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Theatrics in the National Assembly: Who is guilty of sabotage?

By Tabia Princewill

Virtually every government in Nigeria was overrun or infiltrated at one point or the other by saboteurs: Goodluck Jonathan himself famously claimed his administration had been infiltrated by Boko Haram sponsors and sympathisers. Government appointees in Nigeria live large and act out a script, sometimes even without the knowledge or endorsement of their principal. They do the bidding of other unseen actors and one often wonders about the process which enables or allows so many strange characters to occupy positions of responsibility.

HON BOMA VS DSS IN ABUJA A member House of Representative, Hon Boma Goodhead in face-off with the official of DSS at the entrance of National Assembly in Abuja on Tuesday Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan

How are leaders or appointees really recruited by political parties and doesn’t the security clearance or vetting process give insight into who people really are? Very often, nominees simply “take a bow” and aren’t quizzed by lawmakers prior to their confirmation: this process ensures the political class protects itself from interrogation and those who should be asking government nominees tough questions on behalf of the people they represent refuse to do so realising there are fingers pointing back at them.

Therefore, many nefarious characters get into government and Nigerians defend their activities, no matter how dangerous. Nigeria’s corruption machinery is so well oiled that most citizens mistake what happens in our country for the norm. Everyone’s for sale and dissenting voices can be silenced through the strength of a credit alert.

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo recently sacked the DG DSS Lawal Daura following the DSS’ illegal siege of the National Assembly. Those whose memories haven’t been truncated by a desire to erase or forgive all misdemeanors based on partisanship and strange loyalties to everyone other than their country, will remember the assault on the National Assembly which reportedly began during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure, during which governors were allegedly impeached and state houses of assembly “induced” using various means all with support from very high up.

So, the Acting President’s statement not just distancing government from the DSS’ actions but condemning them in earnest is a relief. It is also a disappointment for those who wanted to convince Nigerians that President Muhammadu Buhari and his vice are cut from the same cloth as they are. Swift punishment for lawlessness and sabotage is the only way to restore public confidence in government and to deal a blow to those whose stock in trade is to destroy everything from the inside.

The truth is, Nigerians themselves are oftentimes unknowingly guilty of sabotage. We have allowed so much to happen to our country in the name of accepting or defending our “favourite” politicians’ right to defraud us. Every illegality we have supported will consume us in the end unless we find the moral courage not to view life through the reductive prism of ethno-religious bigotry or sentiment and begin to analyse the issues based on fact and attempt to decipher for ourselves what is real and what is fake.

I have often said in this column that a lack of education and critical thinking in Nigeria has played in favour of politicians who know how to manipulate Nigerians and gain their support using flimsy arguments and flawed reasoning. Most of us in this country have Stockholm syndrome: we love our abductors and don’t even realise it. Although the attack on NASS is condemnable, it is interesting how quickly #SaveOurDemocracy trended. In a normal society, NASS should be the symbol of our democracy. But we must ask ourselves how often NASS, as presently constituted, has acted in defense of Nigerians.

Politicians in Nigeria are quick to engineer situations where they appear to be victims and it is even easier to do so using social media. For all its gifts and benefits, we must also recognise the dangers of social media which even the Western world is slowly waking up to, given Russia’s interference in the US elections and, much closer home, the Cambridge Analytica scandal which showed huge amounts, flouting our campaign finance laws, were allegedly spent by the Goodluck Jonathan campaign to influence perception of key members of the APC and paint them in a bad light.

In Nigeria, yesterday’s villains become today’s heroes and we love nothing more, it seems, than to watch them escape prosecution or use our gullibility to manipulate situations to their benefit; ironically, only assaults on the “freedoms” of politicians are taken seriously, no one is moved by violence when it affects ordinary Nigerians. Those who   pretend to be offended because our “political favourites” are being “mistreated” (meaning investigated) but saw nothing wrong with the decade long weaponisation of poverty and religion which led to the violent crises brewing today across the nation, are the real enemies of democracy because democracy to them isn’t about equality in front of the law, nor is it about social justice, it is merely another system of operation whose rules can be broken and re-written endlessly. From Generals to “royal fathers”, to legislators, the list of those angry at Buhari is often comprised of those who simply aren’t getting their way.

If one reads between the lines, one sees a system which captures state resources, funds violence, chaos and instability and feeds Nigerians the deluded view that poverty is the natural order of things despite this country’s abundant resources. The amusing #NeverBelieveOBJ call on social media is proof Nigerians are slowly awakening from their slumber: Nigeria is no one’s property, so no one’s voice or beliefs are to be accepted unquestioningly. People are beginning to see through the empty realignments and defections which are not done in the interests of Nigerians.

Interestingly, President Buhari’s attempts at being a democrat by refusing to throw his weight behind a particular candidate for Senate President, has cost him dearly, as NASS might as well have been led by a member of the opposition. Every time the President tried to follow the rules, he was punished for doing so because those who are resisting the fight against corruption and government reform (for obvious reasons) have no such qualms.

No one can reform Nigeria without Nigerians. There is as of yet no real movement emanating from Nigerians themselves (I don’t mean dubious political support groups which exist to extort money from politicians) to push for real progress. Without true grassroot mobilisation in favour of change through specific action points, politicians will fight each other to protect their personal interests(to our detriment), confident in the knowledge that Nigerians never react.

Olisah Metuh

Social media users furiously responded to pictures of the PDP’s former Publicity Secretary looking “hale and hearty” at the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu’s residence. His trial was infamously stalled by his alleged ill-health (scientists must study this very interesting propensity to fall ill once one is tried for corruption in Nigeria). Justice Abang, the judge on this particular case also reportedly wondered about Mr. Metuh’s rather ‘convenient’ illness.

The Deputy Senate President whom the EFCC alleges owns several properties has also been asked to explain how he came about the money necessary for their purchase. He fell ill soon after; hopefully he hasn’t caught Mr. Metuh’s spinal cord injury; who knows how these things are passed on.

Senator Godswill Akpabio

THE former governor of Akwa Ibom State surprised many Nigerians by defecting from the PDP and joining the APC. Honourably, he also resigned from his position as Senate Minority Leader. While the reasons for his defection are still sketchy, he at least had the moral courage to resign, acknowledging the fact that the position he occupied belonged to his former party. The apologists of bad behaviour will come up with some spin as to why this shouldn’t apply to the Senate President. Defections are unusual in modern, mature democracies where party politics is based on ideology rather than personal relationships; but baby steps in the right direction, for the sake of honesty, shouldn’t be ignored. A younger or newer generation of politicians must at some point have the courage to reform party politics and to review party membership based on ideas rather than regional or electoral calculations.

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