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In America, they don't provide accommodation for lawmakers' - Ex-senator Obanikoro

The senator stated that the budget of the National Assembly should be more transparent.

Ex-Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro

Obanikoro made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos in commemoration of Nigeria’s Democracy Day.

NAN reports that Nigeria’s Democracy Day is now celebrated on June 12 to remember the sacrifices of the winner of the 1993 Presidential Election, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola.

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It used to be celebrated on May 29 annually but was moved to June 12 by the administration of retired Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. Nigeria operates a bicameral legislature made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

“Democracy doesn’t have to be this expensive, that is one thing we don’t get right.

“It is expensive because we have made it so. Let me give you a good example because we borrowed this system from America.

“In America they don’t provide accommodation for lawmakers, they fend for themselves when it comes to that, they live basically on salary and very small fringe benefits,” Obanikoro said.

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He said that Nigeria could also work toward that, and make the budget of the National Assembly more transparent.

“When the budget is more transparent, and people can go online and see what is allocated to every member of the National Assembly and can also input into the process, I do believe that will make the process or the institution less expensive,” he added.

Obanikoro added that if the budget of the two legislative houses had been made transparent, the recent calls for a parliamentary system of government would have been avoided.

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"This clamour that the bicameral system of legislature should be jettisoned will reduce if the budget is reduced because the idea is that there are some budgetary provisions that should never be in our books and we must be bold enough to expunge them.

“We cut the budget size of the National Assembly to a reasonable level that an average Nigerian can live with,” Obanikoro, a former High Commissioner to Ghana, stated.

On Nigeria’s 25 years of uninterrupted democracy, the one-time gubernatorial aspirant told NAN that the country had persevered.

“We have fared very well because even life itself is a work in progress; so, our democracy too is a work in progress.

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“We have to keep working on it and ensure we have a democracy that can serve as a shining example to the West African region and Africa at large."

Obanikoro told NAN that ensuring a more credible electoral process would be a good starting point for Nigeria to stand out in democracy.

"One of the things is to ensure that we have a transparent electoral process, a process that cannot be easily manipulated by anybody so that it can be credible.

“Once an election is credible, all the litigations surrounding elections will go down, and people will happily contest and when they lose, they go home.

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"This is the only aspect of our democracy that we need to invest heavily in and ensure that it works because once a process loses credibility, there is a problem,” Obanikoro said.

On immortalising Abiola, the politician said that the Federal Government could do more.

Let me say this, the government has really tried, because there was a time that government did not even want to acknowledge the contributions of MKO.

“To have moved from denial to the reality that Abiola contributed and sacrificed his life for this democracy is a welcome and commendable development.

"However, I believe more can be done. Democratic institutions can be named after him, and we have declared today Democracy Day, not MKO Day.

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“Some people can say it is synonymous but I will want more landmark buildings in Nigeria named after him across the six geo-political zones.

“That way, at every corner of the country you look, you can visibly know how we got to where we are,” he noted.

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