Former presidential aspirant, Dr. Thomas-Wilson Ikubese has said that Nigeria should scrap the bogus allowances and huge salaries which political and legislative office holders in the country earn if the citizens want to achieve a better Nigeria of their dreams. He said this is necessary if Nigeria must curb corruption, bad governance and the wrong persons winning political positions to direct the affairs of the country.
According to him, the bogus salaries as well as allowances which political office holders earn are what make it lucrative to even people who lack the capacity and competence to lead Nigerians to economic growth. Therefore, making the offices less lucrative will help curb the issues of corruption and maladministration.
The YesWeFit convener gave the statement in a lecture he delivered at the 2022 Anniversary Lecture and Grassroots Media award of the Association of Independent Newspaper Publishers of Nigeria on the 27th of September, 2022.
In his lecture, Ikubese also enjoined the media to verify every news report and ensure that what is reported is accurate and authentic. He said fake news has become common among some media platform and that such development puts a dent on the journalism profession.
While recommending further ways to clean up the Nigerian polity which has been replete with corruptions, bad governance, insecurity and other vices, the former presidential aspirant recommended that every political office holders in Nigeria must use made-in-Nigerian products and services. He also advocated that Nigeria adopt a regional system of government and the autonomy of states to control their resources.
Additionally, Dr Ikubese also recommended that all corrupt politicians be prosecuted in a transparent manner and jailed if found guilty to serve as deterrent to others.
The text of the lecture reads thus:
“Nigeria returned to democratic governance in 1999, after the military terminated the democratically elected government of President Shehu Shagari through a coup in 1983.
Regular conduct of free, fair, and credible elections, in which people can vote to choose their leaders, is a major indicator of a democracy.
The 2023 general elections scheduled for February/March 2023 will be the 7th since the country returned to democratic governance 23 years ago. This is the longest period of democratic governance in the history of Nigeria, which calls for celebrations!
However, while there have been reasons to celebrate, there are also challenges which the country must deal with as it continues its journey towards deepening democracy. For example, the influence of religion and ethnic identities in politics, the cost of politics, among others.
Nigeria is a multicultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious country which operates a federal style structure and a presidential system of government as provided for in the constitution.
For the first time in 23 years, Nigeria appears to be doing away with the rotational principle as the three leading parties in the 2023 presidential election have candidates from the three major ethnic groups. While the ruling All Progressives Congress presented Senator Bola Ahmed TInubu, a Yoruba man, the Peoples Democratic Party and Labour Party presented Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Mr Peter Obi, a Hausa and an Igbo man respectively.
The observed recent rush by young Nigerians, and other usually excluded groups, to register as voters and collect their permanent voters’ card is a positive signal. Out of Nigeria’s estimated population of over 200 million people, people with disabilities are approximately 25 million, youths constitute more than 60% of the entire population, while women constitute 50% of the population. Statistics made available by the Election Commission (INEC) indicates that Nigeria currently has slightly over 84 million registered voters. With the current energy with which Nigerians, particularly young people, discuss the 2023 elections, it is hopeful that more voters than the 34.75% recorded during the 2019 general elections will turn out to exercise their rights.
COMMENDABLE STEPS TAKEN BY INEC THUS FAR:
The Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu has severally stated that votes will count and will be the sole determinant of electoral outcome. For this reason, the Commission has introduced many new innovations, supported by the deployment of appropriate technology, to protect the sanctity of the choice made by Nigerians at the polls ranging from voter registration to voter accreditation and result management.
Two of such innovations worthy of note are:
1. BVAS: The deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) with its dual fingerprint and facial biometric accreditation process which has ensured that only genuine voters are accredited to vote during election. This has curtailed the incidence of multiple voting and other sharp practices associated with voter accreditation during elections.
2. IReV: The introduction of the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) Portal has made the result management procedure more transparent. Polling Unit results are now uploaded in real-time to the IReV portal for public view. This has enhanced the transparency, credibility and consequently public confidence in the outcome of elections. According to the INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu the IReV has come to stay and polling unit results will be uploaded to the portal in real-time in the 2023 General Election.
AN APPEAL TO THE ASSOCIATION OF INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER PUBLISHERS OF NIGERIA
Your Association has a very crucial role to play in the coming 2023 elections. While members of the society rely on you for updates in the political space, you must ensure that your contents are verified, devoid of emotions and falsehood.
Fake news is a threat to national security. I therefore enjoin your members in this season to authenticate political news item before going ahead to publish them in the interest of our dear nation.
1. Instead of conducting the presidential and National Assembly election in one day, INEC should consider doing so over a one-week period. This will prevent the total shutdown of the economy as being presently done and ensure that many more people turn out to cast their votes, as against the 35% of registered voters which turned out in the last presidential election.
2. INEC, as the plaintiff, should ensure that persons arrested for electoral offenses be arraigned and prosecuted in line with the provisions of the national electoral act.
3. Nigerians should cast their votes for the most credible candidates with character, competence and capacity to deliver and not on the basis of tribe, monetary inducements, expectations of political appointment/patronage or religion.
LOOKING BEYOND 2023 FOR A BETTER NIGERIA
Over the years, Nigerians have had to vote leaders with all manners of promises and wild expectations, many of which are dashed soon after the winners assume office, leading to apathy and frustration.
If we will live to see the Nigeria of our dream, the incoming Executive and National Assembly must work together to make political offices less attractive by adopting the following positions:
(A) Legislating that political office holders should earn remunerations within the scope of federal civil servant, scrapping off all the bogus allowances.
(B) Collapsing the Senate and House of Representatives into a single part-time organ, where members earn modest sitting allowances only
(C) Each organ of government publishing the statements of account, reflecting income and expenditure monthly, made available in the public space.
(D) Establishing Special Anticorruption Courts where cases of corruption are tried and judgement obtained within six months, devoid of frivolous adjournments.
(E) Adopting life imprisonment without an option of fine as the penalty for public officers who are found guilty of embezzling public funds by the courts.
(F) Making provision for states to control their resources and paying royalty to the Federal Government.
(G) Making provision for Regional Government, wherein responsibilities are shared between it and the Federal Government, ranging from security to economy.
(H) Demonetizing party primaries by pegging the cost of nomination forms at a rate affordable to average Nigerians and making direct primaries mandatory.
(I) Every political office holders must use Made in Nigeria cars as their official vehicles, visit Nigerian hospitals for their healthcare and have their children school in Nigeria.
These postulations are some of the items in my manifesto when I contested for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2019.
Truth is, if we will live to see a functional nation, we must take the bull by the horn, get hard on ourselves and adopt these recommendations, lest we continue to move in the cycle of corruption where political office holders see politics as Nigeria’s biggest industry, where you are assured of immeasurable financial returns through the back door!