By Douglas Anele
Sometime ago, when Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, asserted that the National Assembly appropriates to itself 25 percent of the total overhead budget of federal government, our dishonourable legislators offered self-serving tendentious arguments to explain away their wicked brigandage of the national treasury.
Personally, despite the colossal wealth immorally amassed by the so-called representatives of Nigerians, I do not have an iota of respect for them. Everyone knows that if a forensic cost-benefit analysis of what the country has spent since May 29, 1999 on the Senate and House of Representatives vis-à-vis their contribution to national development, the result would be very damning indeed, for it would reveal that our National Assembly ranks among the biggest white elephants in the world.
There is no doubt that the federal legislature is brimming with corruption notwithstanding the futile posturing of David Mark, Aminu Tambuwal, Ike Ekweremadu, Emeka Ihedioha and other pigs in our legislative Animal Farm. Certainly, those who wrote the 1999 Constitution are partly to blame for its inadequacies which allow agbata e kee politicians to exploit the masses.
For instance, the provision which stipulates a two-chambered legislature at the centre on a permanent basis is an unimaginative cloning of the American system which is inappropriate for our developmental needs at this time. Moreover, it permits jobless politicians, failed business people and unsuccessful professionals to have easy access to billions of naira for doing practically nothing.
Bear in mind that, if stripped of the unnecessary razzmatazz and glamour associated with political office, the contribution of a senator or house member to national development is far less than that of a primary school teacher. Yet, the unjust income distribution system in Nigeria is such that the total annual emolument of a federal legislator can pay the salaries of up to two hundred teachers.
Now, in America investigative journalists and the general public are seriously interested in, and probe deeply, the antecedents of those aspiring for political positions, including the legislature; they also pressurise government officials found wanting to quit office.
In Nigeria the situation is completely different. In fact, investigative journalism necessary for exposing the sordid backgrounds of federal legislators in Nigeria is virtually nonexistent, with the result that all manner of scallywags, fraudsters and people of low mentality are “elected” into the National Assembly. Given this background, the alarming level of indiscipline, deceit and corruption in the Senate and House of Representatives should not surprise anyone.
In that regard, the best thing to do is to scrap the House of Representatives so that the three senators representing each state would have enough job to do, with proper oversight to ensure that absurdities such as constituency allowances and other avenues of stealing money are eliminated. Of course, left to the current over-paid and over-pampered legislators, the necessary reforms that would produce a slimmer, cost- effective and efficient legislature will never be undertaken.
Therefore Nigerians should consider radical measures such as “Occupy the National Assembly” to force politicians to do the right thing. Moral decay in the executive and legislative arms of government has penetrated the judiciary also. The most glaring instantiation of this relates to the vicissitudes of former Delta State governor, James Ibori, who was “beatified” by courts in Nigeria but was jailed in Britain for money laundering and corruption.
The Ibori saga, together with many other frivolous injunctions and judgments in cases involving former state governors, business tycoons and managing directors of failed companies and banks, indicate that Nigeria’s judiciary is experiencing severe crisis of values which must be addressed expeditiously.
Avaricious senior lawyers and sloppy prosecution by various law enforcement agencies are partly responsible for this situation. Nevertheless, the bulk of the blame must go to cash-and-carry judges and magistrates who are used by agbata e kee politicians as instruments for entrenching elephantine corruption in Nigeria.
If our country was China, the United States and Britain, for instance, former heads of state, governors, ministers and other prominent politicians and chief executives of critical socio-political and economic institutions would be in jail for corruption and abuse of office. But Nigeria is yet to evolve into a society where VIPs are compelled to face justice like ordinary citizens.
Thus the question arises: is the judiciary truly the last hope of the common man in Nigeria? The candid answer is a resounding No! Instead Nigerian courts have become the last refuge for kleptomaniacs who employ retinues of senior advocates to subvert the course of justice.
It is shameful that some magistrates and judges eagerly sentence a petty thief to five years imprisonment for stealing one hundred thousand naira whereas former governors who stole billions in different currencies are rewarded with perpetual injunctions against prosecution!
That is not all: in some cases VIP thieves are asked to pay ridiculously low fines for corrupt enrichment. From our brief phenomenology of the three arms of government in the preceding paragraphs, it can be inferred that the cookie called Nigeria baked by Lord Lugard and his cohorts in 1914 is crumbling.
The future is bleak due to the shameless character of our ruling elite. In countries where members of the ruling class have both a sense of shame and feeling of dignity, top government officials voluntarily resign the moment there is serious allegation of serious misconduct against them.
Even when a man-made or natural mishap (for example, an air crash) occurs, the overall boss of the relevant ministry would resign and apologise to the people. In Japan, prime ministers have resigned just because the economy did not meet expectations.
In Nigeria, no matter how serious the allegation of disgraceful misconduct might be, no matter the degree of disaster, the minister in charge would sit tight in his or her position as if nothing has happened: in the worst case scenario, he or she would be moved to another ministry by the president.
To repeat again, albeit with some modification, if Nigeria was China, the ministers of petroleum resources, aviation, internal affairs and other ministries where things have really fallen apart so to speak would have voluntarily resigned.
TO BE CONCLUDED.