Jumbo Pay: The Final Solution | Independent Newspapers Limited
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COLUMNIST, Omnipossibilities

Jumbo Pay: The Final Solution

Posted: Jul 3, 2015 at 2:32 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

I come forth with the proposition that the solution to the outcry and controversy over what most of us correctly perceive as the outrageous pay regime of public office holders and the crowd of aides is to abolish wages for them altogether. National service, via election or political selection, is sacrificial and ought not to be made to attract emoluments that negate that grundnorm.

When you opt to serve, or as the politicians say when their people ask them to go for public office, you don’t go to make money. You go there to be their servant, not to be tormented by their own money and sweat. You don’t go into public office to help yourself as our leaders do when they allocate to themselves egregious salaries that end up pulverizing and pauperizing the led.

We can halt that trend by stopping pay for all the categories of public officers, elected or appointed.

In the system I am proposing, all those who serve would be maintained by the state. Since no pay will accrue to them directly, all that they need for their upkeep is going to be provided by the state. The education of their children, if they still have that responsibility, should be the burden of the state. Such offspring must attend state-owned schools- primary, secondary and tertiary. The only exception is where infant education is required in non-state owned centers. At age 4, 5 or 6, they will be expected to move to government schools.

Should the kids be abroad in elite institutions or here in private ones, they must be withdrawn for schooling in public schools in Nigeria. It is stating the obvious of course to say that one huge advantage of this course of action would be that our public schools would experience a golden age of transformation. How will the President, Governor, Senator and the assembly of public office holders leave our schools the way they are if their kids, siblings, in-laws or, in a word, relatives are in such schools?

Benefit number two is that our leaders shall no longer have a gargantuan thirst for jumbo pay to satisfy the need to dole out huge school fees at home and abroad. The consequence? The nation saves money to fix creaking critical infrastructure and for helping the vast majority of the poor.

Those who serve the country in this new dispensation will not need private jets or luxury cars while they are in office. The nation provides their entire family with a car or two, chauffeur-driven, state-serviced. They must not be vehicles meant for the super class. But they must be highly functional. The feeding, clothing and accommodation of our leaders along with those of their families are all at the expense of the state. They will never lack on this score. Indeed the provision of these basic needs would be prompt and regular so that they will have no need to regret serving their fatherland. What the state offers must be Spartan but decent. Naturally, this would discourage them from developing beer belly or turn State House into a fashion center.

With regard to health care, it follows that our leaders and their families will only patronize government hospitals. There should be no frivolous medical tourism, as they call trips overseas for health issues. If it is absolutely necessary, they might resort to such travels at full state expense. But this isn’t likely in the long run because as with schools, our leaders would move with great speed to ensure the kitting of our health centers with the most advanced medical equipment, science and technology can afford. Would they want the hospitals they and their families patronize to be mere “consulting clinics” as one military dictator cheekily described them when he announced a coup that overthrew a democratically elected government? Would they want the hospitals that handle their ailments to be care-givers or grave-diggers?

I   recall that decades ago when Joseph Kennedy was grooming his children for public service in the United States, he was said to have warned that if they desired to earn public respect and to sustain the integrity of the family, and then earn themselves honour in the history books, they must give and serve and expect nothing from America. In order for his boys not to be lured into a quest for filthy lucre and corrupting influences, the Senior Kennedy set aside some good family money so they “don’t get distracted by existential considerations of making money in office… so they can get fixated on serving America…with no expectation of monetary reward…”

I think this early training explains (partly) why the Kennedy trio – President John Kennedy, Senators Bob and Ted Kennedy- excelled in public office in their days. They didn’t have to go to war, as it were, over what they took home as wages as our legislators and other public officers are doing at the moment. They didn’t rape the national treasury either.

A Senator doesn’t need wardrobe allowance of N21.5m. Nor does a Representative require N17.8m if we adopt this ultimate solution to the delivery of service by politicians or others of that class. Stephen Keshi, the National Football team coach does not also need N5m we are giving him monthly under my final solution proposal. The N3, 514,705m the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission has proposed for President Muhammadu Buhari monthly would be put to better social use if we adopt the zero salary option. These out-of-the-world figures for public officers create a succession and cycle of leeches, oppressors and parasites. Leaders are servants who give sacrificially; they don’t take selfishly.

Those who pass through the portals of this edifice of selfless service would be emptied of wealth. But I bet you history will robe them in garments of honor and glory all the cash of the world can’t secure.

In 1833, American Judge, Joseph Story said: “A new race of men is springing up to govern the nation: they are the hunters after popularity, men ambitious, not of the honour so much as of the profit of office- the demagogues, whose principles hang laxly upon them, and who follow not so much what is right as what leads to a temporary vulgar applause.”

Is that race today’s politicians in Nigeria?