Ortom’s x-rated pension bill, By Bamidele Johnson
The Nigerian politician can be accused of many things, but selflessness is not one of them. Neither is self-awareness, sympathy or empathy, marked by Olympic-standard lack of any of those things. The glaring lack of these attributes by those who occupy executive positions is responsible for the widespread belief that however squalid the performance in office is, munificent rewards must follow.
Ortom, who should appropriately be Saul rather than Samuel, thinks that he, his predecessors and their deputies since 1999 deserve lip-lickingly good post-retirment lives. His thinking is captured in a pension bill titled “A Bill for a Law to make Provisions for the Maintenance of Former Governors of the State, Their Deputies and for Other Matters”.
It is just that I am afflicted by a strange generosity of spirit this morning that I have described the bill as a product of thought. That the bill is conceived to have retroactive effect and benefit people, whose direness, by turns, in terms of service delivery made the state an ICU patient, is proof that it is not a product of thought. The bill is, by no means, surprising. It is what all of them do when about to exit. One former governor, who got awarded generous after-office emoluments, still kept receiving salaries until a few years after he had become Senate President.
Looking at Benue, a state on the choppiest of financial waters, the provisions of the bill are obscene. They include payment to the former governors of a monthly stipend equivalent to the the salary of a sitting governor and payment to all former deputy governors of a monthly stipend equivalent to what a sitting deputy governor earns as salary.
The bill also provides for that each former governor be given four new cars every four years, while the deputy gets two every four years, with all being maintained from government purse.
There are provisions for free medical treatment for them, their spouses and at least four children aged under 18, with the sweetener of the expenses being monetised. Ortom is persuaded that former governors deserve two vacations abroad yearly, with their deputies getting one. The entitlements are for life and in line with their lack of feeling, be charged into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the state and are to be considered bigger priorities than salaries, pensions and gratuities.
It should be heartwarming that Ortom thinks salaries, pensions and other emoluments are crucial to a good life in retirement. It is, however, not because he thinks that only former governors and deputies deserve not just good post-service lives, but something nudging the lush life of Hollywood stars. On top wetin exactly? For eight years, the state fed these people, their families and whatever “long throat” friends they have. That is in addition to other perks. Yet, they were, in terms of service delivery, as great as a village idiot persuaded that a watering can is adequate at the site of an inferno.
I do not know what Ortom inherited in unpaid salaries, pensions and gratuities as well as social infrastructure deficit. The consensus, however, is that he provided no relief and added to the burden by being useless to the nth grade. The number of months his government owes workers and retirees is in double digits. Why should the state even feed these chancers, who would happily unplug the ventilator on which their trauma-stricken people have been placed to charge their phones? Unplugging the ventilator to charge his phone is what Ortom seeks to do and governors in other states almost always do.
If he had a drop of sympathy or sobriety in his blood, he would not have thought of the lurid pension bill. The people should actually be demanding a refund from him and his ilk for breach of contract. The amount payable may be affected by force majeure, occasioned by the farmers-herders’ clashes and romps by genocidal lunatics, but there is no way he deserves a kobo of what he has earned. He should be left to go with his caps and jackets of many colours. Nobody except would be interested in those garish things except hippies.