Why Have We Abandoned Honourable Haruna Yerima?

by Toochi Uchendu

Having watched with interested and monitored the news media for reactions after Hon Yerima whistle blowing and his subsequent suspension by the “honorable” House. It has become a “moral burden” for me as a concerned Nigeria to lend my voice in support of the one who has chosen the side of the people above himself.

For even the Bible tells the story of how God promised to save Sodom and Gomorrah if only he could find one soul that is righteous. Honorable Yerima’s conduct instead of attracting commendation has brought intimidation and scorn from the ones who feel that 120million people are fools while a handful of them at Abuja are the wise men.

The fact that Honorable Yerima can be suspended and Adams Oshimole is not barricading the National Assembly he had done previously speaks volume about how selective pro-masses grand standing that we sometimes witness are. It only goes to confirm that opposition is only meant for powerful interests who by some circumstance cannot be part of the current power arrangement and never for the interest masses.

The pro democracy people too have kept quiet while Honorable Yerima is humiliated by the gods who we must all bow to. This apathy is even more worrisome when we put into context the fact that Yerima raised issues about the handling of the budget, the government’s almighty tool for resources allocation and social well being.

This is not the first time dusts have been raised about the National assembly being compromised in the discharge of their oversight functions. The diminutive but mighty Honorable Minister of the FCT, Mallam El Rufai generated so much controversy when he told the media that certain members of the National assembly demanded N54million from him as a pre condition for his clearance as a Minister of the Federal Republic. After much controversy, it was swept under the carpet and the sleeping dog allowed to lie however the mafia never forgot him but ensured that he bit the dust for his passion in the service of his fatherland. Does it mean that evil thrives over the good in this country? Why must the good people be made to suffer will the evil ones get accolades.

Honorable Yerima may not have said anything that we don’t know but if the opposition, the press, civil rights groups and all men of goodwill do not stand to defend him then there is no hope for all this our democracy. The fact that Ministers, heads of Parastatals and even Vice Chancellors must “drop something” before their budget is passed confirms the dismal level of scrutiny one of the most important tool of government, second only to the constitution passes through. I was recently told a story of how a Vice Chancellor who happened to hold dearly to his faith was crying in his hotel room at Abuja because he was told to go and bring an outrageous amount of money for his capital budget to be passed. He actually told someone that the “honorable” member suggested he should go to the contractors who will benefit from the capital vote and get the money when he pleaded that he does not have access to the kind of money they were requesting.

To get approval for the resources that will make our students have quality education we have to pay additional money not minding the luxury we provide for honorable members at Abuja. This is very depressing though not surprising in the sense that it accounts for kinds of abandoned or shabbily done jobs all over the country. Out of N230million to be disbursed to a foreign contractor recently he confided that over N80m was for all forms of settlement and yet the Minister for Finance will mount the rostrum all over the world that corruption is abetting when in the actual sense it is now being legalized through unwritten legislation.

I guess that the President shared in our heavy heart of moral burden for him to confront the Ministers during the Federal Executive council as reported by some newspapers. The Fish rots from the head and if Honorable Ministers cannot rebuff the greed of Honorable Members then how can we all be shouting about poorly paid constable that has mounted his own toll gate at the various check points Nation wide.

Even more interesting in the newspaper report was the threat by the president that any Minister who is culpable should confess to him before he finds out himself. My interest is in what will happen after they have confessed to the President. Will that be enough to clear his “moral burden?”

Most people are beginning to develop fatigue about discussing corruption but we should be aware of the consequences of this President not getting its various reform programs to a comfortable irreversible level before 2007. Especially as we review the antecedents of the chieftains lining up to occupy Aso Rock come 2007, goose pimple is an understatement of my condition. If the institutionalized corruption is not deinstitutionalized reasonably by 2007 then that war would have been lost battle. The funds release office of the Ministry of Finance is another office of gory tales. The banks that request for perfection of Irrevocable Standing Payment Orders (ISPO) by state governments and various contractors understand that it will be easier for elephant to pass through the eyes of the needle than to get served in that office without dropping the standard fees.

Another issue the only Honorable Yerima highlighted is the shallow and beer parlour nature of the debates in the House. No one is actually surprise because how can anything good come from ……? I will leave everyone to fill in the blank space as you deem appropriate. I recently watch a city council budget session in one of the developed countries and it goes to confirm that we have not started the journey.

Companies like MTN, whose style of competition is buying the conscience of the society by corrupting our honorable members should also be sanctioned. The developed countries are now leading the way to reduce corruption in the third world be coming down hard on companies that corrupt government officials and we should not be seen to be lenient on our own offenders hence they develop complacency too. This week US financial watchdog, the Securities and Exchange Commission fined US based – Titan Telecom Corporation the sum of $28.5m for illegally contributing $2.1m through an agent to the campaign of President Kerekou in 2001.

May I plead with President Obasanjo and all men of goodwill to prevail on the house to rescind its decision and recall Honorable Haruna Yerima with immediate effect. If we allow him to be ridiculed and intimidated to the point of apologizing for being honorable then I wonder what will be the fate of the dishonorable members.

To all actors in this our democratic experience I believe that Ukraine and recently Lebanon should be of interest in understanding that power belongs to the people. It is a pertinent reference point because when the masses come to terms with the fact that nobody is in Abuja to represent them they will not have any other option but to represent themselves.

May God Bless Nigeria!

Mr. Toochi Uchendu is a Chartered Accountant and lives in Lagos

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