In a Washington Post article by Colby Itkowitz of May 7, 2014, the matter of buying luxury vehicles for old and new House members, whether liberals or conservatives, was critically appraised. The writer described the plethora of accents given to the discussion about the budgetary allocation for member’s car finance in such simply vivid but not livid words as “Having your car bills paid is the great unifier.”
The average cost of maintenance being paid on House members’ cars by U.S. taxpayers was stated as $589 monthly, while the highest expense was put at $1318.97, which was spent by Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas).
It is not out of place that the Nigerian masses are again, as usual, fired up on the subject of House member’s car allowances. Let me put it mildly; that is how the cookies crumble where our democratic system was borrowed and copied from. Ordinarily, I would have ignored the discourse altogether, assuming that it is topical for lack of other matters to occupy the media. However, the vox populi has stirred my response, and I need not say that our people are pretentious and unfair in their recommendations of what their House members should or shouldn’t drive.
At the managerial cadre of most organizations in Nigeria, even when they are SMEs, a car is given to the manager and the cost of running it is attached to the office. These cars are referred to as official cars and one of the goals of such cars is not merely operational efficiency but also image laundering. It is ditto for ministries, agencies, and parastatals.
Hilux and black jeeps are common sight with government officials who are far below House members in the federal hierarchy. We do not seem to flinch when our wives, husbands, families, and friends who work for the government get these budgetary provisions. But at the slightest mention of senators or Reps, rapt attention is devoted and we develop goose pimples or standing hairs.
Can it be the case that we hate the government so much we desire that its proper functioning is impeded by presenting them broken stools as seats? Knowing full well that at the heart of effective governance is effective law-making, I deem it unfair that our lawmakers are constantly sent to the oral gulag and made to feel guilty for the same things we enjoy.
The allotment of cars to House members enables them operational efficiency and provides them with optimal security features when in transit. We all remember the encounter of a cleric with very sophisticated robbers. The bullet-proof car he rode in was his saving grace that day, or he would have been doomed.
The spate of insecurity in the nation was not caused by the House members and they should not be made to face winter unclad. The cars in question are beyond luxury; they offer political stability to the country at large.
If these important engine-room members of communication between constituencies and the executive are offered epileptic tools, such that their lives are easily lost in an attack while doing the much-needed travel within the country and workplace, then, expensive re-elections will be conducted and the political space will become once again enflamed, taking us back to the days when politics was like robbery. You never know when you go on your last mission.
Whatever you want to see flourish, you nourish.
The Nigerian police and its relative ineffectiveness as popularly adjudged by the masses, is so, no thanks to sponsorship whilst the Nigerian Army is capacious, attentive to duty, and well-respected.
We directly sponsor our pastors via our tithes and offerings, in little time of starting a ministry, we all know the degree of sophistication of the cars that make it into the convoy of men who are already specially protected by God on whose errand they run, yet, they do not undermine the role of physical security in the very few travels they make.
When an average Nigerian can afford an SUV, they do not hesitate to do so, and the state of the roads is usually called as a ready witness to the unintentional demand for such vehicles. Why then do we argue against the same for our House members especially this 10th National Assembly, which will be a veritable tool of execution of duty for our president who hasn’t minced words in his just concluded three-day meeting with his ministers, to tell them in a nutshell that ‘Baba Means Business (BMB)’ and to hold them accountable or disposed in the dispensation of their duties?
I am an ardent fan of Made in Nigeria goods knowing full well that locally produced and consumed goods increase demand for local currency, thus giving it use and value. However, it is important not to be so caught up in the euphoria of what is beautiful that we leave definitions of Made in Nigeria to waste. Innoson cars are coupled in Nigeria. Every part that goes into the car is gotten from overseas by swapping the naira for the dollar, which means that as the demand for such cars increases, the demand by the company to exchange naira for dollars to either supply or take inventory increases. As such, this is a cosmetic approach to strengthening local currencies, but it is the right step if and only if the vision of the company is to develop manufacturing capacity in the long run.
Nigerians are known to be generally wary of locally unpopular car brands, no matter how affordable they are, for one reason; the relative scarcity of skilled technicians to address faults and restore proper functioning when such machines require attention. A car, especially for a government official who may be holding meetings up until as late as 3 a.m., must first be reliable, and then secure. Other features can follow in that order. The government indeed owes a duty of care to the people, and it is also not untrue that the people owe the duty of sponsorship to the government.
Allow me to conclude this piece with the biblical injunction referred to as the GOLDEN RULE. It states, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets”. May the Lord help us to be doers of his words.
Credit: The Nations