Last week, Sen Rochas Okorocha made the headlines for his statement on the bloated National Assembly. The former Imo State governor questioned the rationality of having three senators per state when one could do the job.
Why have 109 senators when you can have 34? Simple logic. It makes sense. Cut down the cost of governance. However, there is a need to look at the message and the messenger.
Indeed, the message from Okorocha is similar to most pronouncements from the National Assembly. Often, these are spontaneous reactions to get public sympathy without corresponding action. As a matter of fact, the pronouncements most times are nothing more than grand rhetorics without action.
One thing is clear. The current cost of governance in the country is unsustainable. However, the message by Okorocha has not addressed it. The problem is not with the 109 rather what the 109 is gulping. In fact, the 109 could gulp less and still work.
Nothing to suggest that if the Senate today is reduced to 34, the country will not be budgeting the same amount it’s using to cater for 109. In other words, the problem is not with the number per se. Rather, it is more a question of attitude.
Although it makes sense that the current composition of the bicameral legislature is reviewed, the essence of a large parliament is to ensure that the greater number represented. Take Benue state for instance. Only the Tiv ethnic group have ever emerged as governors since 1999. Notwithstanding, the Idoma and other tribes have been able to have a say at national level.
This is true for all the other states in Nigeria where dominance by a group is a source of grievance. Indeed, this reality is true in Okorocha’s state, Imo.
Okorocha had eight years to implement – in Imo – the smart ideas he is churning out now
He has also benefited from the dominance, of which there is a good chance that if one senator per state is the standard, he would benefit.
Therefore, this statement on reducing the number of representatives is nothing other than a populist statement. The response of the Senate President Ahmad Lawan that the former Imo state governor should bring it as a bill is a bait Okorocha will not take. If he does, he is naïve. Perhaps, the bill will not even pass first reading.
The problem with our legislature can still be traced to the copy and paste of the US legislative practice. Unlike the US who developed theirs based on history, our own did not have the privilege of development through evolution. The US senate was modeled after the UK House of Lords. It was an aristocratic house to checkmate the impetus of the big House of Representatives.
From 1789 to 1913, senators were appointed by the legislatures of the states they represented. The US senate has a longer tenure of six years compared to the House. However, the copy and paste nature of our constitution has landed this over-bloated and expensive institution on our lap.
Enough with the message. Now to the messenger. Okorocha had eight years to bring cost-efficient governance to his state. Rather, he established a Ministry of Happiness and Purpose Fulfilment in the state. Further, his sister, Mrs. Ogechi Ololo, served as the commissioner.
Thereafter, Okorocha moved to the Senate like his cycle of former governors after his eight years as Imo State governor.
A good place to start is the bogus allowances and benefits of the lawmakers
If he was genuinely interested in reducing the cost of governance, maybe he should begin by leading the movement in slashing the multiple allowances and benefits accruing to the senators.
Indeed, Okorocha has not publicly rejected the proposed N5billion budget for cars. Neither has he opposed the embarrassing comment by the spokesperson of the Senate, Sen Dayo Adeyeye that if “democracy is too expensive, Nigerians should try dictatorship.”
All these little and significant changes will not require constitutional amendment. Unless Okorocha displays more determination by action, his declaration is nothing more than mere talk…
Therefore, to senator Okorocha, it is worth pointing out that the President has dropped the budget. He should take the first step by convincing his colleagues to slash the budget of the National Assembly by half. Next would be to convince the principal officers of the National Assembly to cut down on their long list of special advisers. These little actions will go a long way.
Gbajabiamila and the bulletproof babariga
During the Independence day celebration at the Eagle Square, a little wardrobe malfunction by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila quickly turned into a weird news item.
The agbada worn by the Lagos lawmaker appeared to have had its embroidery ironed. This gave it a little bulge. In fact, it appeared as though there was something under the cloth. As expected, bloggers picked up the story.
However, the major angle was that Gbajabiamila was wearing a bullet proof vest under the babariga.
Unfortunately, the mainstream media soon picked up the story and ran with it. They reported it from the angle of the reactions of Nigerians on social media.
Undoubtedly, the Nigeria media space is facing a conflict between the value of good journalism and readership. It is sad to see that blogsites with questionable ethics/content/style are forcing mainstream media to abandon good journalism.
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