Jumbo pay: Emeka Anyaoku’s ‘atomic bomb’


Chief Emeka Anyaoku

IT was President Barack Obama of the United states of America, who in his usual profound sense of oratory and appreciation of humanity and governance, stated in Ghana, in 1999 that: “History is not just made because we are powerful, financially rich and brute but for the change we bring to the well being of our community and society at large.

We don’t need powerful individuals but powerful institutions’’. On the eve of the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari, a gala night was organised in his honour by the then outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan at the State House, Abuja.

Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the experienced former Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations, was at his best. All the words in his speech were stylishly pronounced.

He was very audible. He eulogised to the extreme, the former President for that singular show of sportsmanship and love for his country, by congratulating his opponent, even before the result was announced. He also profusely congratulated President Buhari for his election and his tenacity in trying repeatedly over the years, to be President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, until success smiled at him.

Then Anyoku spoke glowingly about Nigeria, his land of birth, on her many achievements and myriad of challenges. He delivered his words diplomatically but with every punch he could muster.

He spoke about the new mantra – corruption – at every facet of our political life and how the world sees Nigeria. He talked about his country where power is a big headache.

He told the world that even at that, Nigeria ‘prides’ herself as having the highest paid lawmakers in the world. And that means that the Nigerian lawmaker earns more than his counterpart in the United States, China, Britain, Japan, Canada et al? In these countries, their light will hardly blink. In these countries, monthly statistical information about number of jobs created is a serious campaign issue.

You hear about ‘Obamanomics’, ‘Romnomics’. We will soon hear about ‘Clintonomics’ and ‘Bushnomics’ towards 2016 polls in the United States. Serious debates as to how best to better the lot of the common man are commonplace.

So what is special about Nigeria and her lawmakers? Do Nigerian lawmakers hold their plenaries in the moon? When Anyoku dropped his ‘bomb,’ I saw our leaders turning their heads left and right, and talking to themselves. They seemed to be saying, “This is not the place and time for this kind of comments, and whoever recommended that Anyaoku should give the keynote address this evening, did a bad job. He must be mischievous.’’

Surely, it was a hit at their conscience. It was a hit at their innermost recesses. They were visibly embarrassed. But there are some lawmakers with good conscience who will be willing to support President Buhari if he summons the political courage to address this outrageous package for the National Assembly (NASS) people.

These selfless ones must be worried about the quantum of the nation’s resources they cart away in the name of salaries and allowances in a country, where millions of young graduates roam the streets, clutching their A4 envelopes and files containing their credentials and searching for non-available jobs; where state governments are unable to pay salaries and some very proud to say they are owing just for few months; where for eight years the road connecting my great community in a capital territory, to the state capital, a distance of less than five kilometres, remains perpetually under construction and laneless to date; where getting electricity remains a luxury; where three square meals remain a mirage for many Nigerians; And where fuel scarcity in a land of plenty of oil bites relentlessly.

But that is about good conscience and those who have it. That is about selflessness. That is about service to one’s country. That is a fine attitude towards this journey of life and its transience – driven by a good sense of humanity.

But it does appear that in our country, good conscience is rare among politicians. They think more about themselves. They think about being “powerful individuals’’ and not about having “powerful institutions’’, to borrow Obama’s words.

And that is why some are ready to do just anything to get to that height – including visiting Okija Shrine in Anambra State. Politics is business, some have said. And so election is war.

Some kill. Some maim. Excess here and nothing at all there. And they don’t care a hoot about that. What to do? When one reads that the salary and allowances of the average senator are N240m and that of his counterpart in the House of Representatives is N204m, the heart bleeds.

For doing what? For inventing what? When did law-making become rocket science? And even if it is, so what? Believe you me, there are more than 10 million Nigerians, to be modest, who can do that job.

And that is for a fact. Nigeria has great talents, great scholars and great minds who can do that job for a third of that sum. And we are all complacent? We are all watching and complaining in the comfort of our homes that the nation’s source of income has plummeted?

We are all watching and crying to high heavens that oil price has dropped and still dropping dreadfully and worrisomely?

Why must we watch helplessly, as senior citizens who have served this nation in their prime, cry out for their monthly peanuts in the name of pension? In some climes, the uncompromised human right activists, the labour unions, the religious and public-spirited individuals will speak out and even lead peaceful demonstrations to send a message to the NASS people that this is unacceptable.

President Buhari has an opportunity to make history in this regard. He should not be scared of stepping on seemingly powerful toes. Buhari remaining in office does not necessarily reside in the NASS. His fate is in the hands of Nigerians who elected him. That also applies to the lawmakers themselves.

Buhari is rendered almost impotent because he has fast-dwindling source of funds to operate with. And yet the Naira is flying in the air, everywhere in the National Assembly.

The President, should as a matter of serious national interest, employ all known political and administrative wizardry to save some money from the jumbo pay of the NASS members.

He must continue to ‘belong to everybody’ and ‘belong to nobody’’, to use his lines. He must appeal to them to imbibe the sense of sacrifice. Anyaoku has passed the ball to him. Buhari has an open net before him. His is to score the goal. And now, is the time. Nigeria needs powerful institutions. Not powerful individuals. •Asianah wrote from Port Harcourt.

  • Fenuyi Abraham Yayi

    Whenever the price of fuel is increased labour unions and activists will call Nigerians out to protest and down tools. I expect same action to erupt now!
    We are all seating on kegs of gun powder abi na vessel of I.E.D boooom, and one day we’ll wake up in a bloody revolution.

  • Izeobor

    I have said this before, let the legislative business in this obodo Nigeria be on volunteer basis. Let it be as the NYSC. No salary should be attached to the legislative houses but subsistence allowances. This will attract fresh graduates and discourage the do – or – die attitude of the present money – bags and muderers we have as legislators. The present legislators we have in this country belong to ‘Jankara’, ‘Dugbe’, ‘Ochanja’, ‘Ogbete’, ‘Ekeoha’, and the likes. Let the revolution start with protest from every rank and file of able-bodied Nigerians to enshrine in the constitution non-salaried legislatures throughout the country.

    • amador kester

      Voluntary or part time legislators? Cutting down the cost of governance? anti corruption strategies? I can take several mental notes of isolated suggestions in these forum..And that takes us to the next chapter whether we cherish the truth or no: national conference! It must come sooner or later

  • emmanuel kalu

    two things happens with election. you vote the person you want in, then the next step is to compel and support them do what it is you voted for. now is not the time to rest. yes we voted buhari for change, now we must give him the support, we must give him the backing. the best thing to happen to nigeria is the fall of oil price, because there is now less to loot. we must begin with closing all leaskage and waste. we must start closing the avenue for corruption.

  • Dzy

    I have said this a lot of times, as Nigerians are busy hating and abusing their brothers and sisters from other tribes, while our collective enemies are our political class. We need to come together and hold them accountable.


    That’s a great piece!The kinds of fight that took place in Benue State House of Assembly yesterday and in the House of Representatives today were all about who gets more of the jumbo pay than others.President Buhari needs the support of the Nigerian public to carry out what is now an urgent but unpleasant duty of drastically slashing the outrageous pay of our law makers.I hope he gets that support.

  • Curseless

    That is vintage Anyaoku for you. He is one of the few statesmen left in Nigeria. and I say more power to you sir !

  • tosin nwafor

    Well written. Everyone has written and complained about the jumbo pay but no PROPOSED TEMPLATE for a new pay structure. In a situation where the lawmakers are the judge and jury in appropriating their own salaries, who will compel them to review it downward? and do we trust these boxing ring champions to be selfless and empathise with Nigerians? I don’t

    These are my thoughts on a template. I propose that their salaries and emoluments should be a DIRECT PROPORTION TO THE HIGHEST PAID CIVIL SERVANT IN FEDERAL ESTABLISHMENTS. And I don’t mean parastatals like the DPR or any of those special establishments. I mean our critical sectors like education, works and power. So if the highest paid civil servant is a level 17 director or a permanent secretary I propose that our senators and law makers earn three times their salary. And the same should apply for all allowances. newspaper, car, wardrobe, even shoe sef. But what do I know, I’m just an ordinary citizen.

  • Kehinde

    Great write up. It’s only sad PMB’s body language appears to be in the contrary.

  • Kayode Mathews Arowolo

    Reading this piece, a recurring question in my mind was – how did the salaries and allowances of our lawmakers (even at the state level) get to the ‘jumbo’ level over the past years without successive governments and the labour unions raising any questions? It is highly unpatriotic for the lawmakers to determine their own pay.

    I am very interested in the outcome of the various committees set up by the NASS to review the salaries and allowances of the lawmakers.

  • BarBeachBoy

    The entire concept of “constituency funds” serves to reinforce the concept of “the African Big Man” and so all these quests to “reform it” are a waste of time.

    Worse still is that since 1999 – well on its way to 20 years – not a single requirement for an accounting of said funds by a chartered accounting firm has even been discussed!

    Why in our province “Home Rule” and the very end to “upside down” Nigeria, with its mind numbingly stupid schemes and intrigues to continue colonial practice seems increasingly attractive; think about the narrative: you steal my resources, sell them back to me at exorbitant rates then you tell me in the end that I owe you money; then you allege that the theft was a long time ago so get over it! Does this make any sense?

  • Jim Davies

    I was briefly acquainted with Emeka Anyaoku in 1959 in London, I believe, and would like to hear from him. I can be reached via http://takelifeback.com/contact.htm . We may no longer have much in common, but it would be fun to connect again.