David Mark’s Phony Amendments!

by Michael Oluwagbemi II

It is always as if in Nigeria, one can count on a couple of things; that the David Mark led Senate will always abet corruption, rubber stamp the President’s multitudes of malfeasance and ensure that progressive reforms die in the hollow upper chambers of our republic. Reading Okey Ndibe’s missive last week, applauding the work of the House of Representative when they sought to abolish immunity for our executive holders, a silent voice told me that Okey spoke too quickly; I was right.

It will be asking for too much to assume a body made up of extremely corrupt Governor Wannabes will abolish immunity for the office which they’ll be seeking for self-aggrandizement in the future. The Nigeria Senate dominated by drug dealers, influence peddlers, certificate forgers and overnight militocrats turned billionaires cannot suddenly self-regulate and banish immunity from our books. Hence, when the final conference report came out on Monday and the immunity banishment clause disappeared it was just business as usual for this “do-nothing” Senate!

How dare they? These group of senators will go down in the world as an unholy chamber of profiteers; ugly characters with gentle mien; men who smile in the camera at day but plot against their country at night. If our nation must survive these brigands masquerading as lawmakers then the onus is on us to act. And act must we when it comes to the latest rounds of bogey amendments to the fake constitution.

Nigerian SenateThe same Senate that threw all kinds of roadblocks in the subsidy investigation, that declined to investigate the Petroleum Minister for allegations of ongoing looting at the National Oil Company or her aviation counterpart being denizens of corruption, that refused blatantly to consider the question of how private jets are laden with security votes to buy arms in foreign countries, that stands in the way of removing corrupt ministers and heads of commissions, that refuses to intervene when 12 young men that fought for their country are sentenced to die when they protested the actions of a corrupt General. This Senate, is a very ugly one; a Chamber from Nebuchadnezzar.

I have heard that Senate President David Mark is a get along guy. Why won’t he get along? When his regime is based on obfuscation; cutting deals in the shadows and ensuring controversial topics are pot-parried and left cold in the lower chambers. This guy gets along with criminals, thieves and daggers drawn anarchists in the corridors of power! A man of no clean reputation himself, his stock-in-trade is the leverage of his wide contacts acquired by corrupt means under a previous gap toothed dictator to parry votes from his marginalized Idoma stock to get to the center. What has he done for Benue state lately you might ask? Nothing!

If removing the immunity clause was not enough insult, the amendments that finally sailed through David Mark’s senate were largely a laundry list of the unitary minded ruling party, to say the least. Dressed as Trojan horses, supposedly in response to grassroots demand, they took Nigeria back to its unitary past under the military instead of a hopeful future into a more equitable federal union befitting of a diverse and multi-ethnic nation.

First, the Senate in its wisdom decided to impose Local Governments as independent tier of administration in a Federal constitution! This is unheard of in a federal arrangement. In saner climes, Local Governments and any reference to them should be expunged from a federal constitution. The purpose of the constitution on the national level should be to regulate the relationship between the central and state governments – nothing more. The assumption that wisdom flows from Abuja has been repeatedly discredited. The local government needs of the 36 states of Nigeria are not uniform, and should not be imposed by the empty brains in the federal capital.

For example, a small rural state like Ekiti may not necessarily need local governments. Travel distance from Ado Ekiti the state capital is not more than 45 minutes to any part of the state. Hence, the governor can effectively superintend over all areas of his state without duplicating functions backed with funds that are ploughed into local administration and the salaries as well as pensions that accrue to such wasted ventures. Indeed, the Ekiti state constitution should be able to determine if it is more effective to govern through the existing native authorities that have existed for centuries and are very effective in governing their domains. We already pay these traditional rulers salaries anyway, why not?

On the other hand, framers of a Lagos state constitution may decide to administer its well defined urban neighborhoods on the basis of community development associations that report up to divisions that are already being used for its schools and health care systems. David Mark’s amendment dressed as making local government administration more effective is a power grab that must be resisted. If the Federal legislators are interested in making local administration more effective, they can start by giving up 55% of the federal allocation while sending a pittance 9% to the 779 enumerated councils! Indeed, a more effective reform will be to delete the 779 councils that is hampering effective state administrations, and splitting the federal allocation evenly.

But David Mark’s underhanded power grab did not stop at the head fake of an LGA reform. In their wisdom, the recent round of amendments increased instead of decreasing the power of an already too powerful imperial presidency and the federal government. By scrapping all the 36 State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIEC), the national body appointed solely by the President (Independent National Electoral Commission –INEC) and confirmed by his buddies in the Senate will now get to organize ALL elections in Nigeria if the Senate has its way! How about we start by allowing for national parties nominees in the electoral commission instead of one party enjoying this privilege?

If this were a movie, I will think the plot was written in military barracks. How dare they? This is an INEC that is barely capable of conducting a free and fair national and state elections, now being burdened with conducting local government and local councillorship elections! Indeed, it begs the question if INEC will agree to conduct elections into the plethora of Local Council Development Areas (LCDA) dotting our land and exceeding 1,000! These LCDAs are the result of the lack of action from the Legislature to expunge the aberration called Local Council Schedule from the constitution. While the courts have adjudged them LCDAs legal (AG Lagos vs. AG Federation, 2004), they exist in lacuna; “valid but inchoate” as the Supreme Court called them.

Fine, the SIECs are nothing but a joke as we speak; but we cannot cure the belly ache of political immaturity by taking constitutional poison! David Mark’s amendments must be defeated!

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