Young MPs should visit Nigeria to benchmark

The three Nigerian federal lawmakers know countries do not develop by wasting public money.

In Summary
  • Young Kenyan legislators and their patrons are obsessed with consumption, luxuries, shameless opulence, hubris and unconscionable public display of conspicuous consumption. 
  • Some of their Nigerian counterparts prefer production, humility, compassion, modesty, austerity and patriotism. Young Kenyan MPs should visit northern Nigeria to learn about the sacrifices that should come with holding a public office.

The discordance between the attitudes of some young Kenyan and Nigerian legislators presents a challenge for behavioural scientists. The irony invites intellectual inquiry.

Young Kenyan legislators and their patrons are obsessed with consumption, luxuries, shameless opulence, hubris and unconscionable public display of conspicuous consumption. 

Some of their Nigerian counterparts prefer production, humility, compassion, modesty, austerity and patriotism. Young Kenyan MPs should visit northern Nigeria to learn about the sacrifices that should come with holding a public office.

Three young Nigerian lawmakers, from the poorest region of that country, are a rarity in a continent where politicians are preoccupied with personal aggrandisement.

The three Nigerian federal lawmakers know countries do not develop by wasting public money. 

Countries grow by addressing basic needs, boosting production, promoting manufacturing and industrialisation, and creating employment opportunities. The employed youth can then join the tax band to help grow and expand public revenue, and spur consumption. 

Nothing short of this tested model of national development works.  Countries do not grow by extravagance or by loading taxes on the burdened. Consumption falls when taxes grab a huge chunk of diminishing incomes. Businesses flounder when consumption falls. 

Tax revenues fall when employers downsize because they cannot sustain operational costs. Consumption plummets when prices of commodities soar. Employers downsize when they are forced to increase incomes.

Retrenchment of staff takes tax, consumption, savings and investments on a downward spiral, before hitting a point of no return.

The youthful Nigerian legislators — Ibrahim Bello from Kebbi State, El Ruffai from Kaduna State and Mukta Shagaya from Kwara State — refused to collect SUVs worth $150,000 (Sh19.3 million) each. Their government imported brand new Toyota Land Cruisers directly from Japan, to “help MPs do their work better”. 

Bello, Ruffai and Shagaya wanted the government to give them the money, instead of SUVs, to spend on productive projects in their constituencies to uplift the pathetic lot of their electors. 

About 87 per cent of poor Nigerians live in the north, with limited access to education and basic infrastructure, such as electricity, clean drinking water and sanitation. Job prospects are limited to the favoured few.

The three, one a son of a former governor of Kaduna State, already had cars. They did not need luxury cars to show they had acquired new status as the elected representatives of the disillusioned.

Even after turning down the cars, it was officially recorded the three had collected the vehicles. The public officers in charge of distributing the SUVs to the 460 federal legislators instead sold the cars and divided the money among themselves. 

The SUVs are replaced every four years. Nigerian presidents do this to pocket the loyalty of legislators to do their bidding. When  Bola Ahmed Tinubu was inaugurated as the 16th federal president of Nigeria in May last year, he kept the tradition of manipulating federal legislators.

The Tinubu administration’s first supplementary budget confirmed the president’s familiarity with the beaten path: of extravagance and a political mindset that cannot transform a country’s economy.

The Tinubu administration worked on a first supplementary budget, in November last year, which allocated $38 million (Sh4.9 billion) for refurbishing the presidential air fleet and vehicles. The presidency already had a sumptuous supply of these status symbols.

The supplementary budget also covered renovation of the offices of the president, vice president and the president’s wife. The offices were renovated three years before the new administration desired a new coat of paint.

Nigeria’s First Lady does not hold any recognised public office, but she is a major beneficiary of state largesse. She is yodelling in the gravy train in a county where people in politics are enjoying while their electors are struggling. 

Bello, Ruffai and Shagaya stand against mismanagement of public funds and abuse of political power. They say they were elected to help make their country better.

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