As recently as three or so weeks ago, the fiery civil rights activist and first-term Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Shehu Sani, stirred the hornet’s nest with the revelation that was not quite new. Comrade Sani representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) told a bemused populace that each of his colleagues in the Upper Chamber runs away with an obscene sum of N13.5m classified as running cost along with N750,000 as salary on monthly basis, besides other mouth-watering allowances.
In the actual fact, the knee-jerking amount has generated a lot of controversy since the country returned to democratic rule in 1999. But it is the very first time a beneficiary of the king-size booty would come into the open to corroborate what we already knew. Sen. Sani cannot lie against himself. The hard fact he brought to the public domain is the truth and nothing but the truth.
I don’t want to bore or anger you with details of other benefits enjoyed by the lawmakers, including their colleagues in the House of Representatives in terms of what also accrues to them from the equally controversial constituency projects. It is only in this country that people who are elected to make laws for good governance in addition to ensuring checks and balances engage in project execution as exemplified by the jumbo constituency allowances.
However, the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), a statutory body with the constitutional mandate to fix the salary and allowances of public office- holders, during the week distanced itself from the huge incomes that are funneled into the pockets of these privileged few on monthly basis. It seems the booties also enjoy the same treatment as the governors’ security votes which are not accounted for.
The mouthpiece of the commission, Mr. Ibrahim Mohammed, while reacting to the jumbo booties, said the total monthly package known to the commission and the law stands at N1,063,860.00, covering salaries and allowances. The running cost is, therefore, a creation of the National Assembly which houses a tiny fraction of our population.
If one senator can corner as much as N13.5m monthly for doing virtually nothing (most of them are idle), leaving the poor masses between the jaws of poverty and hunger and nothing is done about it, then this country is sick.
The greed of these lawmakers is synonymous with my late uncle’s dog named Tanimola. Tanimola was an efficient and experienced hunting dog which I had to recruit into a gang of kid hunters that I headed. Our expeditions usually took place during long vacations in a community called Inisa in the present-day Osun state.
Tanimola’s involvement became necessary following a near tragedy during one of the expeditions. We had smoked out a grasscutter and went after it like lightning. And just as I hurled my glittering machete after the fleeing bushmeat, one of my boys who felt we were too slow for his liking surged past me like Usain Bolt. The hurtling machete missed his fragile neck by a whisker. We all panicked and stopped the chase.
Had the machete caught his head, the papers would have gone to town the next day with a headline like: “Expedition ends in tragedy as head hunter beheads fellow hunter!”
With the coming of Tanimola, all we needed to do was to harass the preys out of their hideouts and the dog would do the rest. On one occasion, we smoked a grasscutter out of the lair and Tanimola took over from there. After a long while, we expected the dog to emerge with the prey as usual but there was no trace of it.
We became agitated and began to beat about the bush with our weapons and calling out its name. After a long while, I called off the search. When one of the boys asked what story I would tell my uncle about his missing dog, I simply shrugged my shoulders and told them I would tell my uncle that his casanova dog had eloped with a pregnant grasscutter! They were all rocked with laughter.
But just as we headed home, I heard a sound like someone cracking biscuit bone. And I froze in my tracks. Then I turned to investigate the sound. To shorten a long story, it was Tanimola I saw when I parted the bush, its jaws dripping with the blood of the grasscutter.
I became enraged and hit its enormous head with the big stick I bore. Its sound of agony reverberated throughout the forest. It vanished thereafter. What Tanimola did was very wrong, cornering the bushmeat which we all laboured for to itself.
Luckily for us, only the head was gone. We never denied Tanimola its entitlements which were the heads, bones and internal organs of all the animals we had hunted down.
In a country where the minimum wage stands at N18,000 after toiling for one whole month, it is scandalous for an individual to run away with N13.5m within the same period for bench-warming or absenteeism.
I wanted to write for Trust
Last week, the Daily Trust rolled out the drums to celebrate its 20th anniversary as a media outfit. I rejoice with its chairman, Malam Kabiru Yusuf, the management as well as the entire staff of the publication for doggedly ploughing through the rugged and perilous media terrain.
When I relocated to Abuja in December 2008, I made a move to write two columns for the paper in my areas of specialty: sports and humour. I had kept a weekly sports column on the daily stable of The Nigeria Standard Newspaper of Jos from the mid-70s. And I ran it for eight years. Simultaneously, I kept a weekly humour column in the Sunday edition.
Armed with those credentials, I approached Mr. Ishaq Ajibola, the then Managing Director, who received me warmly. My first contact with him was a few months earlier when I visited the Daily Trust Complex to understudy its operations in company of three former management staff of The Standard. We were brought together during the Jang administration to revamp the state-owned paper in 2007.
Somehow, my proposal was a bit delayed at the Trust. While waiting for a response, I met Mr. Sam Nda Isaiah, the Chairman/Publisher of the LEADERSHIP Newspapers whose father, Mr. Clement Isaiah, was my immediate boss in the New Nigerian Newspapers, Kaduna. The purpose of my visit to Sam was to link up with his father who mentored me on sports writing. He was the sports editor of the paper. When Sam heard about my career trajectory, he invited me to join his editorial board as an external member. For his father’s sake, I accepted the offer.
A couple of days after the acceptance, I got a phone call from Mr. Theophilus Abah, the then Editor of the Sunday Trust. I was asked to come over to discuss the terms of my involvement, apparently to help strengthen Sunday Trust sports pages. I explained to Mr. Abah that I had already committed myself to LEADERSHIP. Looking back now, I can’t explain why I was not forthcoming to Trust since my association with the LEADERSHIP was not a regular employment.
In November, last year, at one of the meetings of the International Press Institute (IPI) held in Lagos which I attended on behalf of my Chairman/Publisher, Alhaji Mohammed Idris, I had the privilege of meeting with Malam Kabiru, Chairman of the Media Trust Group. I told him how I missed writing for his outfit. Sentiment, I suppose. We both shared a laugh.
Before I relocated to Abuja, I had seen Trust as a case study in newspaper management. Having managed a private paper from 1988 to 1995 (long before the emergence of Trust) and the baggage of stress it came along with, I cannot but commend the resilience of the brains behind the project. To remain afloat in the turbulent storm that has pressed others into oblivion calls for celebration.
Happy 20th anniversary to the Trust family!