Are our rulers immune to recession?

Hard times have hit Nigerians big time. Jobs are lost in droves, employers are unable to keep up with prompt payment of salaries, pensioners have been long forgotten by those who are supposed to help them stay alive, hunger has taken permanent residence in many homes, respectable people have become beggars just to keep body and soul together, and prostitution has become a coping strategy among young girls. The people of Nigeria are in a war foisted on them by poverty and deprivation.

But it is not so for the rulers. Nothing shows this more than the budgets from the state and the federal governments. Just check how much they vote for their personal comfort, check how much is voted for feeding their dogs and cats, their parties, their computers and internet, their local and international travels and you will realize that the rulers are not part of this recession.

While some of the governors are advocating salary reduction for workers, the need to cut down their own salaries and allowances has not occurred to them. While it is true that there has been a slide in the revenue accruing to the country and, by extension the states, the dwindled allocation has not affected the governors’ lifestyle in any form. They still get their full salaries, security allowances as well as other perks of office. They still go about with their kilometer-long convoys, they still throw their lavish parties, they still embark on needless foreign trips, they still conduct their affairs as if nothing has changed. Are the rulers of the nation immune to this recession?

As far as the rulers are concerned, the masses can take a plunge into the ocean. The poor may die of hunger and lack but the rulers must get their due. That is why the budget is tuned towards scaling up the comfort of the elite without addressing the discomfort of the masses. It does not matter how many people die as a result of the hardship in the land as long as the rulers have their fill, all is well. The import of this is that the situation will not change until the citizenry rise to make demands on the ruling class.

The system we currently run is criminally skewed in favour of those in leadership and that suits them no end. Therefore, expecting them to change the order is akin to asking for the moon. It is against the nature of man to act contrary to his own interest. Therefore, looking up to those benefitting from a warped system to champion its change is like looking for a virgin in a maternity ward.

I am aware that the world has seen a few transformational leaders, those willing to champion a positive change even if such would erode their own influence and powers, those determined to do all and sacrifice all for the good of their people, those who understand that the essence of leadership is the improvement it offers the led. Transformational leaders always leave their people better than they met them; they leave their footprints on the sands of time. It is crystal clear that the present crop of political leaders the country parades has no understanding of what transformational leadership is. What we have are transitional leaders; those who see their occupation of leadership positions as a means to personal aggrandisement. They do not promote any significant change in the lives of the people; their primary preoccupation is holding on to power; their chief consideration is what they get in and out of power. They just go through office without making any positive impact. Transitional leaders always hurt their people; they leave pangs of pain in their trail.

But transitional leaders are not exclusive to Nigeria, other countries also have them. The difference, however, is the citizenship. With enlightened and active citizenship, a transitional leadership can transmute into a transformational leadership. In a clime where the citizens do not only know their rights but place a demand on the leadership to deliver on promises made and expect minimum acceptable standards from those in leadership positions, no leader can afford to be transitional. It is for that reason that Justice Louis Brandeis said, “the most important office in the land is that of the private citizen.” What that means is that the country does not belong to the leader alone; it belongs to the leader as well as the citizen. Much more than that, it means that the citizen is the boss and must demand accountability from the public office holder. Where the office holder is not forthcoming with expected action, the citizen must act.

Making those in government place the wellbeing of the led above their greed will not happen without the citizens asking for it. Across the country, citizens should interrogate the content of the budgets presented by the executive and compel the legislature to jettison the expenditure meant to confer superfluous comfort on the rulers. The purpose of a state budget is to show how the leaders plan to improve the lot of the led, not how they plan to increase their own comfort.

If there is a recession in the land, it shouldn’t be a burden only for the people, both the rulers and the people must have a feel of it.