the masses. So there’s no question here. We have the most corrupt leadership in the world.”
The black existentialist philosopher and pragmatic revolutionary, Frantz Fanon emphasized the notion of cause and effect in his book, The wretched of the earth. With such analogy lost on Nigerians, is there any wonder that we appear to be in need of a new formula to connect our lack of good roads to the almost N10billion principal officers of the national assembly get, the lifeless bodies of our wives scattered across labour rooms to the blank cheques governors get as security votes, or still, the fact that the nation’s political space became and remains the most lucrative venture?
As I wrote in An imperative for decolonization, “the fact that Nigerians have been able to withstand these deluges of high-wired larceny by self-acclaimed servant-leaders without resorting to self-help could be traced firstly, to the people’s lack of intellectual capacity to link the ostentatious lifestyles of their elected official to their plight, suffering and castration of their wellbeing; secondly, the reduction of our citadels to paper mills, completely isolated from the realities of the society; and finally, the atrocious posture of pacifism the pulpit hypocritically maintains.”
Sani’s hypocritical outrage at the financial heist that has become commonplace in the national assembly is confirmation of the existence of a consistent pattern amongst the characters who litter the rank and file of the leadership cadre in Nigeria, a pattern that reveals in sordid terms, a convergence amongst persons on issues bordering on the looting of our common patrimony irrespective of party affiliations, religious leaning or ethnic coloration. It is thus surprising that Nigerians allow primordial sentiments to come in the way of civic engagements.
Shehu Sani gave a partial disclosure of the theft ongoing in the national assembly to titillate the public into a frenzy while holding on to the very many crimes that hollowed chamber commits against the people. Facing the nation, Sani became less human, wallowing in chameleonic orgy to condemn a practice he practices. The tragedy of having a national assembly operating in opaque ways lays to waste the vain arguments of popular representation members ascribe as their source of legitimacy.
What should worry Nigerians is their share in every N4 Nigeria makes. With the lawmakers taking a quarter and the executive lounging over at least half, is there any wonder that the masses who number in the millions work from sunup to sundown only to wallow in excruciating poverty? How expensive are the laws members of the national assembly make to warrant such humongous paycheck to be doled out as compensation?
Sani’s confession on the rapacious inclinations of himself and his colleagues should ordinarily instigate a new wave of discussions on the state of the nation which makes it possible for our country to have a minimum but not a maximum wage, with the working class earning so little while the looting class relish in felonious revelling. Why does Nigeria deem it necessary to have a minimum amount civil servants could earn without putting a peg to the maximum earnings of others?
Nigerians should not as a result of Sani’s droll accord him some dignity, for no man covets such while surviving on the comfort of others. With a perfect understanding of the psyche of Nigerians and their penchant for non-thoroughness, wily politicians like Sani have since perfected the art of stealing from them while at the same time speaking against bloodsucking tendencies. Shehu Sani is the typical rat renowned for blowing cold air while eating the feet of sleeping naivetés. He does the swallowing while the victim does the mouth licking. In the end, the rodent fills its tummy while the victim suffers impairment.
The national assembly provides one with enough evidence to—as the Afro Beat maestro, Fela Kuti sang—indict head-robbers over leg-robbers. The leg-robber steals and takes to his feet. The head robber carries the whole bank, nods his head for a job well done and places a frown on victims bold enough to raise a storm. Senator Sani should go learn some table manners; eating while talking is bad mannerism.
Modiu can be reached on [email protected]