Who Can Redeem Dimeji Bankole’s House?

by Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

In 2007, as the nation grappled with the lingering crises thrown up by the N628 million-contract scandal involving the leadership of the House of Representatives, Vanguard newspaper (August 29, 2007) published an interview granted it by Mr. Dino Melaye who was then Chairman, House Committee on Information and National Orientation and one of the loudest supporters of the then House Speaker, Mrs. Patricia Bunmi Etteh, who was eventually consumed by the thoroughly sickening and nation-diminishing crises.

Said Melaye in that infamous interview: “This woman [that is, Etteh] told us, on the floor of the House, that she’s got two boobs. That the old [House Members] can suck one while the new would suck one. Honestly speaking, we are sucking. We are enjoying the sucking. We are doing that right now.”

A few weeks after Mr. Melaye splashed this revolting statement on the nation, and no reaction had come from Etteh and her handlers, I did a piece in my (now rested) newspaper column entitled: “Who Needs Etteh’s House?” and made the following observation:
It is now several weeks since Melaye gave this interview. In the absence of any form of refutation from the beautician from Ikire and her handlers, despite the very unflattering insinuations and disquieting imageries the choice of words clearly conveyed, one is at liberty to conclude that Melaye may have used the exact words deployed by Madam Speaker to serve her very generous offer to House Members. If then the language of deliberations in the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly has achieved such a low descent, why then should anyone be surprised that House Members could so easily provoke serious envy in motor park touts and area boys by the kind of disgraceful and self-debasing combat they enacted the other day?

That was in 2007. Etteh’s unmissed tenure as speaker soon came to a disgraceful end to the relief of decent Nigerians, and with it the sickening era of “sucking” and “enjoying” by Melaye and his colleagues. Or so we thought, because, most sadly, instead of choosing a successor whose tenure would enthrone an ennobling culture of decency, transparency, accountability and diligent preoccupation with the serious business of lawmaking to hasten the recovery of Nigerians from the terrible stress the protracted Etteh scandal had put them through, the House members settled for a Dimeji Bankole, a young, toothy, IBB look-alike, who wasted no time, as he swam from one scandal to another, to begin demonstrating to Nigerians that his era as House Speaker would make us wonder why we had to dispense so much energy and time to clamour for Etteh’s removal because of the little “change” allegedly mismanaged under her watch.

That it took Dino Melaye and his Chocolate Cream Soldiers (which prefer to refer to themselves as “Progressives”) this long to hoist their “anti-corruption” flag in Bankole’s House of Profligacy ought to alert us to the benumbing reality that the young man who is today Speaker of House of Representatives had learned very early to “carry everyone along”— a euphemism for a more elaborate, free and fair, version of “sucking” and “enjoying” in the House.

No decent person in Nigeria today can deny that Bankole’s House stinks to high heavens; but that no serious investigation has so far been undertaken to get to the bottom of the various grave allegations that have lent his House a very monstrous and repelling image should convince everyone that the young man had taken his time to fill his belly with the water flowing ceaselessly from the corrupted cisterns of acclaimed masters Nigeria’s peculiar brand of politics.

Maybe, only very few took notice, or tried to figure out its implications, when the late Emperor of Molete and “Garrison Commander of Amala Politics, Lamidi Adedibu, came out to proudly acknowledge Bankole very early in his tenure, as a beloved “son” who remembered to pay adequate homage to “elders,” that is, acclaimed veterans of the crude, backward politics, which Bankole himself would soon become such an expert in.

At that time, Mr. Bankole was still making the right kind of noises, but soon, he dashed the hopes he had begun raise in Nigerians by brazenly proving the eternal truth in the Yoruba proverb that the Butterfly may pretend to be a Bird, but he is not a Bird.

By the way, where has the awfully misnamed band that called itself “Integrity Group” which championed the fall of Etteh disappeared to since Bankole’s car purchase scandal exploded on the face of the nation? It now pains me terribly that I even once believed that this rowdy bunch of self-seeking lawmakers led by Mr. Lawan ever had the slightest interest in ridding the House of corruption.

And why has it, also, taken our “new, improved” Dino Melaye and the so-called “Progressives” this long to realise that there was need to reclaim the House of Representatives from the deep gully into which allegations of massive corruption and greed had sank it? And what was their view when a House Committee half-heartedly investigated Bankole and not only hurriedly cleared him of all the allegations against him the N3.2 billion car purchase scandal, but devoted its entire energy to combat Lagos lawyer, Festus Keyamo, for daring to insist that the matter must be properly investigated by an impartial body and the outcome made public?

Should we then conclude that this new-found anti-corruption zeal may have been inspired by the outcome of the recent re-organisation of House committees which reportedly excluded a few greedy mouths from the endless “sucking” and “enjoying” in the House?

As I look at Bankole and Melaye, two sides of the same coin, I am tempted to regret condemning Babangida’s atrocious declaration that youths of this country are incapable of providing any decent and meaningful leadership.

But despite Melaye’s self-disqualification as an anti-corruption crusader, we owe it to ourselves as responsible members of a supposedly civilized society to insist that the grave allegations against Bankole must be thoroughly investigated and Nigerians made to know the outcome. After all, the speaker has no constitutional immunity, so why is the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) foot-dragging and appearing reluctant to do its job to the satisfaction of Nigerians?

The issues involved are very straightforward: Did the House leadership soil its hands in a car purchase deal by inflating the prices of the exquisite bulletproof cars supplied by PAN and mindlessly squandered billions of naira in a nation where more than 80% of the citizenry live below poverty level?

Is it true that Bankole spent N9 billion of the House’s capital vote for 2008/2009 to purchase bulletproof cars for himself and his convoy? And why would anyone expect Nigerians to believe that Bankole is not a corrupt speaker when no credible investigation has been undertaken to clear him of the grave allegations against him?

How long will he continue to diminish the National Assembly and, indeed, the entire nation with the great credibility burden he carries about with him today? Already, at countless internet sites these days, grossly embarrassed Nigerians are regularly dismissing him as “Bank–Ole” (whatever that means).

If as a nation, we can afford to sit still and watch Bankole continue to arrogantly personify raw impunity and ride roughshod on our sensibilities, we are only telling the outside world that mediocrity is Nigeria’s middle name, and that

we habour a strong distaste for decent and responsible governance.

And what of the lawmakers whose speaker Bankole has remained despite the credibility bruises all over him? Do they have any sense of shame at all? How long would they cherish being scornfully dismissed even by the school children that witnessed their shameful, greed-motivated fight the other day, as a House that believes in nothing, stands for nothing, without any sense of history, direction and purpose, and clearly without any interest in changing anything or achieving anything or leaving an ennobling legacy?

It is now clear that President Goodluck Jonathan is planning to contest the presidency next year and would need all the support he could get, and so may have winked at the EFCC to turn a blind eye to the grave allegations against Bankole. Somebody should better tell him that he is making a grave mistake, because, such a preference may eventually prove to be his undoing at the polls.

It would be sad if he is not already aware that word is gradually spreading far and near that his government appears too comfortable in the company of grandmasters of graft.

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