An old proverb said “what you are speak so loud. I can’t hear what you say”. Self service is the political orthodoxy in Bayelsa State and Nigeria in general. The Law maker’s life pension bill contravenes section 124 (5), of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended. The bill is a beggar-the-neighbour policy intent, that cannot stand the test of Legality or Law. It evidence a mindset of self seekingness. Our Law makers are feeling self-important. They believe, politics is an investment, not a means to the service of their constituents.
Terry Tempest William said “the eyes of the future are looking at us, and they are praying for us to see beyond our time”. Rt. Hon. Kombowei Benson and his gang of Law-makers are strategic self thinkers. It is their desire to placing Bayelsa State on receivership for political shylocks. Leadership is an attitude, not a method or technique. A society generally cannot produce Leaders better than itself. But true Leaders possess the Leadership attitude for self cultivation and self correction. Law makers are not elected to make laws for their selfish interest. The members of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly have no conscience. GayLord Nelson said “the ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations; Whose words of thank will not be heard”.
Law making is a public trust. It is not for self aggradisement. Joseph de maistre underscored the fact that people get the Leaders they deserve. The people of Bayelsa State, had been very tolerant of the Legislative recklessness of the members of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly. The public had become hawk-eyed to legislative excesses. The “rogue” bill now in issue, did not pass through legal legislative processes. The bill was hurried through within 45 minutes and passed into law in inordinate haste. There were no first, second, and third readings of the bill.
There is moral melt down in our political space. This is a sobering reality that the Bayelsa State Law maker’s life pension bill had revealed. The moral shadow in the bill is that politicians are no longer contented with paying themselves jumbo severance allowance. They had chosen to make politics pensionable and making a beeline for it. They are securing their jobless future. There must be life after politics. Legacies should speak for our politicians, not self-help. Peter Druker said “to make a living is not enough work has to make a life”. People will be creative as the structure allows them to be. Development is a process, not an event. It must be policy driven. The Law makers have the realization that, they are not reform minded legislators. So, they are making a shortcut for their survival after politics.
Evidently, there is no plan for rural development through industrialization. Rural credits had not been mobilized through co-operatives or indigenous saving clubs in the State. Politics is a patron-client cluster of political opportunists. The Law makers had developed clientelistic mode of behavior. As-a-result, they cannot invest profitably in a market driven economic system. This is the dilemma of our political class and the misguided necessity for life time pension. They have stolen from the state and lack the ability to give back to the state through profitable business investment. You can be rest assured that, our political class are not be paying tax to the state.
Every decision we make add a sentence to our lives. Rt.Hon. Kombowei Benson, Hon. Peter Akpe and other members of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly would be remembered for their infamous law maker’s lifetime pension bill. They are self-absorbed and operating with misplaced legislative realities. The bill is a situated void, as the Governor of Bayelsa State had declined assent to it. The Executive and Legislative arms of Government, are cost points and centers. There should be no populist pretension about the Governor’s refusal to assent the now ill-fated bill. The Executive and the Legislative arms in the State, should examine themselves for cost effective governance.
The reward of pensioners in Bayelsa State cannot be in heaven. They deserve to be paid their gratuities that had been hanging in the balance since 2012. Leaders without moral force, value their privileges over and above their principles. These are not qualities for genuine Leadership. Heraclitus –a Greek philosopher said, “A man’s character is his fate”. Reputation is our public image. It is what people think about us. Character is the truth about who we are. Governments will come and go. Bayelsa state would always remain. Those holding public trust must have a sense of history.
Great States are found on the productive ingenuity of godly leaders, who seek a better life as the common good of all. Amy Carmichael said, “Those who think too much of themselves, don’t think enough”. Our law makers, seeking lifetime pension, are using politics as investment for self service. Abraham Lincoln said, “if you want to test a man’s character, give him power”. Our “talk na do” Legislators and their godfather(s) would be inducted into the hall of infamy. Governance is not gratis dictum (rulership by mere assertion).
“Restoration” as political slogan, is not a rhetoric for good governance. Restoration can only be a mission statement, and not a vision for governance. A mission statement is what a government hope to achieve. Vision is the plan of action, for the actualization of the mission statement. “Talk na do” politics, personalizes governance. Government is about policy formulation and execution. Bayelsa State Government have no pension policy. So, pensioners who had served the State for 35 meritorious years, are treated with throw-away orientation by the political class. The question now at issue is: who will pay the backlog of arrears of gratuities in the State?
In conclusion, it is lousy economics to imposing more pension burden on the state, that had failed to pay its legitimate pensioners since 2012. Pensioners who protested to Government House Yenagoa for non-payment of their gratuities, were beaten up by “sent” thugs in the full glare of security men at the Government House gate. Pension is a social problem in Nigeria, and Bayelsa State in particular. Politicians with devalued characteristics cannot solve social problems. They would rather add to the problem. This is what the “rogue” Lawmakers lifetime pension bill suggest.
Had Bayelsans been restored to prosperity or poverty? The answer is blowing in the wind. Politicians with dictatorial tendencies must beware of “people’s power” which is a sword, unpopular regimes cannot duck for too long. Folding our arms in resignation is not the ideal solution to leadership failure. Walter Rodney, Guyanese historian said “Human spirit has a remarkable capacity of rising above oppression”. Bayelsans must free themselves from the “prison” of government by propaganda or media hype. The Bayelsa State House of Assembly is a “rubber stamp” or better still, a parastatal of Government House Yenagoa. It has no oversight capacities. The members of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, are earning their emoluments and allowances under false pretense. They are not the voice of their constituents; but that of their godfather(s).
The Bayelsa State Life Pension Bill, should be seen as a wakeup call for Bayelsans, to resist self-service by elected public officials.
Forcebray I. Inegha
Writer/Public Affairs Analyst.