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We laugh at ourselves

By Muyiwa Adetiba

Senator Dino Melaye from Kogi State appeared at the Senate on Tuesday in a ceremonial academic gown. His fellow senators must have been intrigued and tickled by this new level of rascality. Many would have backslapped him and joked with him. Some I hope, would be aware of the expectations of the Senate enough to have felt a bit embarrassed and even shamefaced by his theatrics. After all, we are talking about the highest legislative chamber in the country. A place that is supposed to be of serious deliberations on ideas and laws that would shape our lives and the lives of generations yet unborn. It is a sign however, of how the members view the hallowed chamber of the Senate and their jobs, that not one person was heard speaking against this new dress code publicly while many of us on the outside saw it as another low; although some of us saw it as another scene in the serial Senate comedy show and simply laughed it off. ‘Melaye o ni pami’ (Melaye won’t kill me) such people said. Actually, I urge people to seek comic relief by laughing at him but not with him—like you laugh at a mad man in a market place. ‘Were dun wo l’oja ko se bi lomo.’ (A mad man is good to watch in a market place but not to have as a child.) For to laugh with him is to be one with him and I don’t think we are as a collective; I know I am not.

Actually the joke didn’t start last Tuesday. It started when the Senate decided to put up a farcical show by inviting the VC of Ahmadu Bello University to publicly come and verify Melaye’s academic degree. Very few people expected a different outcome from what was declared on Monday. A more serious body would have had the decency to call for an independent panel of credible Nigerians. The Senate I know does not have the liver to do an impartial job on one of its most visible members who also happens to be a friend of its President. And we didn’t need the VC to tell us that Senator Dino Melaye has a third class brain and a fourth class personality. He acts it; he breaths it.

Meanwhile, the Senate wants to be taken seriously. It expects any government official it summons no matter how high up to drop everything to heed its call. It forgets that seriousness has to be projected. And respect has to be earned. So far, they don’t score high on both fronts. As it turned out, the ordeal of retired Colonel Hameed Ali seems to stem from Saraki’s 300 million Naira Range Rover which the Customs boss impounded. Self- interest became public interest as so often happens in Nigeria. The Senate President staged another farcical show when he asked his minions to investigate him. Who among them has the liver? Who among them is without sin enough to cast the first stone? So, who is fooling whom? As it is, even the stage managed investigation has opened another Pandora ’s Box of forgery.

The biggest comedy of it all is that Saraki sees everything as politics. But for politics, he would not have been facing the Code of Conduct Bureau for false declaration of assets. It really doesn’t matter if he actually under declared his assets. I suppose it is also politics that got his name mentioned among those who secreted money into Panama tax havens. The Paris Club money laundering that has been allegedly linked to him is also mere politics. As was the pressure to declare the unproductive income of its members which they have so far successfully ignored. It is politics that has made them leave the Petroleum Industry Bill and the health of the nation to discuss uniform for ogas. Or the decision not to screen the INEC nominees. Yet Saraki and his friend Melaye belong to the new generation; the future of Nigerian politics where the line between propriety and politics is blurred.

Let us leave the joke that is the senate for a minute and consider more serious issues. Somewhere in one of the South-South States last week, a young man was alleged to have poisoned some people. I still cannot fathom the level of derangement that would make a young man to deliberately attempt mass murder. Equally tragic was the aftermath of it. The poisoned victims had to travel in what must have been some discomfort to get to a half–way decent hospital. The epidemiologists had to travel again to get the samples analysed. We are here talking about an oil producing state where their leaders have spent millions on grandiose schemes; where their leaders have enriched themselves with houses in Lagos, Abuja and Europe; where their leaders are currently strutting their stuff in Senate and buying bullet proof cars. Yet genuine health care is far from their people. Just when are we going to take the issue of primary health care seriously in this country? The three hundred million Naira used to buy one bullet proof car can build and equip a good dispensary unit that a senatorial zone needs in a saner country. And you need to see the village where the victims came from. There was so much poverty written over it that it looked like a medieval village. Yet, it belonged to an oil producing State in the 21st century. It was reported that an Institute that is to do research for over one hundred and twenty million Nigerians was allocated just about nine hundred million Naira in the budget. That is the cost of less than four bullet proof cars. No wonder the Institute cannot afford to fuel or service its generators and wallows literally and figuratively in darkness. The hottest place in hell must be reserved for leaders who exploit and abuse the authority given them by providence.

As for the rest of us, we need to stop laughing at ourselves believing we are laughing at the jokers in politics. When are we going to fight for something as basic as light and a decent education that will not produce third rate graduates and third rate Senators? When will our industries be powered by local research and home grown entrepreneurs? When will Aso Hospital and other Teaching Hospitals arrest the medical tourism that is killing our people and draining our resources?

Each time I hear our leaders—especially those who have clamped in jail for stealing—talk about going abroad for treatment I feel like joining that young man and poison some people.

P.S. What is the nation going to do about the Senate? Aren’t we tired of the ‘alawada shows?’


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