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Opinion: Dressing ‘Properly’ In Wardrobe Allowance

Bukola Saraki

Oludayo Tade – Worried by the state of the Nigerian economy which has reduced many to beggars, owing to the inability of some state governors to pay salaries, dispersed views concerning the ‘propaganda’ over the amount of money being earned yearly by National Assembly members as wardrobe allowance should not therefore come as a surprise. I say propaganda because propaganda is information presented with a view to shaping public opinion in a particular direction. The visit to the Senate President Bukola Saraki, by Elias Mbam the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Allocation Commission boss led to the disclosure that members of National Assembly are entitled to 25% of their basic annual salaries as wardrobe allowance. This singular action is good for my country. It shows that we are moving closer to a period of transparency where the salaries of those in powerful positions will now be a matter of public scrutiny so that when other workers are agitating for wages we can put them at par. Good enough, we can also do a rough estimate of the basic salary of our Senators excluding other allowances such as utility, entertainment, housing and severance. Do they deserve such monies?

By what we call them, ‘distinguished senators’, ‘Honourable representatives’, they deserve treatments that befit them. To be distinguished means being conspicuous and this goes with conspicuous consumption lifestyles including clothing, housing, cars, and others markers of class identity that set them apart from us. Being ‘Honourable’ is possessing or characterized by high principles which can make you to be bestowed with honour. Thus to the RMAFC boss, such monies have been made available to people who have ‘distinguished themselves to be able to dress properly with N42, 216 monthly’ after contesting to represent the interests of the poor in Abuja. Conceived this way, the money is too little compared to what these people spend on clothing monthly. Even the ordinary masses pick expensive ‘Aso-ebi’ ranging from N15, 000 to N50,000 monthly. Thus, the discourse should not be premised on the wardrobe allowance but how to ensure that there is equality in the reward system of Nigeria and destroy its architecture of corruption.

I do not have problems with what the senators earn for dressing ‘properly’ but I frown at the lack of empathy in the governance of the country which has consistently downplayed the concerns of the majority. How many people working in Nigeria get paid to dress ‘properly’? if at all, at what level do they get such? Worse still, we are where we are because of these ‘public milking officers’ who piloted the economic strangulation of the country, changed camps to another promising political party at the twilight of the last administration and are still the current handlers. Unfortunately, when the carrot of change was thrown at Nigerians, it was chewed. Did we ask why those Senators of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 7th Assembly failed to disclose the salary and allowances they earned? NO. None of them was bold enough to declare it but they pleaded with workers agitating for N18, 000 minimum wage (poverty wage) to consider the state of the economy! What a callous leadership.

Despite the above, I believe we are on our way to entrenching transparency in the governance so that people can be committed to nation building. To me, it is not the fault of the current National Assembly members that they got such provisions; it is our non-challant attitude to the way we are governed. We should be more concerned with issues concerning monetary allocation and get them properly debated before they get smuggled into an Act. Worse still, we are blessed with a docile Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) which is almost becoming an appendage of government. NLC sits back until workers groan before they embark on face-saving (usually money making) strike which they usually call-off or is it suspend unceremoniously.

We have also seen and heard of how some of National Assembly members are aversed to reduction in their salaries. I can feel the pains of these senators. They have spent more than forty million to get to Abuja where they hope to recoup their investments. To them, reduction therefore should not come at this point in time. We must design lawmaking to attract less incentive. We need people’s brains not their dressing to formulate laws that will have bearing on our lives. How many of these people with their ‘proper dressing’ were caught up in several scandals in the 7th Assembly? RMAFC should go ahead and give Nigerians the dress code for National Assembly members to clarify its definition of ‘dressing properly’ and how that translates to productivity.

Dressing properly without any tangible contribution indicates shallowness in the body structure. We need to begin to evaluate the contributions those at the national assembly make to deserve any further payments. Under this dispensation, attendance at proceedings must be taken seriously and contributions rated. A British essayist once noted that those who make their dress a principal part of themselves will, in general become of no more value than their dress. Those who stress the importance of dressing properly like the RMAFC boss, quickly forget that one can dress carelessly but keep a very tidy soul. While we await the publication of full salaries and allowances of the National assembly members (and by extension other political appointees at state and local government levels) as promised, the conspicuous lifestyle of our leadership is causing strains leading to distrust and lack of commitment, extortion, misappropriation, corruption, and kidnapping.

Dr Tade, a sociologist sent this piece from Ibadan via dotad2003@yahoo.com


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