Why NASS members should cut down salaries by 50-70% – Okorocha

Rochas Okorocha is a former governor of Imo state and the senator representing Imo West currently in the Senate. In this interview, he speaks on the implications of the recent ENDSARS protest, what the government at all levels should do and why the National Assembly should cut their salaries by 50-70 percent. BODE OLAGOKE, reports.

How would you react to the recent #EndSARS protest? 
I am sad over the ugly situation we found ourselves as a nation within the past few days arising from the #EndSARS protest which has culminated into violence anarchy and civil unrest with many people losing their lives.
Yes, I know that this is not the time to apportion blames or claim who is right or wrong because there must never be a victor or vanquished in this battle. We must give peace a chance and allow the nation that the entire Africa depends on to thrive in peace.
What started a few days ago as a peaceful protest has escalated into losing many souls and burning properties with people living in fear. This situation is very unfortunate and highly regrettable. I want to sympathise with those that have lost their loved ones due to the protests.

To you as a politician, what does it protest mean?

I want to say that this is a wakeup call by the youths of this country to the leaders of this nation. It is a pointer that we the elite have been selfish in handling the affairs of this country. There has been a track record of unfair leadership for a long time.
The #EndSARS protest is not just targeted at police but a disappointment over economic issues in a nation where we have joblessness and poverty for the youths. While commending President Buhari for the actions taken so far, especially in reassuring the youths of meeting up their demands, we must also act quickly under this present situation to prepare for the future.

What is your advice for the leaders at all levels? 

Today, we have millions of out of school children in the country, it is another time bomb for tomorrow. While the situation is getting under control, governments and leaders must rise to their responsibilities to ensure that such future occurrences do not happen again.
Yes, it was anchored #endSARS, the Nigerian youths are not against the police but against a certain segment of the police formation. So, killing innocent policemen/women and military personnel is really uncalled for. The social media have not helped matters in this period especially when people are posting old pictures and making them look like current ones with people believing in it and acting otherwise.
If we must protect this nation, then we must be wary of the dangers social media portray us. I want to appeal to Mr President that as a father, he should ensure that we treat the protesters as our children. They have no other nation to call theirs.

Going forward what do you think should be done? 

We must take some steps towards showing understanding over what has happened. However, I call on all political, religious leaders irrespective of affiliations to rise up to condemn is condemnable and call for peace in every part of the country.
I also call on those beating the drums of war to desist because doing so will amount to an ill wind that will blow anybody in this country any good. The Coronavirus taught us a lesson that we have to make this nation great and better because there is no other nation to run to and be treated like your own country.
I pray for peace and for the youths to show understanding. Those that genuinely protested don’t mean evil to watch the country degenerate into an anarchy or civil unrest. We cannot afford to divide or destroy this country now not in our time and generation.

On your part as a Senator what sacrifice should Nigerians expect from the National Assembly? 

As I speak to you as a senator, I have not received a dime as salary since I became a senator. The point I want to make is that if you look at the allowances given to the senators and break it down for accommodation, transportation among others, it is definitely not out of place. You cannot bring somebody as a senator and expect him to be a pauper who cannot afford a decent meal.I don’t know how much information Nigerians get leading to the conclusion that senators receive so much. How much is a house in Abuja in a year befitting of a senator. I have proposed that if we cannot carry the welfare of senators, we should make laws and cut it down. I had suggested one senator and three House of Representatives per state, but nobody listened to me. How do you justify bringing in a senator without a car or okada to ride.

So, what are you proposing in practical terms? 

The situation now calls for national sacrifice from the leadership. Even if we are going to turn the senators to live in hostels, let everybody cut down 50 to 70 percent of his or her income so that the youths will also have a sense of belonging that the leaders are making.The truth is that our lifestyle provokes the youths. We must call on leaders, the legislatures and executives, to change our lifestyle as a mark of sacrifice. It is not necessarily because they are comfortable with what they get. And even when they get, they have thousands of people that supported them in addition to the extended family system in Africa.There are in-laws, friends, classmates, political associates and at the end of the day, the Federal House members end up in penury. However, I strongly advocate that the legislatures and executives must make sacrifices from their salaries and allowances as a way of ameliorating the situation the youths are facing.

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