Dis­tin­guished se­na­tors with no dis­tin­guished im­age.

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - MEDIA & MARKETING - Muyiwa Kay­ode @muyi­wa_kay­ode

OUr­na­tional Assem­bly has fi­nally re­alised that it has an im­age prob­lem. The lead­er­ship of the sen­ate has at last de­cided to do some­thing about its neg­a­tive per­cep­tion among Nige­ri­ans. Ac­cord­ing to Sen­ate Leader Ah­mad Lawan, the strate­gic ob­jec­tive of the im­age laun­der­ing ini­tia­tive is per­cep­tion change. He says mea­sures are be­ing pack­aged by the Na­tional Assem­bly, NASS, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Na­tional In­sti­tute for Leg­isla­tive Stud­ies.

They have come up with a pro­gram called Open Week, through which they want to en­lighten us about the work­ings of the Na­tional Assem­bly. Be­cause ac­cord­ing to them, their func­tions are grossly mis­un­der­stood by the ma­jor­ity of Nige­ri­ans. They say the planned Open Week will serve as a plat­form for the pub­lic to in­ter­act with fed­eral leg­is­la­tors at close range so they can un­der­stand the con­sti­tu­tional func­tions of the Na­tional Assem­bly, par­tic­u­larly as re­gards con­stituency projects.

It is ob­vi­ous that our se­na­tors do not know why we have such a poor opin­ion of them. They have not both­ered to ask us why we carry a neg­a­tive per­cep­tion of them and why we hold them in such low es­teem. This is where I think they should start from, in­stead of a mean­ing­less open week dur­ing which they want to ex­plain their con­sti­tu­tional du­ties to us. If you per­form your con­sti­tu­tional du­ties dili­gently and with in­tegrity and the huge re­spon­si­bil­ity that your role de­mands, you will make a pos­i­tive im­pact on the lives of Nige­ri­ans. So please, spare us the rig­ma­role and get down to the se­ri­ous busi­ness for which you were elected.

Our dear se­na­tors, let me ex­plain to you some of the rea­sons why you have a neg­a­tive im­age.

You are over­paid. And you know it. All Nige­ri­ans know it. Of course we are not happy about it and you know this. In a na­tion where the min­i­mum wage is 18,000 naira, you have al­lo­cated to your­selves un­jus­ti­fi­able salaries, perks and al­lowances. Each of you earn a salary and ‘run­ning costs’ that will pay 750 Nige­ri­ans the min­i­mum wage. You are the high­est paid se­na­tors in the world. This is in ad­di­tion to N200 mil­lion an­nual bud­get for each of you on con­stituency projects, most of which are never im­ple­mented. With so much money at your dis­posal, many of you live os­ten­ta­tious life­styles while your con­stituen­cies wal­low in ex­treme poverty. In spite of protests by many Nige­ri­ans, you have never deemed it nec­es­sary to slash these al­lowances to re­flect the re­al­i­ties of our eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion and the lives of av­er­age Nige­ri­ans. And you ex­pect to en­joy a pos­i­tive im­age?

With all due re­spect, some of you are ir­re­spon­si­ble. The af­fairs of state are se­ri­ous and weighty, re­quir­ing the high­est lev­els of so­bri­ety and ex­em­plary con­duct. Un­for­tu­nately, some of you are busy at­tend­ing par­ties and record­ing mu­si­cal videos of them­selves. They’re ei­ther seen ca­vort­ing with women of easy virtue or sim­ply dis­play­ing their un­de­served wealth. Is such be­hav­iour ac­cept­able from so called dis­tin­guished se­na­tors? When you see these things what do you do? In most pro­fes­sional bodies, there are strict rules to guide con­duct and stiff penal­ties for erring mem­bers. But when your mem­bers bring the im­age of the Na­tional Assem­bly into such depths of in­famy, what do you do? How do you en­sure that they are brought to their senses? We know the con­sti­tu­tion pro­vides for se­na­tors to be re­called but as a body, how many times have you taken a stand on such ex­ces­sive be­hav­iour by your mem­bers?

You are law­break­ers. I hate to say this about the law­mak­ers of my coun­try but it is the sad truth. In a coun­try where the labour laws stip­u­lates ‘no work no pay’, you reg­u­larly fail to sit for the num­ber of days re­quired by the con­sti­tu­tion and still col­lect your full salaries. Fore­most hu­man rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN once as­serted that in a par­tic­u­lar year, you sat for 96 days in­stead of the 181 days stip­u­lated in the con­sti­tu­tion you swore to up­hold. Law­mak­ers in far more de­vel­oped coun­tries sit for more days in a year than you do, yet they are paid far less. Ev­ery now and then, you pay lip ser­vice to ad­dress­ing the is­sue of ab­sen­teeism. But noth­ing hap­pens. You con­stantly go on re­cess at ev­ery flimsy ex­cuse. Yet you never fail to col­lect your full ex­ces­sive pay. Is it sur­pris­ing that you have a neg­a­tive im­age?

You sit on the bud­get for months on end. The per­cep­tion is that you never ap­prove the bud­get on time. Many peo­ple say this is be­cause of the hu­mon­gous amounts you al­ways vote for your­selves. The per­cep­tion is that you are self­ish and greedy. And un­less you have these huge amounts for your­selves in the bud­get, it will not be ap­proved. You black­mail the Ex­ec­u­tive into agree­ing to your de­mands. This is the per­cep­tion. To cor­rect this, you must be more trans­par­ent in all your deal­ings, es­pe­cially when it has to do with the na­tional bud­get.

How can you have a good per­cep­tion with­out hav­ing a good rep­u­ta­tion? You can­not buy a good rep­u­ta­tion. You have to earn it. And to earn a good rep­u­ta­tion and the good per­cep­tion that goes with it, you need to re­build trust and earn the re­spect of Nige­ri­ans. You need to change your ways and be­gin to con­duct your­selves in a man­ner that de­liv­ers value to our democ­racy and the div­i­dends thereof, to the ma­jor­ity of our peo­ple. You need to be­have in a man­ner that jus­ti­fies the ap­pel­la­tion ‘dis­tin­guished’ by which you are ad­dressed. You need to show the way in mak­ing pub­lic of­fi­cials live up to their ti­tles. You all are ad­dressed as ‘Dis­tin­guished’ and ‘Hon­ourable’. But in all se­ri­ous­ness, do you con­duct the af­fairs of this na­tion and carry out your du­ties in a dis­tin­guished and hon­ourable man­ner?

Hav­ing a good per­cep­tion re­quires that you live up to your name.

Now, you are or­ga­niz­ing an Open Week, through which you want to ex­plain your con­sti­tu­tional func­tions to us. Mean­while, the con­sti­tu­tion re­quires you to sit for at least 181 days in a year, which is far less than the num­bers of days we or­di­nary Nige­ri­ans have to work. Yet, you never meet this con­sti­tu­tional re­quire­ment. And you want to ex­plain your con­sti­tu­tional du­ties and func­tions to us? What, if one may ask, is it that you want to ex­plain? And how is this ex­pla­na­tion go­ing to sud­denly give you a pos­i­tive im­age?

Your bad rep­u­ta­tion is a huge em­bar­rass­ment to our na­tion. I am happy that you want to laun­der your im­age but please, do the right thing. Let your ac­tions and con­duct be­gin to have a pos­i­tive im­pact on the lives of or­di­nary Nige­ri­ans. You can­not buy a good im­age. You have to change your ways. •Muyiwa kay ode is ce oatu sp brand Man­age­ment and au­thor, the seven Di­men­sions of brand­ing. brand na­tion is a plat­form for pro­mot­ing na­tional de­vel­op­ment based on the uni­ver­sal prin­ci­ples of brand­ing.

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