By Muyiwa Adetiba
I am not enamoured of the National Assembly in general and the Senate in particular. I think they are a bunch of greedy, over fed and over pampered individuals. In moments of exuberance and vain glory, they call themselves the people’s representatives. Maybe they are right in a way because they somewhat represent the basest of the instincts of the Nigerian people.
The instincts of pay without labour, ethnic manipulation, self-interest and plain greed. But there are many good people in Nigeria: honest people who have achieved whatever they have achieved through hard work and fair play; people with integrity who want the very best for the country and her citizens and these lots don’t represent them. In fact, it is more apt to say they represent the Nigerian elite at its exploitative best. Even the decent members tend to lose their voices once they get into the House.
If I have not written anything about the National Assembly despite its many provocative acts, it is because I find it extremely hard to be logical and rational when it comes to our National Assembly. Like I confessed, I am not enamoured of it and the antics of our ‘distinguished congressmen’ seem to defy logic and rationality. In the first place, whoever felt Nigeria needed a bi-cameral legislature did not take the psyche of the Nigerian politicians into consideration.
Whoever decided we needed over 400 law makers with such huge allowances was insensitive to the poverty level in the country. Whoever made them accountable to no one was not schooled in the predisposition of the Nigerian elite towards impunity. The result is that we have a bloated, unwieldy, self-serving, over paid and under worked lot.
It did not just start last year. We once had a Senate President who said he was not in the Senate to legislate poverty for himself. Such words from an otherwise intelligent man could only betray his contempt for the people that elected him. The musical chairs that followed his removal were not only self-serving, they showed the lust for power and the hollowness in the so called hallowed chamber.
And the man who held forte in the eight years preceding this current Assembly, showed in words and body language that he never cared for the poor. His state is one of the poorest in the country, but what does it matter as long as he can have access to the luxurious entrapments around the world like private jets, private golf courses, helicopter landing pads and luxurious homes.
Such is the stuff of our Senate that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which was to develop and regulate our economic mainstay was mired in geo-political tussle, grandstanding and greed and was never passed. Yet frivolous bills like child marriage and gay marriage kept occupying the attention of our honourable men and women. The monumental corruption which had been discovered in the past year would have been minimised if our legislators had applied themselves to jobs they were elected to do. Instead, their ‘over sight functions’ were limited to foreign trips and allowances and they would do anything to be put in choice committees. The corrupt rumps of some of them were exposed during the Ms Arume Otteh disclosures and fuel subsidy probes and quickly covered up.
But it gets worse. The current
congress is united in their intrigues and lust for power and showed, if we needed any proof, that there is really no difference between APC and PDP. So deep was the intrigue at the time of choosing the officers that we almost had a PDP candidate as Senate President. We need to make it clear that the majority of Nigerians rejected PDP at the last polls and it cannot come back through the back door. It will have to wait for another three years at least.
And it matters very little if Saraki resigned or changed his cap. This Senate has shown in the under hand way it handled the budget and single handedly inserted constituency project worth billions of naira, in the sly way it tried to amend the constitution in respects of the ACJ and CCB acts, in the surreptitious way it tried to introduce the Social Media gag bill, in the chauvinistic way it scuttled the Gender Equality bill, that the more things change, the more they remain the same.
As we speak, the members are said to have allotted 108 luxury ca
rs to themselves at twice the cost despite public indignation and outcry although this was lamely denied during the week. This works out as a car per person. We must remind ourselves that these people’s allowances have already been monetised.
We must also remind ourselves that these people live in a country where the poorest civil servants have not been paid their minimum wages for six months in some states which include their constituencies. Yet, they reportedly allotted to themselves, a-N36 million car per person. It is worth mentioning that they did not go to Innoson to purchase made-in-Nigeria cars despite their hypocritical made in Nigeria bill they are trying to push out.
A chart went out in the social media a few weeks ago which showed that the budget for the National Assembly is higher than those of at least 20 Nigerian states. Although I have not ascertained the veracity of the chart, it brings me to the question of just how much does a legislator earn and where the rest of the money goes. Why would a thousand people have a financial allocation higher than that of a state no matter how small the state is?
If we expected soberness and dedication from these privileged people, we are sorely mistaken because they are always in the news for the wrong reasons. It is all about power, money and intrigues. Hardly about service. I will not say anything about the current Senate President because there is really little to say. In any case, he is having his day in court after much rigmarole. For me, there are no surprises.
Just as there are little surprises in the other senators who see politics in everything and follow him to court. They forget that they were elected and therefore accountable to their constituencies. They forget that they are being paid, and handsomely too, to make laws for the betterment of the people, and each time they play the truant, the tax payers are being short changed. In another place and time, these people would be recalled as unworthy representatives.
The way out? We certainly do not need a bi-cameral legislature. It is a luxury no African country can afford. We also don’t need full time legislators. That’s another unaffordable luxury. Their payment should rather be based on attendance and input. Then if they like, they can spend all their days in court in solidarity as long as I am not paying for it. Birds of a feather tend to flock together after all.