Between the White House and Aso Rock

*Trump, Buhari

Prisca Sam-Duru

The over dependence on crude as a major source of revenue no doubt, has done more harm than good on Nigeria’s economy just like corruption and lack of technocrats in key sectors. However, in recent times, it has become crystal clear that the country’s bogus style of government has been more pernicious.

It will be recalled that one of the campaign promises of President Muhammadu Buhari was that he would “cut out wastages and run a very lean government…with zero tolerance for corruption”. Needless to attempt explaining whether that promise has been kept five years into his eight year term, or not.

Sometime in 2019 after the president got his second term in office, there was “an unprecedented overhaul of the nation’s seat of government” from which some aides to the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo were relieved. Also, “a number of political appointments were either revoked or not renewed in the second term”.

That move we were told, was ordered by the President, to “Streamline decision-making, cut down multiple authorities and reduce the cost of administration”. Whether that action had any effect on the nation’s cost of governance, one cannot tell especially since the number of people relieved of their duties was not disclosed.

Also, the country is in another recession rather than the economy improving. What’s even the need for such downsizing when some people who are not government officials, have been illegal occupants of Aso Rock villa, thus enjoying free rent, food, medicals etc, all furnished with the tax payers’ money. And you expect people to believe the government is sincere with reducing the cost of governance? What with ministers and some top government officials who move with more than ten aides? What with the National Assembly?

Till date, Nigeria operates an unnecessary bicameral legislature even with overwhelming huge external debts. Worse still, their pay is extraordinarily high; even the US president’s annual salary for instance, is nothing compared with the package of a Nigeria’s legislator. In a country where the number of extremely poor people makes up better part of the population, thus earning her the poverty capital of the world, such bogus pay is the height of injus

It is preposterous that Nigeria borrows to fund her budget, yet, maintains a bogus system that increases the cost of governance, to the detriment of key sectors such as health and education, not to mention the general welfare of the people. Ironically, the cost of governance in Nigeria is hideously higher than that of the same America from which we copied the federal system of government and, that of most developed countries of the world.

The United States of America’s seat of power, The White House, is literally the same as the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s Aso Rock. Both edifices share similarities such as housing the first family and some government officials. More so, most government’s functions take place in the two spaces. But, you’d be shocked to know the massive difference between the two when it comes to operations.

Listening to one of the numerous interviews with US former First Lady, Michelle Obama, where she made some startling revelations about the White House, offers a peep into what a presidential villa devoid of selfish aggrandisement, wastages and over bloated budgets should be.

“The white house does feel like a home. And I will say that a house is a house. What you bring to a home is what makes it a home. And how we lived in that home was what I remember the most. People ask, do I miss the white house? No, I don’t miss the house because we took what was important in that house with us and it is with us.”

That, you’d agree, is in total contrast with Aso Rock Villa where former occupants made some astonishing revelations about spiritual attacks, rat invasions and the fact that they had to constantly look over their shoulders. Moreover, it’s been long established that the affluence that accompanies living in that edifice is what lures the aspirants, not necessarily to offer Nigerians good governance. The despicable level of looting of our national treasury by these politicians, incontrovertibly, exposes their major concerns. And unlike Michelle Obama, they’ll never stop missing the villa when their tenure expires.

And what could be that ‘important’ thing Mrs Obama took back from the White House? “It is family, the values, friendship. So the house is beautiful, and it is historic…it was an honour to live there but the people in it make it what it is”, she said.

Now, here is the bomb from Michelle. “They tell you, ‘you can order anything’ and listen very carefully, everybody listens to every word the president says and I used to tell Barack, don’t say you want something because then, we’ll have thousands of it and then we’re paying for it. If he said he liked some fish and he happened to say this is delicious and then we get the bill at the end of the month and, it’s like, ‘you flew that fish in from China’? It’s like that fish wasn’t that good… in fact don’t say you like that fish”. Did you get that?

She continues; “A lot of people think…it’s interesting when you hear people say that tax payers are paying for that and the truth is yes, you don’t pay for rent, you don’t pay for staff, but everything, every dish, they will count the number of peanuts that you eat and charge it back. So you get the bill at the end…we live in the White House sure…I mean this is not a complaint, it’s just something that people don’t understand. You pay for all your guests, the food that they eat. And for all you who came and visited, when you were thinking, I’m just gonna take some and put in the purse, I was like, we got the bill”.

Isn’t that amazing? Are you still pondering how America and other developed countries earned their revered status?

If the federal government of Nigeria is honest about cutting down on the cost of governance, the White House’s model is an incredible and workable starting point and believe it, the first family and other officials in the presidential villa will become meticulous with spending.

Come to think of it, is it possible that any Nigerian first lady, be it past or present would describe Aso Rock as home? I doubt that. Just recently, news about our First Lady, Aisha Buhari’s relocation overseas, went viral. Reports cited insecurity as the major reason for her relocation. This may be fake news. It may not be true but a recent feud that even resulted in shooting may lend credence to a seeming discomfort for her in Aso Rock. Isn’t that absurd especially when the place she is possibly avoiding is supposed to be ‘home’? If one should draw inference from the home Michelle Obama described in her interview with Oprah, then, Aso Rock is just a building (house) and not a home. If it were to be a home, the first lady will stick to her husband’s side, almost all the time, offering every support she can, after all, it is said that behind every successful man is a woman. If you insist the Villa is a home, are the virtues Mrs. Obama mentioned, existing in Aso Rock Villa? Before you answer, do not forget that on several occasions, there were news both on social and traditional media about some kind of fracas that erupted in the Villa due to perceived ill treatment and rancour in the Villa.

It will be in the interest of Nigeria if Aso Rock becomes a real ‘home’ because by that, it’ll be leading by example and that’ll birth a more civilised society.

And concerning Nigeria’s bogus style, that undoubtedly, is reason charlatans will never be deterred in their desperation to covet political positions. Imagine a situation whereby Aso Rock’s occupants including other political office holders are to pay for every expenditure from their pockets, as is the case in the White House and, salaries of these political office holders are cut down to a more sane and considerable size, politics in Nigeria will definitely be less attractive. And, that space will only be accessible to individuals with authentic interest to transform the country into a true giant of Africa, if not a super power.


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