Nigeria’s Governance Cost: Can Alex Otti Help?

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By Tonnie Iredia

Some three months ago, general elections were held across Nigeria.

On account of the nation’s financial predicament and monumental misery in the land, Nigerians are now anxiously awaiting those who emerged victorious in the elections to change the nation for good or at least ameliorate the precarious situation.

For a number of reasons, one new leader that can lead a group of game changers is Alex Chioma Otti, Economist, Banker, Investor and Philanthropist who currently serves as governor of Abia state.

Although a few Nigerian leaders have some of Otti’s traits, he stands out for shunning the nation’s subsisting pedestrian thought process which many Nigerian leaders appear to cherish.

Since 1999 when democracy was restored in Nigeria, we have witnessed stunted growth and dwindling fame.

It is certainly time for citizens to get tired of leaders who do same things over and over again while expecting different results. Interestingly, our leaders are not exactly as incompetent as their performance often show; rather, they are basically greedy.

It is therefore time to embrace visionary leaders who can initiate innovative and viable policies that can improve the living standards of the people which is why Alex Otti fits in here.

For the many years he served as a member of the editorial board of the Nigerian news outlet, Thisday, he also conscientiously ran a weekly column titled “Outside The Box.”

The new governor has no option than to meet the treatise underpinning his column.

Beyond personal qualities, another factor which stands Otti out and which compels many to look towards him is his membership of the Labour Party (LP) – a political organization that recently introduced to Nigeria, a sudden electoral tsunami; the first of its type in the country’s political history in which election results against the traditional run of play were recorded.

As of today, it is not only that Peter Obi, the phenomenon around LP is yet to become Nigeria’s president or to unveil his promised programmes, Otti is so far the only surviving governor of the LP’s school of thought.

The mantle of acting as the leader of the reformist agenda therefore places on him, an obligation to use his performance to underscore what the nation can miss in Obi’s absence.

Another reason why Otti is easily a reference point concerns the progressive points he made two years ago when he delivered the 10th Anniversary lecture of Adeleke University Ede, Osun state.

The major point he harped upon at the lecture was the adverse impact which the huge cost of governance was having on Nigeria.

One of the things begging for change according to Otti, remains the inexplicable remuneration of legislators in which “Nigerian senators earned about $450,000 per annum, over two and half times the $174,000 per annum that their counterparts earned in the United States of America.”

He also decried the trend whereby 70 percent of the national budget was spent on recurrent expenditure.

The extent to which this can hinder societal development speaks for itself.

The beauty of Otti’s points lies in the fact that those of us who cried ourselves hoarse over the stupendous looting of the nation by its political leaders can now rejoice that a state governor has got to join our group.

He has all the perquisites of office such as daily televised press conferences to urge our leaders to fall in line.

If it is all he does at the Council of state meetings and indeed, in the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, may be things may improve.

And because charity must begin at home, it is expedient to appeal to Otti here to review the list of 19 commissioners he has nominated to assist him to govern Abia.

In order that no local government area feels cheated, he can have 17 for now at one per local area while the remaining 2 can serve as special advisers, and no more.

Except he follows this line of thought and mobilizes people of like minds to support relevant reforms, he might be unable to be part of the interest group that should dissuade the Senate and President Bola Tinubu from appointing 20 advisers that have already been approved.

Otti and his team would probably not be able to also join us in fighting against the practice of having as many as the constitutionally provided 37 ministers at federal level let alone to indulge in the old wastage of adding 6 appointees to represent geopolitical zones.

Of course, there would be pressures from those who ‘helped’ the party to secure electoral victory but it is ill-advisable to use scarce public resources to reward political jobbers.

Apart from cost, an obese governance framework has for long beèn proven to have the capacity to hinder efficiency and the attainment of goals.

What the above suggests is that we shall need more than the Alex Ottis for the enormous job.

Other Nigerians like him must join in deprecating an inflated workforce which is no longer in vogue worldwde.

This probably explains why the United States which has a larger population than us has only 20 secretaries – the equivalent of ministers.

As already rationalized by the President of the Lagos Chapter of Florida based International Human Rights Protection Service, Kalu Ofon Emmanuel, it is unacceptable to have too many officials at this time of financial squeeze where the country and the citizens are undergoing serious hardship, suffering, hunger, and economic backwardness.

We are therefore at a time when patriots should rise up to mobilize our government to reduce both the numerical strength and cost of governance in Nigeria.

For this to happen, several voices are needed to speak to the nation’s political class because everything in Nigeria today has been politicised and except some politicians join the patriots that are fighting to keep the nation together, not much can be achieved.

In this regard, searchlight needs to be beamed at the National Assembly because the contribution of that arm of government to the nation’s financial woes is more than big. Only last week, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abass, appointed as many as 33 senior aides.

This included the Chief Press Secretary, different from the Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, the Deputy Chief of Staff, Administration, as distinct from the Deputy Chief of Staff, Legislative and then separate Special Advisers, one for Special Duties and another for Political Matters.

Besides, the budget of the legislature is by far too large. In the Adeleke University lecture of 2021 cited earlier, Alex Otti had revealed that the average House of Representatives member in Nigeria earned, at that time, $224,000 more than his counterpart in the United States.

He also added that the budget allocation to the National Assembly of about N150billion annually, was far in excess of the annual combined budgets for education and health for the entire country.

If Nigerians are unable to rise to stop this unfathomable transactions, not much progress can be made.

The same is true of the regime of constituency projects which our prime anti-corruption agency has since discovered to be phoney.

No one knows exactly why the executive branch has since 2015 struggled to enforce a collaborative venture between it and the legislature which by law is expected to check the excesses of the former.

In 2019, however, a new legislature emerged as a rubber stamp to the executive.

From then till 2023, several bizarre loans were taken to the extent that over 90 percent of our national revenue is now dedicated to debt servicing.

Whereas we can do little or nothing about the number of federal legislators in Nigeria until certain provisions of our constitution are changed, there is doubt if we are also incapacitated in doing anything about whether or not our law makers should operate on part time basis or whether they should run the same public service salary structure as other Nigerians in the country’s public sector who are employed by the same tax payers.

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