The National Assembly And The Noises We Make

If you are not surprised by all the noise generated by the clothing allowance of our National Assembly, that is because you have that endemic disease called ‘short memory’ that affects almost all Nigerians.

We forget easily. Since the dawn of this democracy, the salaries of Senators and House of Representatives members have always been a hot potato topic. But we have never actually done anything to address it, instead we have seen it increase geometrically to what it is today. As at 2014, the budget of NASS was 150 billion naira annually.

How is it justifiable to spend that amount of money on just 360 people in an economy where the minimum wage is 18k per month.

Back in 2010 when Goodluck Jonathan was still the acting president, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the then Central Bank Governor, complained in one of those talk shops top government functionaries like to attend, that the recurrent expenditure of the NASS was not justifiable for an economy the size of Nigeria. What he was saying in effect was that NASS is the biggest parasite of the Nigerian treasury. Giving nothing and taking out as much as possible.

The NASS members were outraged, not because they haven't heard something like this before, but this was the first time a senior member of the government had actually come out to condemn their budget. They summoned him, along with the then minister of finance, Segun Aganga, to come and explain to them how those figures came about. We all knew the purpose of the summons was to get Sanusi to recant and apologize to them for embarrassing the NASS, while Aganga's role was to hold Sanusi’s hand while he is eating humble pie.

In any case, Sanusi stood his ground. Refused to apologize and refused to recant in spite of the threats by the NASS to engineer his sack as the CBN Governor. They were all shocked into blubbering inanity when Sanusi told them sacking him will not make a jot of difference to him because the position of head of the CBN was not a birthright he had to guard jealously at the expense of the truth. It was Aganga that surprised me in all of this. In the face of the vitriol from the NASS members, he retreated into an incoherent mess.

Unable to defend the figures that were produced by his ministry. The same figures Sanusi used to back up his claims. I was really disappointed in Aganga that day. This was a world class financial analyst who until his appointment, was a Managing Director in the world renowned international finance behemoth, Golden Sachs International of London, in charge of hedge funds; a man whose intellect was not to be sniffed at. This was the man that lost his nerve in front of that ragtag mob who fancy themselves honorables.

The case of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi vs NASS was the closest we ever came in trying to unravel how the common wealth was being wasted by just 360 people. So all the noise surrounding the issue is nothing to a man with the memory of an elephant like me. Just like the previous noises, Nigerians will always forget and move on to other fanciful and trending issues. I guess that is why nothing important ever gets done in Nigeria.

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