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Breaking the grip of an evil oligarchy By Tochukwu Ezukanma

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At some superlative point, a politician becomes a statesman, prose becomes poetry, a musician becomes a maestro and food becomes cuisine. No matter how modest and austere the presidential household chooses to be, the meal served at the presidential villa must levitate from mere food to cuisine.

In some countries of the world, the president/head of government pays for the feeding of his household. From his income, he pays for his household's cuisine.

And the cost of this constitutes only a small percentage of his salary. He still has available a considerable amount of money left to meet the other demands of life.

In Nigeria, the president does not pay for his meals. He is given a feeding allowance. In the 2012 budget, about half a billion (500, 000, 000.00) naira was budgeted for the feeding allowance of the Nigerian president and his family.

To get a sense of the staggering amount of money allocated to the yearly feeding of the Nigerian president's household, we need to realize that, converted to naira, the president of the wealthiest country in the world, United States of America, earns about sixty four million (64,000,000.00) naira a year. So, the annual feeding allowance for the Nigerian president is 8 times the yearly earnings of the President of the United States of America. I wonder what he eats. Does he eat boiled gold and fried diamond?

In line
with the same greed and waste that pervade the ranks of the Nigerian power elite, the 2012 budget allocated 45 million naira for one year supply of newspapers and magazines to the office of the Vice President. That is, the Nigerian government, supposedly, spends about 70 percent of the salary of the president of the United States of America just to supply the Vice President with newspapers and magazines. For that amount of money, you are forced to wonder the kind of newspapers he reads. Are these papers printed in outer space and delivered to his office by extraterrestrial alien from Mars and Jupiter?

No, for
his meal, the Nigerian president is not served boiled gold and fried diamond. I doubt that these precious stones have any nutritional value. Secondly, the human teeth cannot masticate them and the human digestive system cannot digest them.

And the Vice President does not read newspapers delivered from outer space. The problem is that these men are part of an evil oligarchy that holds a cruel sway on Nigeria. It is an oligarchy unparalleled in its grasping avarice, wasteful spending and remorseless exploitation of the system.

The President of the Nigerian Senate is paid eighty four million (84, 000,000.00) naira every month, that is,

naira every year. His monthly salary is more than the yearly salary of the president of the United States of America. His yearly salary is 15.75 times the yearly salary of the president of the United States of America. The American senator makes about one hundred and seventy four thousand (174,000.00) dollars per annum. Unbelievably, the Nigerian senator makes about one million and seven hundred thousand (1, 700, 000.00) dollars per annum. That is, the average Nigerian senator earns about 10 times as much as an American senator and more than 4 times as much as the American president. So, in spite of the pervading, desperate poverty and appalling quality of life amongst Nigeria citizens, Nigerian legislators are the highest paid legislators in the world.

To try
to conceive the inconceivable voracity that rules Nigerian politicians and office holders, it is important to note that the income per capita in the United States of America is 20 times that of Nigeria. Therefore, logically, using income per capita as the basis for determining the salaries of political office holders, Nigeria legislators should earn 1/20 of the salaries of American legislators. Incomprehensibly, they earn 10 times as much as the American legislators. In other words, they earn 200 times as much as what should have been their income. Is this not armed robbery, armed robbery with a warped legislative endorsement? Are the men and women that populate the Nigerian legislature not thieves:

colorful, puffed up thieves masquerading as legislators?

in all these, Nigerians are to be
blamed. According to the trite but instructive statement, a people can only get a government as good as they deserve”. This evil oligarchy has continued to thrive in its thievery and profligacy because Nigerians allowed it. The ultimate antidote against all forms of abuse of power is a politically conscious society jealously guiding its constitutional rights.

The foremost Black American leader
of the 19th Century, Frederick Douglas rightly stated that “power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will.

to profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation is to want crops without plowing the ground... The Nigerian oligarchy will not on its own, out of contrition or a new found sense of altruism, abandon its greedy ways and become responsive to the longing of Nigerians for a good life and social justice.

It is pressure: strident, vociferous, determined, relentless, unremitting political pressure, from the public that will force the oligarchy to subordinate its selfish interests to the public good, rein-in it proclivity to steal public funds, cut down its incredible salaries/allowances, make itself accountable to the people and respect the right of every Nigerian to share in the enormous wealth of this country. 

Fortunately, the
Arab Spring, by sweeping away long entrenched corrupt autocrats whose hold on power seemed sacrosanct, reawakened the political awareness of peoples of other countries and dramatized that the powers of oligarchies are more chimerical than real. Secondly, crusading against exploitative and oppressive powers is not new to Nigerians. Long ago, we successfully rallied against a colonial power and wrest the country from it. More recently, we rose up in protest against the repudiation of the collective will of the people “ the annulment of a fair and free presidential election - by gun-toting army generals.

Now, we are confronted with the need to break the vivacious grip of an amoral oligarchy, and bring to an end its depredation of the national wealth and economic strangulation of the Nigerian masses.  To do these, we must unite in agitation against this evil oligarchy because it is agitation, collective, courageous, sustained and strategically directed agitation that will break its ruthless powers and force it to reform its ways.

Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria