Even as I am still studying the 2024 fiscal budget as presented to the National Assembly last week, I cannot wait as I am compelled to ask: what is exactly wrong with us as a country?

What we budgeted for housing the Vice President, who is already luxuriously housed, is the annual salary of about 3,000 professors! The budget of N5 billion for student loans, yet to be disbursed, is only a tiny percentage of the cost of the Vice President’s new home. We are projecting four times the amount for educating ALL Nigerian indigent students to house the Vice President, and we are being told there is nothing wrong with us.

I ask this question because it is hard for me to understand some of the recent happenings in our nation, in these critical times. The recent news about a budget provision of N15 billion for the construction of a new residence for the Vice President is both shocking and disheartening, considering the many important challenges facing our nation.

Just recently in the Supplementary Budget, the sum of N2.5 billion was included for the renovation of the Vice President’s residence in Abuja, which means that he already has a residence. Again, during the budget presentation, I heard the sum of N3 billion was allocated for the renovation of the Vice President’s residence in Lagos.

If we total these sums, we would have budgeted the sum of N20.5 billion for the housing of the Vice President at this critical time when we are not just the world’s poverty capital, but more people are falling into poverty, with so many Nigerians not knowing where their next meal will come from. Our health facilities have collapsed, and unemployment is skyrocketing.

I am convinced that 99.9 percent of Nigerians can only dream of living in the current residence of the Vice President. Several people employed in the universities are not being paid. Just to give an example, the salary of a professor in a Nigerian university is about N400,000, which without removing tax is about N5 million a year. What we have budgeted for the housing of the Vice President who is already luxuriously housed is, therefore, the annual salary of about 3,000 professors!

This is the finance needed to develop the much-needed human capital.

The budget of N5 billion for student loans, which is yet to be disbursed, is only a tiny percentage of the cost of the Vice President’s new home! We are projecting to use four times the amount for educating ALL Nigerian indigent students to house the Vice President, and we are being told there is nothing wrong with us. I am sure the major teaching hospitals in Nsukka, Lagos, Ibadan, and Zaria did not receive this much capital vote in the budget this year.

We have had leaders that were exemplary in the past. Most Nigerians may not know that the popular 1004 flats in Lagos, was a land allocated for the building of a Presidential Mansion for the then Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed. He sternly turned down the offer and instructed that the land be used to build blocks of flats for civil servants. That is the kind of sacrificial leadership worth emulating.

Our leaders must therefore stop the recklessness and insensitivity to the plight of the masses. We need leaders who show compassion and are willing to sacrifice for common progress and development. Such compassionate and frugal leaders are critical in our journey to the New Nigeria. -PO

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