On November 19, the President of the Nigerian Senate, Ahmad Lawan, called on Nigerians to punish lawmakers, who they perceive to have performed poorly, by voting them out in the coming 2023 polls.
He bared his mind while declaring open a retreat organised for top management staff of the National Assembly and National Assembly Service Commission in Abuja.
Faulting the growing national discourse over the role of lawmakers and their perceived jumbo salaries, Lawan came out strongly in defense of the National Assembly, arguing that the hue and cries were unnecessary as the institution exists to prevent dictatorship, yet receives less than 1% budgetary allocation of Nigeria’s total budget of N13.08 trillion.
“Without the National Assembly and the legislature across the country, what you have is not democracy anymore. So the value of the legislature and National Assembly to Nigerians is democracy. If you take out the legislature, it might not be a dictatorship, but certainly not a democracy,” the Senate President had said.
Lawan is obviously agitated, and the reasons may not be far fetched. The call by several Nigerians for a unicameral legislature, as a way to check unmanageable rise in cost of governance, is one that could force many politicians into the labour market. This is especially so as a sizable percentage of the lawmakers are career politicians.
The aggressive defense of the perceived jumbo pay, therefore, speaks to the unwillingness of most of the country’s political office holders to make financial sacrifices, in the face of worsening economic crisis, for the larger good.
Many even think Lawan’s call for underperforming lawmakers to be voted out smacks of mockery. They may not be too far from the truth, and this is because the country has a history of conducting elections with very low integrity where votes hardly count, as corrupt politicians get increasingly desperate.
It would be trite to state that demands for a radical review of the wages and emoluments of public officials would continue to reverberate as profligacy among them remains common place.