THE legendary insensitivity and debauched disposition of the ruling elite in Nigeria was recently stretched further by the Bayelsa State House of Assembly when it passed a bill that would confer life pensions on all members of the assembly, including former and subsequent members. There was only a reprieve from the uproar that greeted this blatant abuse of power when the governor of Bayelsa State, Honourable Seriake Dickson, declined assent to the bill. Yet this would perhaps only be a temporary reprieve because the lawmakers are at liberty, given the powers residing in the House to make laws for the state, to override the governor’s veto and pass the bill into law. In that case, Bayelsans, and Nigerians in general, would be left with the burden of paying life pensions to these misdirected lawmakers. But perhaps that would serve Bayelsans and Nigerians right since they voted these people into the lawmaking offices and should, therefore, be ready to bear the consequences of their action. And we dare say that is on display here is the end result of voting induced by the collection of pittance from politicians, as Nigerians are increasingly not bothered by the character and comportment of those they elect into important public offices.
The truth is that public lawmaking is a very grave and serious responsibility that should be assigned only to the best in the society as they are expected to make the necessary laws for the smooth running and functioning of the entire society. Such lawmakers would then be expected to have a holistic appreciation of the society and work on laws that would be to the benefit of most of the people and the development of the society. This is not an idle responsibility or one that should be seen as non-essential or unimportant. Rather, it is a responsibility that all in the society should take with seriousness and also assign the best hands to while holding such people in very high esteem. In this regard, there is nothing inherently or intrinsically wrong in conceiving of pension for those engaged in such very important public lawmaking. But obviously, such a conception would be within the overall pension scheme for the society as the lawmakers are supposed to be concerned more with the whole society and not just themselves. There is a sense, therefore, in which pension for lawmakers should not be a scandal as part of the running of the pension for public service.
But what do we have here in Nigeria? Given the fact that governors and other public officers have succeeded in assigning humongous life pensions to themselves through the Houses of Assembly even when other workers who have served for many years before retiring are dying in droves due to non-payment of their pension, it should be expected that the members of the Houses of Assembly would soon extend the largesse to themselves. In any case, with Nigerians electing minions into important public offices, it would not be out of place for such Lilliputians to start seeing themselves as the be-all and end-all of the society, thus seeing nothing wrong in cornering all the resources of the society to their own sole benefit. This is what the infantile and opprobrious bill from the Bayelsa State House of Assembly represents and it is no surprise that others, like the Ekiti State House of Assembly, are already copying the gross venture since nothing spreads faster than a bad act. It is, therefore, the responsibility of all Nigerians to use this new element of decay springing up from Bayelsa State to call attention to the wrongness of political office-holders being concerned with themselves rather than the good of the society, especially in the way they have been assigning pensions to themselves outside of, and without addressing, the failed pension scheme in the public service. Political office-holders should be a form of higher service through which individuals could contribute to the solving of societal problems and thus aid development. It should not be an avenue for blatant and vicious siphoning of resources to satisfy the inordinate needs of those at the helms of affairs at the expense of the rest of the society.
Nigerians, therefore, have a duty not to allow this abiding rape on the resources of the society by the Bayelsa State lawmakers to stand even as they should also vigorously work for the reversal of the pensions already assigned to governors or make them to be in line with the provisions of the general public service scheme. The idea of using political office to corner public resources for personal gain is a corruption of the political process and Nigeria would not be in a position to reap appropriately from the democratic process and use it for societal development until this corruption is tackled through the election of fit and proper persons into political offices devoid of cash-and-carry voting. Bayelsa lawmakers have shown themselves to be below par in this regard and they should be ashamed of themselves and be publicly shamed to drop the bill on life pension for themselves.