Tuesday, December 24, 2019
Jos, Nigeria

’ll like to begin this political opinion by first relating to you my experience when I went to the national assembly complex to see a friend recently. Though the uproar over the cost of renovating the complex has more than proved that I am not the only one who feels this way; yet it feels good to know that one was not a lone ranger particularly on matters that has to do with the polity these days. Writers are too careful now, you know over the subject of hate speech and it sproposed punishment; that no one wishes to err.

The day was a Wednesday and I was there to see a good man who worked with a Senator for Edostate and upon entrance to the office, my very first remarks were about thevery rich-looking red-colored rug that covered the floor. This piece of furniture was so neat you could easily assume that it was brought in Tuesday night! Before long, I was already saying “Bros, na yesterday una fit thisbeautiful rug here?” “No na. Na this beauty wey sidon here dey take good careof the furniture.” He replied.

That his response had wowed me greatly is to state the obvious. Then I began to take notice ofthe painting, the foreign door, the leather seats, the ceiling etc., and theywere all of a high rate finish. And then I concluded that this legislative complex is clearly built in precast concrete which are fitted together to matchand from what I know such buildings are never in danger until at least 60 to 65years. But for bridges expectancy is within 50 years. The question is: How oldis the complex since Messrs ITB Nigeria built it?

The national assembly complex was built in the year of 1999 and although it was awarded in February 18th, 1996 by the FCDA during the General Sani Abacha (late) military regime at the cost of $35.18 million USD. Going by today’s exchangerate, it would’ve cost taxpayer’s the sum of #12.67 billion naira ($1 = #360)to build a brand new assembly complex but alas, the budget for a renovation ofthe already existing complex stands at #37 billion naira only – 3 times theoriginal cost!

This sum (thoughsparked an outcry from the already over-taxed Nigerian masses) speaks volumeespecially in terms of details. Now, every visionary leader understands thatthe number one project was the people. If he would spend on buildingskyscrapers and road networks he would first ensure that the people who woulduse these amenities eventually were happy and sufficiently satisfied but thisseems to not be the case in Nigeria.

I do not know thedetails of the renovation package; whether it was going to make the nationalassembly complex more ICT studded as an answer to proper security or whether itwas going to be state-of-the-art as an answer to meeting global constructionstandards. Whatever it is; the people have no way of benefitting from all thoseif they have not benefitted from what obtained presently.

And so; it makessense to see why the outcry against the proposed renovation budget was worthyof any writers’ empathy. There has never been a problem with democracy; theproblem has always been with the perspective given to it by the Nigerianpolitical class! Elsewhere, democracy was about the people, the masses, and thecitizens; but here in Nigeria, it is all about the political class and whateverthey decided to give priority to. Currently about 55% of Nigerians in ruralsettlements cannot – I repeat, cannot – buy a 50kg bag of homegrown rice!

About 50% Nigerians donot own their house! And the average daily take home wage is less than $4 USD.The NBS statistics of the unemployed puts the figure of 22%. This percentagecaptured the ages of 17 to 40 years. If we have one-third of the 22% ascitizens of the age of 35 to 40 and they are with families that depended onthem; it simply meant that an average of 3 people (wife and two kids) dependingon each of the one-third of 22% cannot afford a bag of rice. Look at that!

Aside this, it isthe people – when they are satisfied with the impact of these democratic administrationssince 1999 – that ought to make the case for the renovation of NASS! The outcryagainst this proposal again showed that the masses are yet to make sense of ademocratic experience that has kept them mostly poor, without a sense ofbelonging and in darkness while it made millionaires and billionaires of those theyelected to serve. The citizens are far from being satisfied.

The masses areindeed in a trap. Like the political leaders, the religious leaders alsoconcentrated on buildings and gave less attention to the needs of members who congregatedevery worship day. It is unfortunate thatleadership in Nigeria gave much attention and service to inanimate andinconsequential things while the citizens mattered only when it came totaxation or abusing their trust! A renovation proposal costing #37 billion beingdangled in the faces of a hungry mass? What a sick country that we have.