Not a few Nigerians raised the alarm at the discovery that a whopping sum of N400m was budgeted for the purchase of vehicles for the nation’s former heads of government and their deputies in 2017. This came just a few weeks after the Edo State House of Assembly approved a severance package of over N300m for the immediate past governor of the state, Adams Oshiomhole, and his deputy which was also considered to be outrageous by Nigerians.
Apart from the fact that N400m is quite a huge amount of money, the average Nigerian cannot help but wonder how the government believes that adding to the already exotic fleet of cars of our ex-heads of state should be its next priority given the prevailing economic recession in the country.
This is also coming at a time when the Federal Government seems to be showing applying austerity measures on Nigerians. With slashes in salaries, hunting of “ghost” workers and investigations of former top government officials, the government wants to be taken seriously. However, its body language sometimes seems to speak otherwise, one of which is the planned purchase of these vehicles.
Nigerians are understandably angry by the decision to purchase these vehicles for the ex-presidents for a number of reasons: first, the vehicles would be purchased for former heads of state, some of whom have been accused by this same government of having destroyed the economy and left the country almost bankrupt. What else is the definition of double standards? Second, this is coming about a year after the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, was arrested for allegedly squandering money meant for the procurement of arms to fight insurgency. The former NSA allegedly bought bulletproof cars worth $300,000 for some of these ex-heads of state. Not long after, these same former leaders are to get replacement for their recently acquired cars.
Third and sadly enough, Nigeria does not produce any of these vehicles to be purchased and neither does it produce their parts. Not even the tiniest bolt. Yet, we are asked to “Buy Naija to grow the naira”.
The government even if it wants to protect the interest of the ruling class could at least be sensitive to the cry of Nigerians who are facing tougher economic times or could have even decided to patronise Made in Nigeria or locally assembled vehicles which could save the jobs of some Nigerians who are working in the assembly plants. Worse still, importing cars has been made tougher for the ordinary Nigerian businessman.
But then, the present government is not entirely to blame. Nigerians share a part of this blame. According to Nigerian laws, our leaders are entitled to three cars that would be changed every four years, paid medical treatment which is to be undertaken “overseas”, and are entitled to 30 days paid vacation in any part of the world. Being a Nigerian leader is probably one of the most lucrative jobs in the world. We watch as our country is messed up by our leaders and afterwards pay them for leaving the country worse than they met it. Yet, we can’t find our voice to challenge these unjust laws.
Now rather than reject these vehicles since they already have exotic cars in their fleet, our ex-leaders who always sound like they mean well for the country and go about giving speeches or writing books on how to make the country better would quietly accept them and add them to a long list of carbon emitting and environment polluting instruments.
Borrowing a line from public commentator, Japheth Omojuwa, “Nigeria has a long way to go, the problem is we haven’t even started the journey yet. One of the steps we can take in starting this journey is a major change in our system and laws. Hopefully, we would find solutions to our problems.”
- Sarat Temitayo Alabidun is a graduate of Applied Chemistry, Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto