BETWEEN FOREIGN AND NIGERIAN LEGISLATORS
Daily Trust, May17, New Nigeria May17, Nigerian Tribune May17, Punch May18, 2004
Democracy . . . Nascent Democracy . . . It seems the word NASCENT is used by political leaders to excuse their failure in
governance; to excuse their nonchalant attitude to the yearnings of the citizenry and as an excuse for their naked brigandage
and abuse of the rule of law. The regular frivolities exhibited, most especially by our lawmakers, have done enough violence
to our hard earned democracy.
The above was the impression of a friend about our legislators. I told him I hold our lawmakers in high esteem and
could commit local hara-kiri or suicide bombing to protect their name, because the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria
explicitly vests enormous power on them to make law for the peace, order and good governance. As a patriotic Nigerian I respect
them even if they lead us astray since we elected them to represent us.
But for my friend, that the legislators, at Federal and State levels have not lived to expectation is to repeat the
obvious. He couldn’t see what they have done with their constitutional power to the benefit of the citizenry. He told
me that recently a respected columnist stated that he would never glorify criminals on his page alluding to the repeated embarrassing
activities going on in the legislative chambers. He noted that while more than 600 Nigerians, human beings in flesh and blood,
were mercilessly massacred in Shemdam, a village in Yelwa Local Government Area of Plateau State in an expected security-protected
zone, the Senate of Federal Republic of Nigeria was busy plotting and counter plotting impeachment against its leadership
for selfish and petty reasons as one of the plotters later confessed to bewildered Nigerians. Even though most Americans including
the legislators approved the spending of billions for the execution of the Iraqi Project, he noted that they still have the
sense of dignity to condemn their executive arm for betrayal over the atrocities perpetrated by their forces in Iraq.
At this point I felt like punching my friend, but I allowed him to continue so that I could fully understand where
he was driving at. He looked at me and continued his diatribe with the passion of a yuppy preacher. “At the time the
American Senate was drilling the Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld over the abuse of Iraq Prisoners, with all candor and
sense of responsibility to protect their country’s battered image, members of Nigerian House of Representatives were
also busy to reenact or surpass what their senior had curiously nibbed in the bud.”
He added that the behavior and character of some of our elected representatives could pass for such high level melodrama
that could put our local clowns and comedians out of the humour industry. “That show, at the Senate and the attempted
repeat of it by the House, if displayed by kindergarten pupils would have attracted some lashes of big koboko on their bare
buttocks to serve as deterrent.”
I was surprised at his effusions as he talked so disdainfully about our lawmakers. I told him he was going too far.
He looked at me for a while and continued by stating that at the time the British Parliament was challenging their Prime Minister
on how to better the lot of their people through flexible taxes, interest rate and pension schemes, our legislators at all
tiers are working out a sharing formula to share amongst themselves part of our statutory funds, as their budget, for frivolous
foreign trips, ridiculous allowances and welfare packages.
I interjected by informing him that Nigeria
is a black African country, so he should restrict himself to African or local context in the discourse and face the reality
on the ground.
How many legislators from other West African countries travel abroad frequently for medical checkups as their counterparts
do in Nigeria even when we have better
medical facilities in our country? He asked as he ignored me. He continued by saying that the issue of check and balance is
thrown into the dustbin due to the greediness on the part of the legislators. They are not contented with their official jumbo
pay packages but seek for personal favours and palm-greasing from their victims that include the executive arms at the respective
tiers. “Why do you think the leadership at the executive arms were able to easily and successfully pocket most of the
legislators and even dictate who should lead the house and who should be suspended?” he queried.
Instead of answering his question, I asked him in turn to be specific by naming the problems the legislators could
not address. His reply was straight as he pointed out that the unemployment is at an alarming rate, with graduates taking
to robbery, young girls into prostitution, the elders into ethnic and religious crises and the polity bedeviled by endemic
corruption. Little is being done by the legislative houses to tame the social and political malaise. He even predicted that
they may not care about the rampant vices, as they may soon pass a resolution for the supply of bulletproof vests and armored
cars to be attached to them and their families.
As interesting as some of the disclosures were, I was not impressed. I could not associate the image of our flamboyant
representatives that I watch in TV with the contemptible things he said. I nevertheless allowed him to continue.
He put his jaw on his palms dejectedly and said that it is only in our legislative houses that lawbreaking is clearly
covered-up while lesser criminals are investigated, prosecuted and jailed. The legislators have always shielded their own
in the name of caucus resolution, executive intervention and party endorsement. It was not surprising that they denied the
Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) the needed power, which renders it a toothless bulldog that barks but not
bite. “Anything goes in Nigeria,
once one belongs to the big league,” he spat out.
This my anti-legislator-friend baffled me so much so that I asked him whether the legislators do not perform any of
their statutory responsibilities. He replied that few Nigerians could recall the last time the legislators really fought for
their interests. The news from the legislative houses are glaringly anti-populace, self-serving, and above all self-centred,
he added. He mentioned that because of their greed for power amongst themselves, they often engage in physical combat to the
stupor on the floor. Regularly they create unnecessary tension with threats of impeachment for monetary inducements. He said
most Nigerians have come to identify the legislators as professional schemers for additional budgetary provisions to service
Does it mean there is no distinction amongst the legislators in regards to their conduct? He laughed at me for my question
as if I talked childishly. He said that nothing was more worrisome than the activities of senators from the South-Eastern
Nigeria, who spearheaded the recent threat for the removal of their own as Third man in the country, adding that it was laughable
that one of them, who claimed to be the most senior senator publicly disclosed that the aborted impeachment was his attempt
to play political chess game to see how gullible his colleagues were and how cheaply they could fall into his usual traps
of deceits, deception and for fun. For the other regions, he said some Northern legislators passed the Sharia law to convict
the poor and hapless people, but not the rich and the powerful. The South-South legislators were freely enjoying the derivation
funds for holidays abroad and sponsoring their wards to foreign schools. While the Afenifere areas are busy with petitions
and debating the infighting of their governors or with their deputies and at the same time recognizing miscreants as their
states’ law enforcers.
With all the wild accusations and allegations I asked him what he wanted the legislators to do.
“If the Nigerian legislators have ever gauged public opinion and rating of their representation, many of them
could have resigned voluntarily from positions, except of course, that they have no honour,” he declared, concluding
that “they have woefully failed to perform their oversight functions as the watchdog of the nation’s treasury
as they pursue contracts for selfishness; they have portrayed Nigerians in bad light . . . they portrayed themselves as bunch
of cro. . . .
“My friend, you better stop this!” I shouted angrily at him. “I don’t want any more of your
baseless and unpatriotic allegations about our elected representative!”
I ended the debate but wondered whether he was wrong. We were neither at the beer parlour nor pepper-soup
joint where it could have been reasonable to question his sense of judgement. I take consolation in the fact that everybody
has the right to personal opinion. I wish to remain a patriotic Nigerian who sees the good and the bad but remains steadfast
by keeping silent on unpleasant situations. But am I fair to my self and the country as I join the bandwagon of onlookers?