Nigeria Matters

What Manner of Senate

We may not have a device for assessing the effectiveness or otherwise of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, but — trying to characterize it in the mould of Lerone Bennett‘s What Manner of Man: A Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. — we can feel its ambition to acquire more powers and expand the area of responsibility allocated to it by the constitution of the Republic. We can also see the Senate edging closer to usurping the core functions of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and reducing it to an appendage of the Senate. But would you blame the Senate? No! Would you blame its president, Dr Bukola Saraki, and his foot soldiers? No, not when it is in the nature of man to be ambitious. In a word, every man is, to some extent, predatory. But as it is commonly understood, being a predator is not easy. To be successful, the predator must develop fantastic techniques that enable it to outsmart its prey. The Senate seems to have a limitless capacity for winning adaptations in its quest to conquer the Presidency and invariably the entire country.

The Nigerian Senate gives the false picture of an institution that is on the side of the people, acting, therefore, to actualize peace, order and good government for the federation. Its body language — indeed, grandstanding — sends the false message of an institution that cares for Nigerians. The truth, however, is that the Nigerian Senate is being controlled by a powerful and affluent minority that is using the instrumentality of the Senate to cover their filthy past and prevent the President from prying into it.

There is nothing as provokingly infernal as the Senate posturing as a vanguard of honour and morality. Several distinguished members of the Senate are facing corruption charges in court, and yet the Senate keeps denying an appointee of Mr. President on the ground that the Department of State Services, DSS, made corruption allegations against him. If those allegations make Ibrahim Magu unfit to head the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, can we not say that those Senators with corruption charges in court are not fit to be in the hallowed chambers of our National Assembly? For, between Magu and the Senate, whose authority has a more telling bearing on the life and conscience of Nigerians?

Some psychoanalysis of what the Senate is doing to Nigerians will help here. I will, for obvious reasons, use Bukola Saraki, the President of the Senate who personifies the ambition of the Senate, as my handle and case study. Through him and his clique, I intend to expose the Senate for what it is — an avaricious institution that is bent on breaking the Presidency and making the Federal Government toothless and ineffectual.

What is resonant and intriguing about Bukola Saraki is the ability to use adaptable fake lures. His caudal alluring tactic is incredibly effective. He uses the likes of Dino Melaye (or is it Daniel Jonah Melaye?), a bioluminescent character, to lure his prey into a striking range.  By design, Saraki looks suave and sounds less loquacious. Like the magician, he is adept in ‘exploiting perceptual processing to work his tricks.’ As Dr Katherine Ramsland, Professor of Forensic Psychology at DeSales University in Pennsylvania,would say in her seminal essay, Shadow Boxing, the Measure of Cunning:

Humans are hardwired to focus on specific things, tuning out background. Thus, the perceptual field can be hijacked and manipulated. Voluntary attention is “top-down:” we initiate. But we’re prone to being led by “bottom-up” diversions.

Magicians form a context for directing us. Then they use motion, lighting, novelty, surprise, timing, a stream of patter, and knowledge about human responses to maintain control. Within the perceptual shadows, they use misdirection. Studies that tracked eye movement during a trick indicate that the eye does see what they’re doing on the periphery, but the brain declines to process and store it into memory.

Smart predators also exploit perceptual quirks. They, too, use deflection, social miscues, and misinformation to provide cover. Often, they use a contrived persona of charm and success to engender trust. They deflect caution by seeming confident and by doing favors or engaging their targets in compliant situations. They know what it takes to fool the brain.

As Ramsland would also say, Saraki and his horsemen ‘have a specific type of intelligence, even though many might come up short on a standard IQ test.’ They may have spent eternity in getting their degrees, but they are street smart.  ‘They have narcissistic immunity (NI). You might see it in a CEO, a celebrity athlete, even an artist, but you’ll definitely find it in repeat offenders who take significant risks. They have a talent for rebounding from setbacks, because they’re certain of their invulnerability – even when the evidence is clearly against them.’

While hoping that the Presidency is ignoring the Senate in order not to be distracted from the onerous task of taking the country out of the recession, I wish to end this discourse with a warning — that if you give an overly ambitious man a yard, he will take miles. For the good of tomorrow, it is high time the Presidency stopped the Senate in its tracks.

The principle of separation of powers is meant to make the three arms of Government separate but supportive of each other, and not to work in silos.

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