By Tonnie Iredia
A confessional statement can be described as the acknowledgment of having done something wrong, whether inadvertently or on purpose. But because confessional messages usually provide information of a private nature previously unavailable to the public, their makers are almost immediately elevated to heroes by the media which usually make news of the revelations. A confessional statement may be oral or written, could be signed or not, may be recorded or not; but before it can have a desired effect, there must be evidence that the maker was not coerced or deceived to make the statement.
This is why statements allegedly made by suspects are sometimes rendered incredible during trials when such suspects eventually get an opportunity to deny statements credited to them. In developing societies, most confessions are made by suspected criminals. Politicians on the other hand hardly make confessions. Even where the media have tapes containing statements made by politicians, the practice is for such politicians to claim to have been misquoted. Of recent however, there is a new development whereby several confessional statements are being credited to frontline politicians including the group in Nigeria known as ‘Distinguished’ Senators.
Perhaps the most significant in recent times is the statement credited to fiery Senator Shehu Sani, representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District. Sani has now revealed that a Nigerian Senator earns N13.5million a month making it appear that the battle between the Senate and Professor Itse Sagay may not have been the imagination of Sagay. Incidentally, Sagay was not the only one who took on the legislature. The Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, also had a running battle with the lawmakers. As a serving Central Bank Governor, Sanusi alleged that the legislators appropriate one quarter of the nation’s budget. All efforts to cow the man failed, as he kept to his guns while also pointing to a government document as his source. Now as Emir, Sanusi has not relented. Only last month the Emir urged President Muhammadu Buhari to reduce the monthly salaries of the National Assembly members which he put at N39million. He also questioned the salaries and allowances of ministers.
On his own part, Sagay who is Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption said he would continue to criticize the legislators for the huge amount of money they are taking out of the country. In Sagay’s words, “They have wardrobe allowance, in other words, we are the ones buying clothes for them to wear. When they arrived Abuja, were they naked? What is their problem?” Is Sagay, a trouble shooter, why is he not relenting? Some Senators had berated the man for what they said was his failure as a Professor to get his facts right meaning that his allegations were false.
Many people were indeed beginning to blame Sagay for the heated polity arising from his constant bashing of the lawmakers when one of them, Senator Shehu Sani, an acclaimed human rights activist, in a recent interview with the News magazine reportedly said “I think what we can say is that the running cost of a senator is N13.5 million every month.” In response to the question on alleged bogus salaries and allowances of Nigerian lawmakers, the Kaduna senator revealed that there is no specific instruction on what the fund should be used for.
Against the backdrop of previous denials by lawmakers, Sani’s confession is significant. The first time he was in a such confessional posture on the subject was a forum organized by the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies NIPSS last year, on another vexed issue – the frosty relationship between Political Parties and their legislators. On that occasion, Sani was confronted with the issue of bogus salaries in the legislature to which he rhetorically explained that money matters in the National Assembly were also inexplicable to people like him outside the caucus. Sani’s disposition seems to suggest that there are National Assembly members who are not comfortable with some delicate matters in the place. In which case, there are courageous lawmakers who are prepared to speak the truth and make it quite clear that some legislators prefer transparency and accountability to the unending stories of bogus allowances in the legislature.
A second type of confession which is also hinged on courage is the posture of those who are ready to denounce what is wrong not minding whether their denials rubbish their own political parties. Here, Senator Dino Melaye stood tall last week when he took up the government formed by his own party on ‘excessive loans’. According to Senator Dino who represents Kogi West on the platform of the ruling All Progressives, whereas the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, borrowed N6trn in its 16 years in power, the federal government led by his own party has already borrowed N11trn within three years. Raising a Point of Order on the floor of the Senate, Dino argued that about $5.5bn was borrowed from euro bond, wondering how the loan has been of benefit to the Nigerian youth. In his words, “N500bn was earmarked for the social investment programme of the Federal Government, but we have not seen any impact; there is no specific programme that will empower the youth.”
With Sani and Dino’s recent outings, it would appear that our legislature is returning to the glorious past of introspection and hard talks. Perhaps Senator Sola Adeyeye might soon return to his old posture in the House of Representatives when he said ‘every and anything’ as it was. Here is one of his famous statements. “The real problem in Nigeria is that much of the money politicians take home does not come in the form of salaries; it comes in the form of barefaced looting called allowances. When I went to South Africa, I found out that the estacode for a representative is $80 per day; ours was $500 as at that time. That is how terrible it is! In Ghana, it is $60 per day.”
Talking about forthright and courageous Nigerian lawmakers, it is hard to forget two former Senators- Nuhu Aliyu and Umaru Ibrahim Tsauri. Senator Tsauri once told a baffled Senator that four senators who did not win elections were sitting in the nation’s highest law making body. On his part, Nuhu Aliyu reportedly said “I am a retired Deputy Inspector-General of Police. Those I arrested, detained and questioned are still in the National Assembly. I say people of questionable character should not be allowed to find their way into the National Assembly.” Well, we can only conclude that Nigeria will soon get there