Former governor of Imo state and Senator representing Imo West in the National Assembly, Owelle Rochas Okorocha has described the violent twist to the #EndSARS protests as a wake up call to Nigerian leaders, expressing concern that Nigeria’s huge population of out-of-school children is another time-bomb waiting to explode in the future.
At a news conference weekend in Abuja, Okorocha who was flanked by leaders of different socio-cultural and political groups from across the country said; “Today, we have millions of out of school children in the country, it is another time bomb for tomorrow. While the situation is getting under control, government and leaders must rise to their responsibilities to ensure that such occurrences do not happen again”.
According to him, the ostentatious life styles of the Nigerian elite is a source of provocation for the youth, many of who are either unemployed or under-employed.
He consequently canvassed for leaders to make sacrifices, saying there is no reason why the cost of governance cannot be reduced by at least 50 percent.
He said; “What started few days ago as a peaceful protest has escalated into losing many souls and burning property with people living in fear. This situation is very unfortunate and highly regrettable. I want to sympathise with those that have lost their loved ones due to the protests.
“However, I want to say that this is a wakeup call by the youths of this country to the leaders of this nation. It is a pointer that we the elite have been selfish in handling the affairs of this country. There has been a track record of unfair leadership for a long time.
“The #EndSARS protest is not just targeted at the police but a disappointment over economic issues in a nation where we have joblessness and poverty for the youths. While commending President Buhari for the actions taken so far, especially in reassuring the youths of meeting up their demands, we must also act quickly under this present situation to prepare for the future.
“As I speak to you as a senator, I have not received a dime as salary since I became a senator. The point I want to make is that if you look at the allowances given to the senators and break it down for accommodation, transportation among others, it is definitely not out of place. You cannot bring somebody as a senator and expect him to be a pauper who cannot afford a decent meal.
“I don’t know how much of information do Nigerians get leading to the conclusion that senators receive so much. How much is a house in Abuja in a year befitting of a senator? I have proposed that if we cannot carry the welfare of senators, we should make laws and cut it down. I had suggested one senator and three House of Representatives per state, but nobody listened to me. How do you justify bringing in a senator without a car or okada to ride.
“The situation now calls for national sacrifice from the leadership. Even if we are going to turn the senators to live in hostels, let everybody cut down 50 to 70 percent of his or her income so that the youths will also have a sense of belonging that the leaders are making sacrifices.
“The truth is that our lifestyle provokes the youths. We must call on leaders, the legislature and executive, to change our lifestyle as a mark of sacrifice. It is not necessarily because they are comfortable with what they get. And even when they get, they have thousands of people who supported them in addition to the extended family system in Africa.
“There are in-laws, friends, classmates, political associates and at the end of the day, the federal house members end up in penury. However, I strongly advocate that the legislature and executive must make sacrifices from their salaries and allowances as a way of ameliorating the situation the youths are facing”, he advised.
While advocating that the youth be brought into governance to understand the intricacies of leadership, the former governor also suggested the establishment of a national forum for peace and reconciliation as well as the creation of a database for all unemployed graduates, skilled individuals, orphans and those displaced by crisis or natural disasters.
He said Nigerians cannot afford to divide this country now and “we cannot afford to destroy this country. Not in our generation”.
Okorocha also advocated for an efficient mode of communicating government policies and programmes to the people, saying the gap between the government and the governed is due to a communication dissonance.