By Josef Omorotionmwan
OUR point of order is on Dr. Doyin Okupe who, in the character or a rabble-rouser, has become too loud and he is overheating the polity.
We have no reason to believe that this is what President Goodluck Jonathan wants because whoever pockets a small snake out of kindness will soon realise that there are limits to kindness.
Gradually, Okupe is beginning to wear the character of a person who has been planted on our President with the sole charge to destroy the President from within. Otherwise, which handler would consistently encourage his principal to commit suicide so that he would quickly jump in to justify how the principal got his hanging ropes?
One gets the impression that when President Jonathan went to present his budget estimates to the National Assembly, Dr. Okupe was not around. Otherwise, he would have been the one to do the presentation.
He would have started by asking the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, or for that matter, any member of the National Assembly, to remain silent throughout his stay in the chamber. But if they must say anything, he would have been magnanimous enough to hand them a prepared script of what to say.
Which branch of government is headed by Dr. Okupe? For all we know, Dr. Jonathan got to Aso Rock on the people’s popular votes. Senator David Mark and Aminu Tambuwal were elected into the National Assembly by their people.
But where does Dr. Okupe come in? Certainly, Nigeria is one place where an unelected intruder can invade the fiefdom of a duly elected official; abuse him thoroughly; and get away with it. Indeed, an abuse on our duly accredited institutions is an abuse on our collective sensibilities.
Apparently, in the two instances of Okupe’s intrusion, the moral message left behind is: “Since you have a President who is not bright enough, I will always be the one to address you on important occasions even if that is not what the Constitution demands”. Okupe has started well and he is spreading fast.
At first, it was the nation’s 52nd Independence Anniversary Broadcast; then, the budget presentation; and by next year, perhaps, he will move to New York, where he will stand side by side with President Jonathan on the podium, telling him how to address the General Assembly of the United Nations.
Nigeria’s descent to confusion is deepening by the day, no thanks to Dr. Okupe. The official spokesman of Government is supposed to be the Minister of Information but he has been rendered redundant by Okupe.
By normal practice, the day after the budget presentation – just about when Okupe was addressing the press on the budget – the Minister of Finance would have been analyzing the President’s budget speech and giving details of the provisions. Okupe’s usurpation has watered down all that.
Whatever happened to party discipline? Okupe has thoroughly exposed PDP’s failure. He says the Executive failed because the Legislature failed – and both are PDP-controlled! He rightly wonders who would expect 100 percent performance on a budget that was passed in April, just five months ago.
But he cleverly avoided mentioning that the budget was thrown into the National Assembly a few days before Christmas and that was the genesis of the entire failure!
If Okupe’s design was to browbeat the National Assembly into rubber-stamping the estimates and passing them before the end of the year, it has failed.
He probably does not know that the venom he has just vomited at the National Assembly will take more than three months to clear in which case, we are already looking far into mid-2013 for the passage of the budget.
While Okupe beats his chest about the early presentation of the 2013 Appropriation Bill, he probably does not know that the US Congress is already working on the 2014 appropriations, thanks to good budget cycles! In modern legislation, that’s what qualifies for early budgeting.
Legislative oversight of the administration as enshrined in Section 88 of the 1999 Constitution is a potent instrument of control. How else, for instance, would we have known that the 2012 budget performance was abysmally low?
The oversight process is around the year, which brings to naught Okupe’s insinuation that the legislators moved round the country in just one week. In any case, how long does it take to know that a project that was proposed for a place did not take off?
Legislative oversight facilitates the lawmaking process. Okupe must be pointed to order in his wild goose chase. After all, there is nowhere that the National Assembly is required to submit the result of its oversight either to him or to any other person for vetting.
Since when did the President’s budget proposal stop being “mere estimates”? It was for people like Okupe that Speaker Tambuwal had a flash back to Section 81(1) of the 1999 Constitution where the President’s document has been appropriately defined as “estimates of revenue and expenditure”.
To Okupe, referring to the budget figures as mere estimates demeans the quality of the document but he was quick to say: “What it requires is to table this before the elected representatives of the people for them to consider it and deliberate upon. Where amendments/adjustments are required, it should be done…”.
He forgot to tell his audience that in the process of considering, deliberating, amending and adjusting this “sacrosanct” document, the legislature can knock it down completely and rearrange it in the superior interest of the people. For now, the figures remain mere estimates.