– Samuel Ayara
Less than a month after they left office, the media is awash with reports that members of the 2017-2020 class of Councillors in the state are already advocating for their severance pay, with most of them reportedly developing raised blood pressures triggered by what they described as negligence from a system they were loyal and committed to. If this would not pass for “story for the gods tales” then determining between the timing for this advocacy or situating their concern within the bounds of sane reasoning could be a difficult call to justify. They may be wishing to have been blessed with the fortune of turning back the hands of time, where I am tempted to think they would have learnt faster and better how not to major in minor. They sure whould have better prepared for a time as this, conscious that it took their predecessors as long as three years to draw this entitlement.
Only the families and friends of the affected ex-councillors who only served for three years, will appreciate how much such financial intervention would have rescued their economic situation, while a larger majority of the societal construct would now better appreciate what retirees whose gratuities are still unpaid have had to put up with, after committing decade’s to the service of their state and local government. In striking the balance on who should be prioritized, most people may at this point query who sacrificed more between the ex-councillors and the retired civil servants; a rhetoric every side of the divide will push to be preferred.
Assuming the template for paying the severance gratuity is drawn from how productive each of the ex-councillors were, or the vibrancy of each of the legislative houses across the 31 local government areas, putting number of bills, motions and oversight functions advanced as pre-requisite, will we still have the agitators maintain the loudness it projects? Smart options in the face of dwindling resources should also include prioritizing people whose contribution to the system could be rated as viable. Without an air of prejudice, one would agree that some local government areas would not have reason to ask to be paid, as they never had any reason serving the third tier of government as councillors in the first instance; some for no fault of theirs had no legislative chamber, while others simply converted their mandates to that of serving the Chairmen as personal aides.
Needless crying over spilt milk when we have another situation approaching. With the coming on stream of the current set of councillors it is believed that three years from now, this agitation will return with different actors in the fore, but with same message and threats for the same reason; in our clime we only read history and forget to learn from them, if we ever learnt we would not have remained victims of avoidable situations. As most of the legislative houses begin with upwardly conscious prospects at positively positiing their area, there may be need to closely follow their activities to know who does not deserve a severance when the whistle goes off at full time.
Given equal opportunity to do their best so at exit posterity would reckon with them, note must be taken that since inauguration in December 2020, very few legislative houses have tried their hands with the mandates they carry, while a growing majority are yet to wake to the reality of their responsibilities. Away from the inaugural sitting that saw to the emergence of the leadership of the various legislative councils, a few have sat to appoint members of some adhoc and standing committees, which arguably may be all, until it gets quite close to the end, where they often suspect the Chairman of taking advantage of them.
Mentioning the Ikot Ekpene local government legislative council for putting a firm foot in the forward direction is no compensation, as they have so far gone ahead of their contemporaries at getting to work in record time, a move that has shown them as reporting prepared for duty. Having so far held five sessions, an average of one a week, it is most plausible to note that in line with the challenges their people faced with the NIN registration, they dared the almost impossible, and invited the the NIMC Supervisor for the area Mr. Udeme Eshiet, to an interface on ways of making the process less stressful for their people, this struck me like a deliberate effort at succeeding where others have failed.
Without inflating their egos, members of Ikot Ekpene legislative council, have constantly stayed on the line of engagements with an array of professionals, service providers and policy formulators, all in a bid to sustain their upbeat legislative game. These are not the kind efforts the people would not appreciate; for all its worth, even people who would think of taking advantage of these crop of legislators would be doing so at their peril. Of the truth, the seventh raffia city legislature in finding a cure for the area’s socioeconomic and political challenges have first cured and purged itself of mediocrity.
Apart from Ikot Ekpene, a few other local government legislative houses have been arriving the party with a positive energy at getting the work done. Abak for example does not at the moment have a very comfortable chamber for legislative businesses, but has since inauguration sought ways of getting the job done; building bridges with media institutions, interfacing with the communities to up the face of public infrastructure and a top-notch commitment to improving the fortunes of education in the area, which clearly put them ahead of the game as a set of young people who would love to see things work.
Revolving legislation at any level around the people has always been my finest brand of this arm of government, on which score the Uyo Local Government Legislative Council clearly stands out. Uyo will on January 26, be leading others in the hosting of public hearings, when the public, business operators, corporate bodies and stakeholders of the area will converge on the Council Hall for a public hearing on bills for development based bye-laws in the area. Public hearings, townhall meetings and consultations should be key ingredients of engagements as these are avenues the people can actively take a role in how things are done and Uyo from the advantage it draws from its cosmopolitan build is ready to turn the tide.
At the risk of sounding derogatory, other legislative houses should be encouraged to emulate their counterparts who are doing well, just about the same way they reachout to know how much their colleagues earn in allowances and other munerations. It is no time to recline and commit their future to what political leaders wish to make of them, else they would have completely mortgaged the future, this is the time to reduce global and national conversations to the relevance they bear on their local peculiarities.
The habit does not make a monk. There are many who would seek to procure the patronage of poorly equipped legislative chambers as an alibi for their poor performance, while others have completely surrendered their authority to the extent of handing over their mace for keeps by the Council Chairmen who only release them at will. In dismantling administraive bottlenecks that could stiffle their viability, they should take the narrative beyond availability of funds for sitting allowances to querying why FGPC meetings are prioritized and funded to the detriment of the legislative arm of the third tier of government.
Whether you speak the truth or lie, you will still die (apologies to Sen. Dino Melaye) you will all be owed at the end of your tenure, be sure you are owed for stewardship you provided, that way you will not be owing the people the service you should have offered them and would have rightly won their support when the time to push your advocacy comes. Even if you are not paid, you will at least not be deficient in goodwill when you step forward with records of bills, motions, interventions and contributions you championed to the benefit of the least of your brethren.
With the well over 34 months left on your mandate be so good that the people will not be watching in amazement when your turn for the “I no go gree” chant comes, just then you will realize that thankless jobs also have good days. Not even the church will tell you this much, take heed before the evil day arrives.
Samuel Ayara writes from Ibong Otoro in Abak LGA.