Stealing Statesman: A Faceless option of Nigerian Politician

by Tunde Ali

I knew it was going to boomerang. In 1988 during my National Youth Service at the Anambra State Polytechnic, Oko in Aguata L.G. A. of Anambra State, I wrote an article titled “Nigerians and the Short Memory of History”. The said article was published in the Daily Star newspaper. The article focused on the release of and “triumphant” re-entry of the erstwhile discredited politicians who looted the nation’s treasury during the civilian regime of Alhaji Shehu Shagari. These set of political profiteers had been arrested and imprisoned by the self tagged corrective Buhari / Idiagbon regime for various financial and economic improprieties. Some of them were sentenced to between 15 and 120 years imprisonment. The society was happy with their incarceration and the culprits have come to term with their fate. Sanity that have for sometimes eluded the nation began to gradually found its way back to the center of government. A lesson was learn by the imprisoned politicians about accountability while the general public was acquitted with warnings about responsibility and patriotism.

As a windy cloud that announces a stormy rain disappears to oblivion, this ingenious sanity decimated with the inception of General Ibrahim Babangida’s government. No thanks to his palace coup. IBB had disingenuously released the hitherto jailed corrupt politicians as a way to legitimize his regime among other schemes. He laughingly released those individuals whose body were supposed to rot in jail and serve as a deterrent to the upcoming and the would-be political office aspirants. As if that was not enough, the released “political thieves” were heralded back into their communities with fun fair . This undue practice cut across all tribes and ethnic groups in the nation. The most annoying phenomenon was the release of Dr. Joseph Wayass – the erstwhile Senate President who having been found wanton for numerous unpatriotic and corrupt practices was released and welcome back into his community in a red carpet reception and bestowed with a chieftain title. What a paradox ! If character like Joseph Wayass – a frivolous and spinelessly corrupt politician could be reintegrated back into the community like a gallant Roman soldier, I knew from that point that a new chapter had been introduced into the Nigerian politics. The value system was punctured and the hope for a better society dashed. The effect of leadership with impaired judgment and a poverty ridden society has subconsciously introduced and accepted what could least be described as political insanity.

Since this indecorum went on unchecked, it became the beginning of “back- patting” those individuals with despicable behavior in our society. It questioned the moral values and virtues of Nigeria as a nation state. This action propelled and popularize the concept of “national cake”. A paradigm wherein, people seeks elective office to better their pockets as opposed to altruistic agenda. Political office became path way to wealth building; otherwise how could one explain the financial transformation of most political office holders who prior to their assumption of office lives in squalor and hardly able to afford three square meals. But having been elected or rigged themselves into office suddenly become multi – millionaire overnight. They buy edifices all over the world including Lagos, Abuja, London, USA, Dubai to mention few. I have often read in news papers about some Nigerians politicians who bought real estates in the United States cash down. Though this is a violation of U.S. financial regulation, unfortunately nobody bother to question the source of their money as would a U.S resident.

Society began to worship money bags regardless of the source of their wealth. The sense of decency and integrity were eroded. Money became all that matters. Love of it prompted mad rush to material acquisitions, and propel the people to do anything to become rich. Individual stratum in the society determines their strategy to wealth building. Politicians and government officials loot and steal from the treasury, desperate people engages in drug trafficking, some explore occult and fraternity, organized crimes emerges, and sophisticated armed robbery became an option for some unemployed graduates. 419 fraud schemes surfaced, and more recently kidnapping; wherein people are kidnapped for ransom. All for the sake of money, and there is no end in site.

This is the order of the day with the government doing next to nothing in confronting the ills and restore sanity. The government that sworn to protect life and property remains arms folded and pretend as if all is well. Nigeria Police Force and other Security Agencies pretend to be helpless in the midst of this unfortunate developments. Life and property has never been more insecure. A giant and erstwhile promising nation began to disintegrate. The love for money engineered by greed and unchecked corruption consistently malign the nation’s credibility among the committee of civilized states. Nigerian politicians, evidently one of the well paid in the world became insensitive to public opinion. Though they are full time public employee yet unable to live up to the peoples expectations and their constitutional responsibilities. They rattles on legislations that attempts to improve the welfare of the masses, but approves with light speed any legislation that focuses on their emoluments.

The collective benefits of the members of the National Assembly alone is enough to power energy for the whole country uninterruptedly for five years without repair or services. For instance, an average member of the National Assembly’s annual take home is 180 Million Naira. (That is if we assume the self approved 45 Million Naira quarterly allowance). Multiply 180 Million by 360 members (House of Representative alone). This is 64.8 Billion Naira. The whopping self approved salaries for the “do nothing legislotters”. In a country of approximately 160 million impoverished people. If this colossal amount is expended as the allowance of the members of the lower house alone, one would expect a corresponding performances in terms of developing good policies and enactment of laws to improve the country. Unfortunately, reverse is the case.

For instance, the Vice Chairman of the Senate committee on Culture, Tourism and National Orientation – Senator Yisa Braimoh was reported on This Day Newspaper of June 30, 2010 to have disclosed that a total of 119 executive and private bills were presented to the Senate during the 3rd legislative session which ended on June 03, 2010. 114 bills were read for the first time, 40 of those read for the first time passed the second reading while 13 of the bills were considered and passed by the Senate. This means that in a whole legislative year, 114 bills went through first reading while 13 finally became laws. A 10.9 percent productivity. How could Nigeria spent so much to get so little ? yet there is no end to unjustifiable spending. The National Assembly recently proposed to “enlarge” their quarterly allowance from 45 Million Naira to 95 Million Naira while the people who voted for them continues to wallop in abject poverty. As if this is not enough, a staggering amount 10 Billion Naira was reportedly planned to be spent on Democracy Celebration by the administration of President Jonathan Good Luck. Whether what President Jonathan Good Luck celebrated actually was not his ascendancy to the office of the President and robbing the hands of his supporters remains unclarified.

Instead of focusing on the job of the state and nation building, the National Assembly have been turned into a boxing ring where disgruntled members displays their folly; either because of inconclusive sharing of the stolen booty or “pot – kettling” the greed of their colleagues. In their usual show of madness, they physically attack one another, tore themselves naked and expose their undignified body frame . Often times weapons such as club, chairs, tables, pepper spray,

etc were used to attack one another in a manner that is reflectant of lunacy.

Does it resonate that, the money spent as the allowance of the members of the National Assembly could otherwise serve the following purpose: Give every Nigerian One Million Naira each to engage in a cottage or entrepreneurial ventures, it would change the social and economic status of many people for better and have the lasting impact on the economy of the nation; still there would be left over and long term surplus in the economy. If the same money is used to repair roads, both commuters and transporters would hive sigh of relief. If spent on education, an impact on literacy would be felt; or if spent on the health sector, there is tendency that the comatose status of the health care would change from mere consulting clinics.

Since Nigerian politicians have redefined public service as an avenue for wealth acquisition, and have out of greed disingenuously compromised honor that leads to statesmanship, the Nigerian masses should rise up to the challenge by check-mating their insensitivity. Monitoring teams or Committee should be developed at every geo-political constituency to monitor the performances of the elected officers. Their re-electability should be based upon credible performances and fulfillment of electoral promises. However, if any elected officer is found wanton of any impropriety or criminal behavior, such officer(s) should be remove from office through a constitutional and legal means. The grass root (masses) should campaign against, or mobilize for the impeachment of such discredited officer. The time has come when Nigerians should stand tall and wrestle their destiny from the hands of their elected political shylocks. This is a collective responsibility and no one could afford to stay on the fence. We have only one country, and we cannot let it go the way of the titanic.

May the Lord bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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