By Suleiman Yakubu

Recently, about three weeks ago, Members of the House of Representatives, got 20 more cars, thus bringing the total number of cars delivered to 260 units. This implies that 100 units are still being awaited to make the vehicles go round all 360 members of the House. If you recall, over 200 members of the House of Representatives received the brand new exotic cars earlier in October. The vehicle, Peugeot 508 series, which cost N17million each, will consume a total of N6.1billion to supply all 360 units. After receiving the first batch, Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrazak Namdas said the Peugeot 508 series was for ‘utility services’ and that every member will get a car by the end of this year since the payment and supply of the vehicle is being done in installments.

In as much as one does not want to begrudge them, their action simply shows that they are representing themselves more than the rest of us. And their obsession with luxurious cars even when the nation was officially in a recession is enough proof. It may interest you to know that this is not limited to the House of Representatives as the Senate has also bought for its 109 members exotic cars costing billions of naira.

For so many reasons, one cannot help but feel that they prefer having their cars than improving the lots of the populace. Reports has it that the recent additions came after so much pressure was mounted on the Chairman, Committee on House Services, Mr. Nasiru Baballe-Ila, by members. And that the delayed supply of the utility cars has been a source of friction in the House; with many members disappointed in Baballe-Ila for the delay in the supply of the vehicles to members.

A recent Editorial by the Guardian Newspaper, on the same matter, noted that: “Sadly, despite Peugeot Automobile of Nigeria, these vehicles are not even assembled on these shores but sourced from foreign manufacturers through contractors. Obviously implied in this, is a flight out of Nigeria’s weak economy, of scarce foreign exchange to buy, not raw materials and machinery to run factories, produce goods and keep some workers employed, but to feed the sumptuous lifestyle of a tiny but powerful fraction of the populace. It would be necessary, for probity and to assure Nigerians of its integrity, that this transaction by the House met the provisions of the Public Procurement law. But that is just one issue around this matter”.

Some years ago, after spending two terms as president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo spoke about the shortcomings of senators at a retreat right here in Minna. He did not mince words when he observed that the Nigerian National Assembly is corrupt and expending a disproportional part of the nation’s resources. According to him, “… It costs about 1.7 million dollars compared to a quarter of a million in America.” It is indeed unacceptable considering how much more richer America is and how poor Nigerians are.

Again, the Guardian editorial confirms this when it pointed out that: “It is widely circulated that Nigerian lawmakers earn far more than their counterparts in advanced democratic nations with similarly advanced economic capacity such as the United States, the United Kingdom, India and South Africa. But this unnecessarily ostentatious lifestyle of the Nigerian is a mockery of the nation’s economic capacity and an empty show without justification. The 2016 federal budget of the United States is more than $4 trillion. India is more than $336 billion. Nigeria’s 2017 budget is a distant $24.39 billion (calculated at the exchange rate of N305 to a U.S. dollar)”.

Many of our leaders are self-serving people who find it difficult to render any service at the expense of their parochial needs. Instead, they will rather mortgage the future of Nigeria for their selfish interest.

Livid about what is happening at the national assembly, the un-tactical Obasanjo bared his mind: “Now let us talk truly and seriously to ourselves; we can’t continue to have a National Assembly that is consuming a disproportional part of our resources and then expect that we would be able to make progress. They pass budget that can’t be implemented, because it has to be beefed up to satisfy their whims and caprices. Even what the ministries did not ask for they put it.”

Without fear of contradiction, the way we practice democracy is costly and cumbersome. We are not getting our political calculations right, hence the majority still wallow in abject poverty and are in dire need of essential commodities and basic infrastructures.

Our collective wealth still remains in the hands of a very few, who are feeding fat at the expense of the common man. The much expected dividend of democracy has proven to be beyond the reach of many Nigerians since May 29, 1999, after over 18 years of uninterrupted democracy. Most sectors of the economy; education, health, agriculture, finance, and power among others cannot boast of a decent progress. Instead, they are deteriorating and consequently leading to untold hardship for the masses.

There is indeed no doubt that our economic woes are to a large extent due to the failure of leadership. They often don’t discharge their duties with every sense of responsibility without parochial sentiments. From all their efforts to see that they acquire their so called ‘utility vehicles’, one can rightly conclude that if our legislators put the same in their legislative work, our collective welfare would be better for it.