By Tony Momoh
Sanusi is a pointer, and having performed the duty of pointing, it is left for the activists in our midst to push for the wrongs of indulgence to be righted. I think we have been indulging our organs of government by accepting that they can be judges in their own causes.
The proper thing to do, if you have a grouse, is to reach out to the appropriate authority and let the law take its course. But in recent times, we have watched and been intimidated into silence as our lawmakers routinely invite those who make unfavourable statements about them to come to the floor of the assembly to explain themselves.
The most recent victim is Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi who had delivered a speech in which he made some statements that angered the lawmakers at the national assembly. So they invited Sanusi over; some of them so angry that they accused him of treason. Yes, treason, not against Nigeria as a country, but the national assembly as one of its organs! Oh God.
If I hadn’t come to recognitions about your ways, I would have joined the uninitiated in asking what the hell you are doing, watching as your creatures twist and turn the order and discipline you built into your creation.
But what did Sanusi do? He was invited to the eighth convocation of the Igbinedion University, Okada, Edo State where he delivered an address. He spoke on “Growth Prospects for the Nigerian Economy.”
A summary of the report which caused so much anger will give an idea of what Sanusi was saying, was pointing to, or pointing out to us, 150 million of us who are the owners of the revenue whose expenditure he was advising on.
He said in the lecture, and please, tell me what is wrong with this, “We need power, we need infrastructure, so we need to start looking at the structure of expenditure and make it more consistent with the development initiative of the country.”
In illustrating the expenditure pattern of government, he said it was not good enough that 25 per cent of overhead of Federal Government goes to the National Assembly. They asked Sanusi to come before them, retract the statement because it was false, and apologise. Sanusi did appear and explained himself, the statement he made, and the context in which he used the figures in the lecture he gave. They asked him to withdraw the statement.
He refused to do so because the source was impeccable. The share of the national assembly in the overhead expenditure of the federal government has risen from 14% in 2008 through 17% in 2009 to 25% in 2010. And the vibrant governor of the Central Bank, as would be done by any other official having to monitor what is being earned by the country and what is being spent and on what, told us that we are not zeroing in enough on priorities that would grow our country.
I see Sanusi as doing the work of a pointer. We all know what pointers do. They point to the way you can take to reach a particular destination. In those days of turbulent anti-colonial politics, the West African Pilot came on the scene and adopted the slogan that it is there to show, point out the way, for the people to follow.
It is like telling us, “Here are the facts, those who have ears, let them hear.” So the choice has always been left to the people to make. Our history is full of proof that we have always compromised our national interest for personal gain.
How else would we have stolen enough money to supply water to every of the 97,000 communities that this country is comprised of? So when the governor of the Central Bank goes to Okada to make a speech and comes away with figures that point in the direction of choice of waste in governance, we pounce on the irrelevant and shout crucifixion as his reward for being a pointer to the way we have taken that can only lead us to the failed state the Americans have predicted, We totally ignore the issues he raised, the attempts other less endowed countries have been making to grow their economies and people.
We take one little statement which does not deny our choice of greed, but only may have exaggerated the portion that goes to those who have chosen the path of full time lawmaking which people even now begin to see as being reduced to an opportunity to serve selfish interests.
That the National Assembly is populated by gentlemen, honest men, very hardworking men and women, is not in doubt. But let’s be honest with ourselves; it is not everyone there that pushes for the irreducible minimum behaviour demanded from distinguished and honourable men. This negligible few do not care a hoot about what image they project to a public which they even hold in disdain.
They forget that they are there to weave tapestries that reflect the abundance that people enjoy when those who know God serve in the name of God. But how much of God do we reflect in the way we rule this country?
Sanusi is being hanged because he said a sizeable percentage of expenditure on areas outside direct impact on the lives of our people is spent on the national assembly. They invited him, as they have been doing, to come and clear his name! Let it be said, the national assembly is turning itself into a court and exceeding its powers so clearly settled in the constitution.
The Constitution does not grant to the national assembly, or even the courts the power to be judges in their own causes. Sanusi was man enough to tell our honourable men and women what he said and the context in which he said it. Let them look at the whole picture and do something about the greed that makes us share the earnings of today and abandon the obligations that should point to a brighter future for our children, and their children.
I have many friends in the national assembly, and I have told them that the attitude of many to them is less of envy for their wellbeing than the fact that they do not seem to be interested in ensuring the welfare and security of the people. A stitch in time will continue to save nine.
LAST LINE: I had been looking forward to November 30, for three months. That day would witness the giving of a lecture organised by the Writers Association, Lagos State University School of Communication. The Guest Speaker would be Prof Sylvanus Ekwelie, Professor Emeritus of Masscom, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
The chief host would be Professor Ralph Akinfeleye, HOD, Masscom, Univeristy of Lagos. Venue: Afe Babalola Auditorium, Unilag. That day came, with Prof Itse Sagay (SAN) on the chair, and the hall full of young men and women knocking on the door of the profession I have practised since the early 60s. The topic: The Growth of and Need for a First Estate: A Lecture to Honour Prince Tony Momoh…” The lecture was carried live on Unilag Radio, and will be published on my website www.tonymomoh .com early in the week.