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June 9, 2018

The loving lawmaker and the real issues

My husband won’t leave our neighbour alone

By Morenike Taire

The loving lawmaker and the real issues“ It is car-giving season, it would appear. It began with sweetheart crooner David O, who presented a porsche to his 23 year old flame of the moment on her birthday, his baby daddy drama of yester years forgotten. Fast forward to Nina of the Big Brother fame , who was gifted a brand new automobile for her 22nd birthday last week by one Toyin  Lawani, her stylist. “But that is show business . In that world glamour, glitz and grandeur hold sway; and the fellow whose actions command the most attention wins.“ It is quite the opposite in public service in general .

Here, attention is very very likely to end badly, as was the case when Lagos big boy and politician Femi Gbajabiamila, made a gift of a top of the range Mercedes sports utility vehicle to his better half, deserving by all accounts and not least because she had hit the golden age of 50. Sociable and urbane, the Federal House of Representatives member  representing Surulere 1 constituency surrendered to public outrage by offering an explanation as well as the most gentlemanly apology.“At this point the public was divided along the most unexpected line: gender.“The women melted at Gbajabiamila’s explanation.

A man could be forgiven -as the general concensus went – a lack of sensitivity to the national mood if his sin was the very sweet one of surprising his woman with her dream car. Which Nigerian woman did not dream of the day when it would be her turn? In our culture, an automobile is the ultimate romantic gift. Forget about the diamond eternity ring.“But the menfolk, they are another matter altogether. For them the explanation was insult to injury.  They are upset that their wives now see them as being less romantic or manly, since most do not even think of giving bicycle spokes to their wives, even when they can afford it.“They are offended that he misses the entire point of their  criticism , perhaps deliberately, which is not about whether he has done right by his wife , but whether he has done right by the people he represents.“They are beginning to dig up his past, calling into question his ability to afford certain luxuries merely by the sweat of his brow.“Truth be told Gbajabiamila is a good enough metaphor for the classic state of mind of the Nigerian politician -throwing crumbs all around but completely immune to the daily realities of the people they represent. Even with the best of intentions, their palliatives rarely bring about real developmental change, nor are they meant to. “The anger towards Gbajabiamila is really not personal but anger at the elitist and political classes he seems to represent so well, in spite of himself. It is for the metaphorical head of this class that the critics are braying, demanding answers from a class that has long immunized itself from the need to answer any.“Nigeria in general ironically  feels so powerless against its  law making bodies  that when one scapegoat comes along, it simply  pounces on it.

As is usual the failure to properly identify the target  results in the missing of it; so the matter has been so distorted and personalized  that the main issue has become watered down at best.“Following the global economic  meltdown of 2007/2008, a Freedom of Information Act request for the release of details of MPs’ expenses claims was allowed by an Information Tribunal but challenged by The House of Commons Authorities on the grounds that it was “unlawfully intrusive”; but in May 2008, the High Court (England and Wales) ruled in favour of releasing the information.“Eventually, the expenses records and documentation were leaked to The Daily Telegraph newspaper, which began publishing details in daily instalments, dominating the British media for weeks.  By  June, the details of all MPs’ expenses and allowance claims approved from 2004 to 2008 were published on the official Parliament website with detail such as addresses, claims that were not approved for payment and correspondence between MPs and the parliamentary fees office removed, bringing further accusations of unnecessary secrecy.“Thus was born the United Kingdom parliamentary expenses scandal which saw the disclosure of widespread misuse of allowances and expenses permitted to Members of Parliament (MPs), arousing anger among the UK public and resulting in a large number of resignations, sackings, de-selections and retirement announcements together with public apologies and the repayment of expenses. Several members or former members of the House of Commons, and members of the House of Lords, were prosecuted and sentenced to terms of imprisonment.“This, of course, was in another world altogether. Who – armed, even, with the Freedom of Information Act-dares to ask a Nigerian lawmaker about his personal expenses?“Thankfully -or not – attention has shifted to the Eagles’ world cup gear presented to the world courtesy of Nike and meeting with massive commercial success. Some have disparaged the NFF over the matter, submitting that the contract could have been given to some dudes in Aba to prove that government is serious about their made-in-Nigeria mantra. “Nevertheless no one in their right mind really expects a whole honourable of the Federal Republic to be presenting a made in Nigeria automobile to anyone , let alone his lovely wife ; but what was his excuse for not engaging one of our numerous , wonderful home grown fashion designers to do the party gear ? That hideous Gucci outfit really is unforgivable.