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Luxurious pensions and imperatives of restitution

Busuyi Mekusi

Nigerians are very familiar with the various shades of ‘excess luggage’ imposed by fashionable desires, many of which leave our women almost unrecognisable, due to body enhancement and decorations, akin to the make-belief in theatricality.
‘Make-ups’ help attain pretentions, if not ‘impersonation’, as beholders are given bouts of temporary ornamentations, which invariably lose their potency to time and inclement environment.
Similarly, cosmetic projects and policies of Nigerian politicians elapse with their tenures, even though the electorate would have been vigorously scammed. I join many other Nigerians to congratulate Ayodele Fayose, the Rock, an aspiring Prophet and President, who Akeredolu nicknamed APAGUNPOTE, on the occasion of his Diamond Jubilee. Oshoko’s introduction of streetwise water and kerosene to Ekiti politics, which culminated to ‘stomach infrastructure’, typifies how one could ‘stoop to conquer’. We look out for him, as he joins in the stoking of 2023 embers!
‘Excess luggage’ comes in different forms, as over-feeding has been canvassed as one of the reasons for obesity. Incidentally, political offices in Nigeria go with huge ‘fattening packages’. Excess weight is burdensome, and constitutes a liability because of the attached health challenges. Certain diseases are arguably intricately linked to the stress imposed by heavy body mass and burdened organs. Could one safely opine that the ‘extras’ found in make-ups, such as layered powdered face, turgid eye-latches, and painted mouth, carved in the shape of the ‘Gate to Jerusalem’, have got manipulative preponderance? The avidity for consumption notwithstanding, gluttonous living ends up with compulsory shedding, as food intake and excretion are similar to ‘garbage-in; garbage out’, which exposes the idiocy in human existence. Excess intake is relational to body absorption and excretion. Only a psychopath would feed on the excreta of a delicious food s//he ate, just to prevent loss. Do pardon my scatological rendering!
Executive positions in Nigeria go with irresponsibility of ‘ownership’, as occupiers of these offices do not just have access to fat pays but outlandish ‘perquisites of office’. Governors and their Deputies live a free-life (meals, medical, security, wardrobes, etc), because of the absorption of all their responsibilities by the State. With their placements, they have unhindered control over State coffer, and tend it the way they desire. Just as the principles of checks and balances have been diminished among the three major tiers and supervising authorities in other cases, Governors have turned Security Votes to licensing of illegality and insecurity by assuaging hoodlums and miscreants, who simultaneously, at times, get paid ransoms for the victims they kidnap.
The precarious security architecture in Nigeria amorphously stinks! Executive Office holders, like Vice Chancellors and Director Generals, have been overpriced beyond their contemporaries, leading to the engraved impunity of relational ‘others’. Severance Allowances for Vice Chancellors, Rectors, and pensions for ex-Governors and Deputies are icing on the cake of illegality and irresponsibility. The negatively-skewed structure that awards so much to this category of people leaves battered pensionable retirees to groan in pains, and die by installments, even as workers live without salaries, with their precarious living contrasting with the opulence and profligacy of the Chief Executives.
Among many other descriptions, pension has been described by Wiktionary as “an annuity paid regularly as benefit due to a retired employee, serviceman etc. in consideration of past services, originally and chiefly by a government but also by various private pension schemes”. Whereas pension is meant for tenured employment, it has been surreptitiously irresponsibly legally entrenched, through ‘rubber-stamped’ Houses of Assembly, who conferred on exiting Governors, who are often their godfathers, and Deputies, largesse as free medical care, new vehicles and houses every four years, and humongous payments for serving a State for the maximum of eight years, during which they were the Alpha and Omega of state funds. Some Chief Executives, through politically-procured circular, would not just enjoy free services in all areas, but would exit with severance allowance that is awarded, depending on how ‘generous’ the Chairman of the Governing Council is. The circumstances surrounding the reinstatement of the embattled Vice Chancellor of UNILAG, Prof. Ogundipe, exemplify the implications of a cantankerous relationship between the cat and the mouse.
In a state-owned institution in South Western Nigeria, the exiting Vice Chancellor, who was to go away with the official vehicle he used to serve the University, dubiously abandoned the Ford Edge that was his official car, when he assumed duty in 2015, and bought a Toyota 4Runner, 2018 edition, as take-away vehicle for a 2015 appointment. The same person went away with several millions of naira, when the staff of the University were not paid for months. The Pro Chancellor played along because he also got a new executive jeep which made him to keep details of the end-of-tenure package a top-secret from other Council members. It is hoped this fraudulent anomaly would be revisited, and reversed. The embattled leadership of one of the unions in the institution recently cried out about the purported imminent collapse of the school, without talking about their culpability through over-bloated staffing and other instances of mismanagement.
The nation is fraught with various negatively-skewed templates and attitudes. Within the same economy, some ‘privileged’ staff of some high-brow public institutions get paid in dollars, reminiscent of the inhumanity of the apartheid era. The over-fattened members of the political class ensure their wards are engaged in such places, on their return from their university education overseas. Some aristocratic MDAs pay mouth watering allowances that cover virtually anything; generator, diesel, refrigerator, etc., to be ahead of other workers in the public service. Yet, these people legislate on why specific sectors like education, health, etc, could not be funded due to paucity of funds. The Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) has become a crude abattoir where incongruous chunks of meat are served from the same pot.
Lagos State, as a Pacesetter in the introduction of luxurious pensions to former Governors and their Deputies, is also taking the bull by the horns to abrogate the obnoxious awards, with Sanwo-Olu hinging the decision on the need to cut cost. Clearly, the recession occasioned by the COVID-19 lockdown and the vituperations provoked by the #ENDSARS consciousness are invitations to weight-shedding and reordering. As we expect other States to, either willingly or by coercion, take a cue from Lagos State, I join Tinubu to commend Sanwo-Olu for the initiative, as I appeal to Asiwaju, and others in his shoes, to express his astute fatherliness by returning part of what he took as pensions in the past, because such slices have always impoverished the people, more so given the present eclectic volatility.
Going forward, there is the need for economic restitution, across-board, as the present economic crunch is a call for redistribution and restitution. To check incongruity, there is the need for the harmonisation of public service/civil service remunerations, even as deliberate efforts are made towards the institutionalisation of scientifically-propelled systematic processes to check ‘excess weights’, and sanction infractions. There is the need to cut the consumption of foreign products, in favour of local ones, in line with the Ogun State government projection on Adire. There must be all-round reforms, required to draw the economy and the people back from the precipice. Implicit ‘cannibalism’ must stop, as any ‘excess’ is a burden. Aristotle’s postulation is instructive, that “poverty is the parent of revolution and crime”.

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