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Friday, May 15, 2015

On Rookie Senator Ben Murray-Bruce and his Many Critics


Ben Murray-Bruce


This is an opinion piece sent to me by an online friend with the pen name Daisy, I hope you find it as interesting as I have. You can also send guests posts to me via olatuson@gmail.com. It might get published if I like it enough...

Beside the untainted whitish complexion cum dapper Look which can fool any non-discerning individual and pass him off as a Caucasian, the name of the media czar reminds one of the famous American actor, Bruce Willis that raved in the nineties. Interestingly, this Bayelsa indigene, Ben Murray-Bruce has been in the news lately for different reasons. Since his clinching of the prestigious nay much-coveted seat in the senate, tweeting about our political scenery has become one of his favourite hobbies. The problem is not in the rate of churning out his salvos but the controversy it has generated among Nigerians.

The heckling nature of an average Nigerian is a well-known fact but I think they should let him take the mantle before condemning him. I mean give him the benefit of doubt.

The first comment accredited to the debonair businessman turned politician was his clamor for a slash in the salaries of our higher chamber representatives. Any well-meaning Nigerian will agree that this is a call long overdue. Shouldn’t we be jubilant that an in-house personality is willing to further this cause for us? Alas! My people reason differently …“where has he been all this while?”, “Na lie, he is seeking cheap publicity”, “let him go sit down, we know their ilk”are examples of reactions that greeted this suggestion.

It seems preposterous to read such a response to a proposed solution to a problem Nigerians have whined about for years to no avail. The obscene pay of legislators exemplifies the leadership class' insensitivity to the plight of Nigerians.

According to the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) the body in charge of determining the pay of political office holders in Nigeria, a Senator gets a total salary plus regular allowances of N12,766,320 per annum. This is outside of other allowances, which are paid annually or once in four years and when applicable, are: Accommodation N4, 052,800.00, which is paid annually; furniture allowance N6, 079,200.00 which is paid once in four years. Also, there is Duty Tour Allowance, DTA (per night), which is N37,000. Estacode (per night) is $950. Recess allowance is N202,640.00 and severance gratuity, paid after a successful completion of tenure, is N6,079,200.00. A Senator could also apply for a car loan of N8, 105,600.00 which must be repaid before the expiration of his tenure.

A House of Representatives member gets N9, 529,038.06 as yearly salary and regular allowances. This is outside other allowances, which include: Accommodation N3,970,425.00; Furniture N5,955,637.50; DTA N35,000; Estacode $900; Recess N198,521.25 and Severance Gratuity N5,955,637.50. A Representative can also apply for a car loan of N7,940,850.00.

Our legislators get all of this money for doing what? In a country where 46% of people live in poverty according to the World Bank (Source: http://data.worldbank.org/country/nigeria), it is scandalous to put it mildly.

“The 8th NASS won’t be a rubber stamp. Not while I’m there! I will expose anybody that dares approach me or my colleagues with Ghana Must  Go!” is another quote from the debonair senator. You would think such intrepid declaration from a statesman will spur hope in a nation mired in corruption, right? Wrong! My people have been blind to the message and decided to go for the messenger’s jugular instead. He must be an hypocrite to think and say this, many have concluded. Perhaps, these obnoxious, condescending, self-acclaimed political pundits are planning a subterfuge for our nascent CHANGE train.

Yes, talk is cheap. But you can hardly fault a mind that conceives such articulate thoughts as his and bold enough to express it. See more of his tweets below:

“I am not going to the senate to make money. I have much more than I need. I’m going to serve God by fighting for the good Nigerians!”

“A governor who can’t pay salaries has no moral right to a huge convoy or guest houses or to a private jet. Your workers must be your priority!”

“As far as I’m concerned, until all state workers are paid their salary, no governor, no commissioner, no SA should collect salary or allowance!”

“The hottest place in hell should be reserved for Governors who live large at public expense while workers with children have not been paid!

“Rich politicians get free pilgrimage, free medical, free police escort, while those they represent get…. Nothing!!!”

In fact, his observations are so apt that I am tempted to add GBAM! at the end of each quote. Before now, the task of checking our leaders’ excesses has been the business of activists and journalists. Seeing a member of the political class say the home truth is pleasing. The legislative arm of government in a democratic setting is as important if not more as the executive. It is imperative that we have more of his likes in the hallowed chamber to achieve the CHANGE adjured by the hoi polloi.

I expect that we will give this Bayelsa East senator-elect the opportunity to serve us, to deliver us from his Oliver Twist colleagues and political gourmands ready to devour the remnant of our common wealth. Wishful thinking? Let time be the judge.

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