We must all make sacrifices to reduce cost of governance — Okorocha
Former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha now the senator representing Imo West senatorial district, last Thursday, on the floor of the Red Chamber, at a session with newsmen after plenary, insisted that the political elite needed to make enormous sacrifice in the face of dwindling crude oil earnings to run a bloated federal structure. TAIWO AMODU brings the excerpts:
THREE senators unwieldy
I am of the opinion that we should cut down cost of governance from whatever angle we can take it and that calls for sacrifice by all. One of the things I suggested is that the National Assembly is unwieldy. We have sometimes 10 lawmakers: three senators from one state; in some states, five House of Representatives and I wonder whether we can change the whole thing. We have three senators per state. Four persons can represent the state to discuss the issue that affects the state. That will cut down on a lot of expenses and we can look at other areas that we can cut down on the cost of governance to enable us put food on the table of the common man
I am of the opinion that we must own the productive sector of our economy. If we keep working on the currency without developing the capital sector of our economy, we will get into serious problems. That’s why I asked what has been the difference between the eighth and the ninth Senate. I think if we keep doing the same thing the same way, we will keep getting the same result. So, we must have a drastic change from the normal way of doing things, bearing in mind that we are faced with issues of security challenges. Poverty and hunger are in the land and we have children of school age not going to school. We need to make the sacrifice where possible to ensure that we help the downtrodden in the society.
The essence of governance is to help the poor, the needy. That’s what I said at the plenary and it will require a constitutional amendment. So, you need the consent of your colleagues because a tree can’t make a forest. I raised the issue on the floor of the Senate so that we can push a further bill on this. Rather than being preoccupied with politics, we can be engaged in the productive sector of the economy. I am of the opinion that, if you have governor, senator and three members of the House of Representatives, issues that concern your state can be raised and we can think of other ways and one dimension we can reach compromise is agriculture.
As regards some of the federal ministries that we have, I feel they are uncalled for. First and foremost is the Federal Ministry of Agriculture. When you say agriculture, it goes with land and I don’t know where the Federal Government has land to start agricultural practices. What we should have is an adviser on agriculture and policy making so that we can take agriculture to the grassroots. Imagine if we had given power to local government in Nigeria to deal with agriculture. Do you know how far we would have gone? We would have done well. I am trying to avoid future crisis and catastrophe in the country. So, the issue of Ministry of Agriculture and so many other ministries that can be handled by state and local governments should be moved from the central government. That calls for what I call systematic devolution of powers in the face of the little resources we have to face our numerous challenges as a nation.
The problem we have is that we have a small amount of money, while we are faced with a big problem. What do you do? You cut your coat according to the size of the material available, not according to your size. You can see my size? What if I can only afford four yards? Must I wait until I can afford 10 yards? You can make what you have, turn into a ‘monkey’jacket. It is wisdom and we are also saying it is the same wisdom. We must begin to make laws and bills that support the situation at every particular time, because the executive depends on whatever we give them.
The power is here (National Assembly); it isn’t with the executive; it isn’t with the judiciary; it is with the legislature because it is the pivot upon which the wheels of the executive arm must rotate. If we give them money, they will spend; if we give them budget, they will spend. The same is applicable to the judiciary. So, the legislature has a lot of powers that we need to know. Therefore, I am saying this year’s budget is the one that we can cut our coat according to the material, not according to our size. Nigerians forget that in only the Department of Fire Service in New York, the size of its budget is almost the budget of the whole Federal Republic of Nigeria. So, why do we behave as if we are too much of a wealthy country when we can diversify our economy and make other source of income other than the one of oil?
For as long as oil remains the mainstay of our economy, then we must also think about cutting our budget within what oil can provide for. That’s the argument I am making when I said we must cut our cloth according to our material; and that we must be ready to make the sacrifice in many areas. The Federal Government needs to make sacrifice; the legislature also needs to make sacrifice so that we can stop all these insecurity, job creation and all the problems we have. It takes a nation to make sacrifice for generations yet unborn.