2016 is here! As the old year hurtled into memory, we can look forward to the portents for the New Year. Every country plans against the backdrop of expectations built within the context of the old year. We had exited last year with the excitement following the 2015 elections and change of government, tempered by the hard reality of a serious economic crisis. Household budgets have taken a severe knock as Nigerians go through a very difficult time; but we averted the danger that would have descended, if President Goodluck Jonathan’s PDP administration had achieved re-election. Nigeria pulled itself from the edge of a precipice, by voting for change, but for change to be more than just a slogan, there is a lot of work on hand for all of us. Nigeria must abandon the old ways and consciously make a different set of choices. But this is where the problem lies. The more things change, the more they have remained same in our country.
Our ruling elite cannot understand that sacrifices Nigeria require should start from them. Take the 8th National Assembly. It is shaping up to become the most self-serving and deluded since the return to civil rule in 1999. Its leadership came into position on the basis of controversy that continues to haunt it. This leadership spends far more time trying to ensure self-preservation that it cannot buy into the need for sacrifice. When the story broke that it is about to spend over N4. 7billion to acquire new cars, Nigerians were shocked. But the shock is coming from the fact that people have not deconstructed the logic of the National Assembly leadership. The purchase of those vehicles has been excused on the basis of their need for oversight functions. In actual fact, a leadership that entered parliament, literally from the window, must continue oiling the wheels of membership loyalty to survive. Survival means far more to Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara, than the needs of Nigerians. That the legislators seem to be singing from the same hymn book, in this matter of their creature comfort, underlines just how thin is the veneer of “principle” upon which they fought amongst themselves for leadership position, till Bukola Saraki’s “coup” of June 9th, 2015. And as if things cannot be any worse, last Sunday, January 3rd, 2016, THE NATION newspaper reported that new houses costing N5billion would be built for Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara. This is the pattern since Obasanjo’s harebrained idea to sell residences of principal officers to the occupants. Our ruling class cannot provide affordable social housing for the working people and the poor, but will unconscionably build N5billion houses for three officials of state.
And what about the “Curious Figures” of the 2016 budget, as analysed by THE NATION newspaper’s editorial of January 3rd? The sum of N3.6Billion budgeted for BMW saloon cars “for principal officers”; N189 million for tyres and another N39.8M “for the purchase of unspecified number of 200 amps, 100 amps and 60 amps Mercedes Benz batteries for bulletproof vehicles”. The 2016 budget allocates N89M for purchase of kitchen equipment for the presidential kitchen, as against N83.1 last year. General renovation of Guest House gulps N387M; complete furnishing of Guest House is allocated N45M; N27. 5M will be used to purchase computers while Recreational Facilities will be procured in the sum of N764M. The presidency’s internet facility will be upgraded for N114. 4m and internet servers will cost N22.5M! These are budgetary items in a season of recession by a government dedicated to change and doing things in a different way. The class bias that runs through these patterns of expenditure is so strong that even President Muhammadu Buhari should feel embarrassed about it. A review is an imperative!