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Need to raise the bar for public office seekers

By Tabia Princewill

PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari once said he was ready to work with whoever emerged as the leaders of the National Assembly, therefore refusing to get involved (contrary to what his role as party leader ought to have demanded). One must wonder if today he has come to regret or rethink his position.

Prseident Muhammadu Buhari

In well-established democracies, the party’s internal workings determine who gets offered what position, rather than the unbridled ego or ambition of a few who to top it all off, don’t seem to work towards the party or the people’s interests but only their own.

Legislative offices in the US, UK and other places are keenly contested because the legislature can make or unmake a Presidency.

It is always up to the executive to make sure it has the right support in both chambers  so that its plans can be actualised through the laws passed to support progress rather than hinder it. Nigerians live and learn.

It seems that most of us in this country did not have a real grasp of the legislature’s role or importance which is why we’ve focused on the executive, being the governorship and presidential elections and totally ignored the legislature, failing to pay attention to who got elected or, moreover, what their plans were.

So many members of the House and Senate are alleged beneficiaries of a corrupt status quo. It was supremely naïve to believe they would support real change.

Everything decent and good

The only option for Nigerians, seeing as they have made it so difficult to recall them even when they don’t live up to expectations, is to not be discouraged by the current goings on. In 2019, ask to know your representative, his or her plans for you, not just their party symbol.

It is interesting that of all the senators who might be close to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Dino Melaye is the most vocal, and comically so. One wonders why Saraki, who himself is quite poised in public, would want such cartoon antics around him.

What does this say about him? Nigeria has lost everything decent and good which countries ordinarily should stand for. It didn’t happen overnight. Many times during our history of calamity and injustice, we should have protested, but didn’t, out of greed and selfishness.

Now, this is where we are. The Number Three citizen in the country goes from the most hallowed chamber to answer a case in court. So, what do our institutions stand for? Guilty or not, decency called for a resignation. Almost everything about the way we do things in Nigeria, the way we justify what cannot logically be justified, is unheard of in other countries, yet, we wonder why progress and development elude us.

Who will put their best foot forward for Nigeria, when it seems like many seek power only to defraud us then to use said power to escape justice? Our government today is acting at cross purposes, almost as if its members were all from different parties. We don’t know what our senators earn, and as of yet, there seems to be little proof that constituency projects have yielded enough fruits to justify the billions awarded towards them. Sewing machines and motorcycles cannot account for the huge sums or contracts awarded for projects which are not, to begin with, the purview of the National Assembly.

We truly don’t understand democracy and what each arm of government is supposed to do. Only the executive is supposed to build schools, fix roads, etc. Rumours of extortion from the National Assembly, allegations of ministers paying senators to be confirmed, of budget padding aren’t new. All of this ensures Nigeria and its citizens never get the best, either in terms of personnel to serve them or in terms of service delivery. When does it end?

Service delivery

Professor Sagay wasn’t wrong to say “Nigeria is finished”. We truly have sunk very low. After all, how could the DSS, an agency under the executive’s control, have authored a report condemning Magu, Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) without showing it to the President before passing it on to the Senate?

Senators and certificates

NIGERIA is a strange place indeed. The London School of Economics and Harvard University, without involving their deans or creating a scene, were able to quickly and unilaterally deny that a certain grandiloquent senator ever graduated from these institutions. The Vice-Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Prof Ibrahim Garba, came to testify on the Senate floor but his answers raised further questions, too many in fact to go over here (why wasn’t the senator’s name in the year book or alumni roll for instance, is it possible to gain admission to a master’s programme with a third class? How does one start NYSC before one graduates? Why don’t the dates seem to match?).

Saraki

Senate ethics committee

The real question is: why “embellish” the truth with claims of Harvard and LSE attendance when by law it isn’t even compulsory to have attended university to contest for office? It is interesting to note that the Senate ethics committee gave no real account of how or why it decided to clear the senator. Perhaps it was just a matter of “taking a bow”. The more things change, the more they stay the same in Nigeria.

When it is time to vote again, let’s remember ethics, morals and values. It’s time we stopped complaining and make a conscious decision to get the right sort of people into public office. After all, a lawmaker publicly celebrating his “victory” after such accusations, by dancing and mocking his would-be foes in such an erratic, crass manner cannot be the new normal in Nigeria. Again, one must wonder, why couldn’t the senator’s powerful friends call him to order? Is this all a joke to them?

Does contradicting the Senate make one its enemy?

HAMEED Ali refused to wear a uniform. Dino Melaye proudly displayed the Ahmadu Bello University cap and gown (although some have claimed the outfit didn’t match what the Senator’s class would have worn). It is interesting that Buhari, the former military ruler, tried to be “democratic” by allowing the legislature choose its leaders. Yet, the Senate which is supposed to be the guardian of democracy has consistently opposed anyone who dared speak out against it.

Without bestowing sainthood on Ali Ndume and Abdul Jibrin, they had a right to their ideas and opinions, especially as their hefty allegations are yet to be investigated and disproved. The Senate’s ethics committee isn’t the police or the EFCC. But in a country where government agencies now seem to work against their own boss, the President, where politics rather than truth determines the outcome of any case, we can only insist that the President takes control or hands over such sensitive issues to the Vice-President. Why should Nigerians be held hostage?

Hameed Ali

WHAT is really behind his travails with the Senate? Reports allege that a task force he set up uncovered no less than N269.5 million worth of fraudulently imported goods in Kano alone, some belonging to an unnamed Senator and other politically-connected persons.

If some Senators are allegedly involved in businesses and don’t pay import duties, they would have reason to be angry at a man determined to fight corruption in the Customs.

 


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.