The ‘SaharaReporters’ columnist Mr Pius Adesanmi had once described the National Assembly as “a gangrened proscenium populated almost exclusively by school certificate forgers, Oluwole customers, University dropouts, active and retired political assassins, and puny election riggers.” While Adesanmi as a hard-drinking lecturer based in Canada could be said to remind one of one Honourable Patrick Obahiagbon in the Nigerian House of Assembly in terms of bombastic words it is a testament of their academic depth and sophistication that they are not grammatically challenged.
Again while Adesanmi’s critical take on the profile of the men and women that populate our legislative chambers is open for debate no one can fault the near-correctness of his description. Though we have few decent men in the National Assembly we have many who cannot withstand scrutiny when the chips are down: fraudsters, drug barons, assassins, election riggers, certificate forgers etc.
Democracy is an expensive system of government. In the United States of America where democracy (in its unaldulterated state) is being practised the ‘government of the majority’ is equally exhorbitant. But in Nigeria where democracy (in its adulterated state) is being practised it is not only expensive to run but tedious — what with its internal manipulations, inherent godfatherism and nebulous ‘do-or-die’ syndrome? The major problem with democracy in Nigeria is that it has been corrupted inside out and like a ware in a supermarket anyone with money can ‘buy’ his way to power because transparent election exists only in our imaginations.
When we obtained flag independence from the Great Britain half-a-century ago our independence heroes (late Dr Azikiwe, Awolowo, Balewa and Enahoro) had preferred the parliamentary system which was convenient and less expensive but few years after independence the system was tinkered with. The bloated system of government we run which concentrates most powers on one man at the federal level as President ought to be reviewed in the interest of our nation.
Democracy has been bastardised in Nigeria to the extent that ‘Mr and Mrs Corruption’ now win most elections from the highest to the lowest levels of governance. What we now have in the place of democracy is what looks like a government of rogues for few other rogues and by sophisticated rogues! If we must continue practising democracy then we ought to radically modify it to suit our environment in terms of our position in the global GDP and HD index. Nigeria is a rich country quite alright but majority of Nigerians do not know the meaning of this ‘richness’, not when poverty is their constant companion in a supposed land of plenty! This criminal negligence of the silent majority by the looting minority must be challenged by all and sundry.
The average Nigerian federal legislator is a very special breed indeed. They are pampered and the executive (especially under President Jonathan) takes every ‘blackmail’ from them — perhaps knowing that only these law-making club of unserious men and women have the constitutional power to impeach the President. This is how the game goes: ‘you scrub our back we scrub yours in perfect harmony’ in the interest of our ‘nascent democracy’.
In a country where about 70 percent of the population live on the equivalent of less than one dollar per day; where public sector workers are ‘warring’ with the authorities just to earn N18,000 a month, and where poverty is so rampant that most children of school age are hawking on the streets to be able to survive, it is mindlessly unpatriotic and criminally economically exploitative to realise that just about 469 people should be consuming even half of what the legislators are currently helping themselves to.
According to informed sources a Senator in Nigeria earns more than 15 million Naira in salaries and allowances monthly, just as each member of the House of Representatives takes home more than 10 million Naira a month. A situation where an average federal lawmaker earns a salary that is more than what the American President takes home must be condemned. Whereas, come to think of it, President Obama is productive shouldering American economic problems and global responsibilities deserving of the leader of the free world the same cannot be said of our legislators whose emoluments are highly undeserving and runs against the grain of their poor productivity.
No doubt, our democracy is serially abused and the salaries and allowances of the largely indolent members of the National Assembly are something that baffles the patriot. While David Mark must be ‘praised’ for ‘dictatorially’ weathering the ‘storm’ that is the upper legislative leadership (when one compares his tranquil tenure with the turbulent reigns of many presidents before him, some impeached during the Obasanjo civilian tyranny) Dimeji ‘BANK-Ole’ (sorry Bankole) has taken youthful exuberance to another irresponsible level that calls for the re-examination of leadership qualities in the new generation of Nigerians.
The young speaker came in three years ago after ‘Etteh-gate’ held Nigeria’s legislative business down for weeks leading to fracas on the floor of the House (where heads and bones were broken) and one ‘honourable’ Safana even died while defending the beautician Patricia Etteh and her fiscal heist. We, concerned patriotic Nigerians, had thought post-Etteh that we had seen the very worst in a House brimming with all kind of unpatriotic greedy characters.
But ever since Speaker Bankole took over we have had to deal with ‘Bankole-gate’ as well. Dino Melaye and his group had accused the speaker of ‘doing deals’ running into millions of Naira. The ‘rebellious’ lawmakers were summarily suspended without salary. Bankole has had to deal with one scandal or ‘teenaged’ behaviour or the other claiming always to have been schooled abroad — which does not confer on him any extra-ordinary credential or status.
The FOI (Freedom of Information) bill has now spent many years (outliving OBJ and late Yar’Adua) unattended to in the chambers. This set of ‘legislooters’ may round up their tenures without doing anything tangible for the adoption and legalisation of the FOI bill. Why? Because the FOI bill has nothing to do with Dollars, Pounds, Euro and Naira! If it were something that has to do with their salaries, allowances or constituency packages it would have since attracted urgent attention!
Honourable Patrick Obahiagbon represents Oredo Federal Constituency in Edo State at the House of Representatives. He is in love with ‘sophisticated’ grammar by speaking high-sounding language and using big words to befuddle or obfuscate his audience including members of the House. Like the Fresh Party presidential aspirant Kris Okotie Obahiagbon relishes in his ability to ‘unleash’ grammatical ‘assault’ on his listeners thereby making his audience confused sometimes.
Late November this year the House of Representatives was thrown into an uproar when the House members condemned the press conference given by Hon. Obahiagbon, an Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) lawmaker. Obahiagbon in the press conference had described his colleagues as “legislative rascals” for proposing to amend the Electoral Act for the sole aim of making federal legislators automatic NEC members. According to Hon. Igo Aguma (PDP Rivers State) Obahiagbon breached his privilege by describing his fellow lawmakers as “legislative rascals”.
When the Edo man was called upon to speak by the Speaker he had this to say: “What I said at the press conference was that I believe that if we go ahead to legislate that members of the National Assembly should be automatic NEC members, it would amount to legislative rascality … I do not know the dictionary my Honourable colleague Igo Aguma used but I know that engaging in something that is unethical amounts to rascality”. Obahiagbon escaped suspension by the whiskers as many lawmakers were shouting “suspend him! suspend him!”
hen Obahiagbon said this: “If members of the House feel offended, I have an unreserved apologia for them and I withdraw the statement”, hell was let loose as members who did not understand the import of the word “apologia” demanded for further clarification! For many of his colleagues Hon. Obahiagbon must be ‘demystified’ grammatically if only to humble him and prevent him from embarrassing the ‘honourables’ with his constant grandiloquent posture.
The Centrak Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is generally perceived in Nigeria and outside the country as a rigorous man with little time for absurdity. Ever since his appointment as the CBN Governor in June 2009 when the Prof. Chukwuma Soludo era officially came to an end the man has been attracting controversy to his way with his way and manner of operation. His rigid style and ‘surgical operation’ in the banking sector has seen some hitherto ‘untouchable’ Bank chief executives biting dust and spending times in court, in detention or in prison. This, for sure, has brought him too many enemies but those who should know better are applauding his style in a nation where fraud and manipulation of figures are almost ‘legal’.
Mallam Lamido had stirred the hornet’s nest when he declared recently that the Nigerian legislators take about 25 percent of the recurrent overhead budget of the federation! And the lawmakers, apparently angry at this ‘attack’ on their privileges, took up ‘arms’ against the no-nonsense Kano-born lanky man with big heart; they summarily summoned him to appear before them for some explanations. And when he did he refused to apologise for anyone as he insisted on the figures he bandied about revealing the source of his authoritative information. He even offered to resign than apologise for doing nothing wrong in his reckoning!
Few years ago (in 2008) a Senator, a retired Deputy Inspector-General of Police and Chairman, Senate Committee on Security and National Intelligence, Nuhu Aliyu shocked the nation when he raised alarm by claiming that the national assembly was populated by many fraudsters most of whom he knew and had investigated while in active service in the police force. He even threatened to reveal their identities! Though Aliyu later developed cold feet succumbing to ‘threats’ and intimidations of those having skeletons in their cupboards the damage had been done.
To Hon. Obahiagbon we can only encourage him to keep the ‘grammatical party’ going. As we continue to observe with grave concern the irresponsible comedy of the ‘legislooters’ we can only be relieved when Hon. Patrick Obahiagbon ‘mesmerizes’ his fellow ‘dis-honourables’ (barely educated corrupt elements) in the House confounding them intellectually in the process and exposing their academic limitations.
He may well be labelled a ‘rebel’ in the House by many of his colleagues who detest his academic braggadacio but his ‘rebellion’ is one without violence, one with a radical ’cause’. ‘Carry go Mr Bombastic’!