Amaechi, Odili & the pension bill
By Odimegwu Onwumere
Imposition of a successor in public offices is becoming obsolete in the Nigerian politics. In the past it used to be a test of might among the opinionated chauvinists; those who did it were very proud of the practice.
Today, people may be doing it, but they don’t allow it to be pronounced as it used to be. Nigeria has recorded a lot of skirmishes from such practice in the past. Against that influence, Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State has said that he will not enforce a successor on the people of the state in 2015 when his second term in office as governor is supposed to end.
However, a law is on the move in the state that will endow magnanimous profits to former governors and their deputies. And if this law does not miss road in the state House of Assembly, then a person like Dr. Peter Odili, a former Governor of Rivers State, is about to benefit from the proposed bill labeled, “Rivers State Public Office Holders (Payment of Pension) Bill 2012”. Odili would be given two houses in any area of his choice in Abuja and Rivers State, should the bill be passed.
This has made Nigerians to say that if he is voracious and decides to choose a house in the rich fashionable areas of Maitama or Guzape in Abuja, it means that the state government will be spending about 400million naira to procure a choice house for him in any of those areas or even in the GRA area of Port-Harcourt, believing that the cost of the houses could be enough to pay the salaries of up to 4,000 Rivers State civil servants for a whole year at the existing least amount take-home pay of N19, 400.
It is mouth watering that it is not just aristocratic houses that the state legislators suggests as gifts for Odili and others, they will also be offered three brand new cars. Odili will be given eight police officers for personal and domestic security, two officers of the Nigerian secret police, the State Security Service, and domestic staff including a steward, gardeners, cooks, and drivers to be paid from the state financial credit? The incongruity is that the cars will be replaced every three years, with other substantial benefits to include 100 per cent of the fundamental salary of the incumbent governor, 300 per cent of indispensable salary as furniture allowance, 20 per cent for utilities and 10 per cent for amusement.
In Nigeria, it is said that a suspect remains innocent till he or she is convicted by a competent court of jurisdiction, so commentators who are saying that Odili does not deserve the outlined benefits and that he should be arrested and prosecuted for corruption by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after his second and last tenure as governor should allow the appropriate authorities to engage him. They are not blind. People may have followed the bandwagon to hollow the image of the man that in February, 2007, he approached the Federal High Court in Abuja for an injunction restraining the anti-graft commission from arresting him, without understanding the reason they were even fighting the man. After all, Odili never said he wanted that largesse of gifts.
What is amiss, however, is why does Amaechi preferred to allocate these gifts. Anyway, he knows better. But if we must critically look into it, are there still no areas in the state where this money for the gifts could have been expended instead. Building castles for individuals will not rejuvenate the state, rather twisting policies will downgrade the state the more. We are even wondering from where the state got the money for the gifts because it is not long ago that Amaechi was shouting and crying that the state was bankrupt and was set to borrow N250 billion from the bond market. Are we indeed in serious problem? It is in Nigeria that anybody could cause the death, killing and maiming of so many and impoverish his or her country and later receive special treatment.
No matter how any government uses the legislature to back the humiliation of the people, it is inevitable that a day of computation is approaching. It is very worse when the person is very proud and rude. Would this proposal of gifts be also introduced to the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) Amaechi is its Chairman? It takes a will to change, they say, and not a chance. Posterity has a way of rewarding. Is Amaechi watching his step? We should always calculate the happiness we get when our customers are leaving and others coming in. Two way thing. Posterity is the best judge. Sometimes we should check if the Aluta in politics should continue or not.
Amaechi should not see himself as the only strong person in the state because he is in power, else he will finish himself. Rivers people are not weak to say. But how long shall we continue like this? Misplaced priorities! Too many show-offs cannot be real. How long shall Nigeria continue to debate matters that bother on corruption when people of other worlds are inventing technologies and mapping out ways to better humanity? How long? The legislators should help us.
Does the poor not also need bills where factories and employment will be rampant in the state? May God forgive Rivers State and whoever that is sponsoring the ruination bill. According to Mahatma Ghandi, eye for an eye, would only make the world go blind. Let there be a proficient working system in Rivers State and not gifts system. If we remember, Amaechi severally called some indigenes of Rivers State names for alleging that they wanted him to bring the Rivers State treasury for them to share. How come he has reversed to donate gifts with the same money, or is the money for the gifts from the blues? Where is Amaechi going with this new law?
People should stop casting stones on Odili, because Odili as a person might not be that bad; they should cast their stone on the bad system being operated by the bad leaders. Amaechi even noted this at the Future Symposium for Young & Emerging Leaders held at the Shell Hall, MUSON Centre, Lagos on March 19, 2012. He said that the young people were pointing their blaming fingers on the wrong people, and that the basic problem is that the Nigerian economic system is flawed. The Arab spring was started by someone who was ready to stick his neck out. “You all just gathered here as children of the rich to take over from your fathers.”
What flawed the system and why has it not been resuscitated? In what was characterized as a revolutionary Symposium for Young and Emerging Leaders well thought-out by The Future Project is supposed to kick off a discussion in Rivers youth with an appealing label to action, but unfortunately, the state government that was supposed to enhance it, is giving gifts to bellyful and cheekful elders, not youths.
Like someone at the occasion pointed out: “This is no time for dead clichés. This is not a gathering of politicians gaming for a piece of the pie; this is a hall pulsating with energy. Let us talk sincerely to ourselves about our own challenges, let us start a discussion that will not end.” The underneath line to the gift issue is that it is a new psychosis and insincerity in governance, without any granted conquest and mental picture to better the lot of the poverty ridden masses in Rivers State. People still respect Odilli and see him as a sincere man, not his government then.
So, to prove himself right and make others wrong, he should decline the gifts to justify the conscientiousness people repose on him. This is what responsible people like him do. On the other hand, Amaechi should check if he is not losing the patina and populism that heralded his entry on the seat of governor. He should check if he was even able to afford to pay his hotel bills in Ghana before 2007 he was made governor. Has he suddenly found himself controlling billions of naira meant for the betterment of the commoners of the state that he does not know what to do with them? Are these gifts the plans which he said was aimed at protecting governors from stealing? Does the ex-Heads of State have similar schemes?
There is no how he will say that he is not an instrument to the Bill in the House that has been characterized as his micromanaged House full of his handpicked house boys, yet he was saying that he detests imposition of his successor in 2015, and every Nigerian continue to blame the EFCC. We wish him good luck.