Melaye’s burden, Nigeria’s burden | Dailytrust

Melaye’s burden, Nigeria’s burden

Enemies of Cousin Dino Melaye were at their best recently over a video shared on social media in which he was inspecting the uncompleted building of his driver. Nigerians expect Melaye, who constantly shows his opulent mansions and its bootlegged antique contents, to build houses for his driver. If he has cooks, stewards and house helps, we expect him to repeat the generosity too. We also expect him, like his successor, Smart Adeyemi, to shed crocodile tears and become a media advocate for the so-called downtrodden while shedding nothing of his own toga of opulence.

Nigeria is the only country where, being elected or appointed into public office becomes a meal ticket for family, friends and the community. Political office is seen as key to the nation’s reserves. The politicians live up to the hype in their campaign promises and their grandiose lifestyle.

It’s campaign season and senatorial aspirants would be out there promising the electorate a ticket to heaven without dying. They would promise to tar roads, build bridges and culverts and, of course, buy wheelbarrows, tricycles and motorcycles for their constituents.

For all his showboating, there should be no pauper in Ayetoro-Gbede and its environs. Unfortunately, the Kabba-Ilorin road has not been touched significantly since the asphalt was first set in 1973. For all his braggadocio, Melaye would dare not travel the Abuja-Kabba road without armed escorts. For as long as we expect the impossible of our politicians, we would never be rid of the cancer of corruption, nepotism and cronyism.

In other climes, the thought of an elected official building a home for his staff would be absolutely ludicrous if not damn right illegal. But we have been told to stop comparing death with sleep. In the real world, most senators go to work by public transportation. A substantial number of American federal legislators cannot afford to rent in Washington DC. They sleep in their offices and that includes ranking senators and members of the House of Reps.

Sixty years after flag independence, Nigeria has no public transportation system it could boast of. Public transportation is in the hands of touts who do the bidding of politicians and act as thugs during campaign season. One of the things Nigeria has in abundance is minister of and for transportation sectors – roads, rail, aviation and the lot.

In Nigeria if you are well connected, a member of the ruling class, you could approach a bank for a loan to run for public office but not for a mortgage. A minimum-wage earner like Melaye’s chauffeur would dare not dream of a bank mortgage if he knows the term. There are no public houses suitable for his social class. If he knows his way, he will steal from his master to pay his rent. Or if he is frugal, he will starve his family to start a building. It is obvious he did the latter but expects help from his master. It is a cruel society where hard work does not pay as much as crookedness.

Monitoring Nigeria’s local radio, there are several Ponzi housing schemes advertising the sale of plots of lands at fantabulous rates. On-air-personalities have been bought into the scheme lending their social clout to the schemes milking the poor. Compared to global mortgage schemes, the difference is clear. While in the Global North, all you need to qualify for a mortgage is citizenship or residency status and proof of consistent employment; the Nigerian scheme buys into the nation’s unique corrupt system.

To qualify, prospective beneficiaries are expected to make a down payment as high as 50 per cent of the total cost of the land. There is an approved building plan for the area that must be adhered to. The buyer must meet all specifications while the company adds zero value and zero amenities.

Banks and the developers require that you pay the remaining balance over a period of six months to one year. The rates are beyond the reach of any conscientious worker. In some cases, as a result of speculation, those who miss their payment would not only lose the land, they would be lucky to get a fraction of their down payment. Because land fees are constantly changing, new moneybags are always at hand to buy out the defaulter and resell at a higher rate.

This is one good reason why corruption would never cease in Nigeria. You cannot build probity and consistency on lack of trust. There would never be trust where the state itself is the greatest abuser of trust. A system that would rather give out loans to politicians than developers would never develop anything beneficial to its citizenry.

The reason banks are more willing to fund political aspiration than mortgages is not far-fetched. The Nigerian bank wants to grab and go, not invest long-term in the economy. It could not convince its shareholders that this too is in their interest.

One other reason is that while minimum wage remains stagnant, we established the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, to determine the salary of public officials.

A politician’s security of tenure is four years, but a civil servant’s security of tenure is till the age of 60 or 35 years in active service. If our banks are programmed not to realise security of tenure for public servants but to invest in people with four-year tenure, something needs to be fixed and fixed today. Unfortunately, Godwin Emefiele, Nigeria’s current governor of the Central Bank is yet to make up his mind whether to contest for president or reform the fiscal monetary system.

The race for the presidency is hottest in the ruling APC charging N100 million  as nomination fee than for its rival PDP that is charging N40 million for the same thing. Jumbo pay and unqualified privilege for political office holders are ruining the nation’s economy and impoverishing the people.

Nigeria’s president earns N1.17 million monthly. He gets a hardship allowance of half that pay for all the hardship we cause him. For Buhari, it shows in the freshness of his skin as president compared to Buhari the candidate. He takes home a constituency allowance that is 250 per cent of his pay, and gets 10 per cent of his annual salary as leave allowance. The president earns 400 per cent of his salary as a vehicle loan that he is expected to pay back before the expiration of his tenure.

Our president lives rent-free, gets free vehicles, drivers, cooks, stewards, and guards for free. He contributes nothing for his and his family upkeep; has unquestionable access to eleven presidential jets for him and his family members. All vehicles are fueled at public expense along with his meals. In America where we copied the presidential system, the president pays for his own meals and those of his guests.

Nigerian senators, elected members and appointees are paid more than the people who help the system running. Hence we expect Melaye, a professional politician with no other visible means of livelihood, to build houses for his employees. You cannot enforce the failure of responsibility of the state on its employees while expecting probity.

Nigeria has enough to run a perfect welfare state. Nations with less than half our capacity are running welfare systems across the globe. There is definitely enough in this country to meet everybody’s needs. Unfortunately, we have neglected people’s needs for the greed of politicians.

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