By Gbenro Olajuyigbe
When Pastor Bakare said that he ‘would not take his share of the 9 million stipends to be paid to the delegate to the ongoing national conference so that people would not say that he was going to the conference because of the money’ two things crossed my mind. One, he demonstrated his selflessness. Two, he passively admitted that it was not the people that sent him. I guess he was either sent by a governor or ‘Afenifere’. When Olisa Agbakoba wrote to the government declining his share of the ‘jumbo’ pay, he affirmed that he was comfortable enough to pick his bill. Another sacrifice! Femi Falana said he would collect the money but give it to charity. Mike Ozekhome said he would collect his own because if he didn’t, the money would return to government and would be re-looted.
As plausible as all these reasons may be, these good Nigerians have allowed a wonderful opportunity to slip from their hands. Rather than reject or accept, either of which will not change the status quo, they should have stood up on the floor of the conference and condemned ‘the jumbo pay’ with the same patriotic zeal as they have condemned the hefty pay of the Nigerian legislators and that of the executives. This would have been a better and smarter way of demonstrating how possible it is to reduce cost of governance in Nigeria. The is the same sentiment that the Law makers are expressing; and the same justification they express in collecting all the ridiculously outrageous amount that has made the cost of governance unbearable in Nigeria, and by extrapolation, one of the reasons, if any, for the convocation of the conference. The inability of these good Nigerians to transcend the prevailing vices and enthrone best practice in governance cost reduction by demonstrating collective rejection of or evn vigorously advocating against the unfair stipends have made them unfit to talk about the cost of governance in Nigeria.
Self righteousness is not what makes a reformer. It is the courage to ignite the fire of change in others and trigger in them the expression of virtues necessary for social change and national reformation. Washing your hands of the unfair allowance without causing others to see and understand its vitality to the puzzling social change and the justice our society need amount to re-invigoration of ‘Pontius Pilate’s Principle’. It is like saying I will not steal but will allow others to steal even though I am in position to prevent it. That was what Pontius Pilate did; yet he remained as guilty as others. When we are in position to make some people ashamed of exploiting others and the nation they claim they are serving and we use that position to co hence them into decency, we sin against liberty! If the conference could debate its guide lines and re-adjust the same, what prevented it from debating the offensive allowance and re-adjust same too? After all, it is the same government that gave you the guidelines being reviewed that offered you the allowance?
If the government’s guideline is unfair to you, the allowance you are receiving is also unfair to the people, some of who died recently in pursuant of jobs in a country where majority are under excruciating poverty. As far back as 1985, when Nigeria was even better than she is today, Late Justice Akinola Aguda had prepared the context in which you must reject the unfair allowance for you, while hitting on the state of unemployment in Nigeria. He declared; ‘can we imagine a greater torture for an able bodied man or woman than to wake up in the morning and not have the smallest clue as to how or where he is going to find a meal to eat the whole day, not to talk of the day after?’
This is the context in which the rejection of your unfair pay of 9 millionnNaira becomes a greater service to the majority of poor and unemployed Nigerians who may not earn what you are now been erratically and unjustifiably being paid in their life time even if they secure employment today. And more necessary, that you called what you are doing a service to your country. Self-sacrifice is one of the attributes of national service; even the newest among the youth corps members under the NYSC Scheme knows this. Although I know that it was not the love for the country that led to the conception of the idea for this conference, at least, the delegates should create room to make the intention of the cads to agree with those of decent people.
Now, the reality should have dawn on the conferees that they are pursuing the nightmare of a man who has put the cart before the horse! This is the same suspected nightmare that made me to reject my appointment into the Technical Committees on Vision 20-20-20 set up by the Yar’adua/Goodluck’s government in 2009. In my rejection letter, I asked the government to tell me just one country it planned to replace out of the 27 countries in Europe, not to talk of Asia or North & South America. Even in Africa the government was and is still not showing any sign of leadership. I did not get a response and did not follow others to chase shadow. Like the fury of an angry storm, the ill preparation for the conference, its unclear motives, its choice of prioritizing political expediency over and above legality, substituting people’s legitimate agitation with this fake and guided version of the original, its doom end is almost certain from the beginning.
Gbenro Olajuyigbe is on firstname.lastname@example.org