By Tabia Princewill
THE perennial focus on the Presidency is one of the reasons for the lack of real development in Nigeria. We forget that no president, no matter how intelligent, well prepared, or well-meaning, can govern without the support and firm backing of a legislature which is able to produce well thought out laws to institutionalise public policy. What we prefer in Nigeria is tokenism, or drop-in-the-ocean initiatives such as constituency projects: feeding 100 widows here and there, providing 500 pairs of glasses for indigent people or a few tricycles and sewing machines.
While these initiatives do serve a basic purpose, they ultimately are unable to produce the lasting structural change needed to lift millions out of daily poverty and despair. We are too comfortable with our culture of hand-outs which keeps people dependent on those in power as opposed to creating an enabling environment which restores dignity in ordinary people.
If we are serious about change, Nigerians must challenge the National Assembly and those seeking re-election, a return ticket to the House or the Senate, by asking them concretely for their plans to free their constituents from bondage.
The Buhari Presidency was in many ways hindered by the strange oppositional relationship with NASS led by Senator Bukola Saraki who was once a member of the APC and whose loyalties and allegiances have now been proven to belong to another party. Politics aside, it’s time Nigerians asked themselves how many lawmakers sponsor bills with a positive, legitimate impact on the average man and woman. We keep talking about fiscal restructuring, etc., without improving the quality or calibre of individuals involved in politics. Are most politicians policy makers? Do they have the capacity to learn about complex issues and to propose detailed solutions beyond politicising facts and turning Nigerians against one another using religion and ethnicity? The National Assembly should be a place of serious debates and proposals which can be tracked online.
It should be possible to know what bills a particular parliamentarian sponsored and what arguments he or she put forward. Most of our senators barely recognise equality between men and women or the necessity of social justice. So, what interest will they have in promoting policies which are pro-poor? We keep using religion or the status quo as an excuse to side-line women or to enforce the so-called “natural” domination or oppression of the poor, yet other African countries keep proving how unnatural these beliefs or ideas are. Senegal has 80 per cent Muslims yet Sharia and civil courts protect women and poor people from elite manipulation and oppression. The Church in Senegal is not a conduit to collect funds from poor people who can barely afford to feed themselves, neither is it a platform for religious entrepreneurs to make money from untaxed and unsupervised public ventures. The only way we can have a better country or society is by legislating our way out of dysfunction and by making sure said laws are enforced.
Most of our laws are relics from colonial times, some are directly inspired from the Victorian era morality and thought enforced by the British. The legislature in Nigeria is yet to support the fight against corruption or to support real development: we cannot progress without fighting grand corruption which affects every area of our lives in Nigeria.
Corruption kills every industry, every good idea, every dream or possibility and unfortunately, the National Assembly has often been its champion rather than its foe. We always look to the executive for a resolution on topical issues while ignoring the role the National Assembly ought to play in a functional democracy: the hypocrisy over corruption and the security situation in Nigeria will continue so long as we do not scrutinise those vying for positions in NASS or state houses of assembly. The true story of what happened to Nigeria, that is, how we got here and why, is yet to be told also because we refuse to talk about NASS and all the former governors turned senators who’ve sold us out.
In fact, the details of privatisation under the Obasanajo/Atiku administration should be revisited. Not because Atiku Abubakar is running for President but because of the persistent practice in Nigeria of sweeping huge problems under the rug so as not to offend or cause discomfort in some circles who’ve allegedly benefitted from cheating the rest of Nigeria.
What assets were sold and why? How are they performing today? Who are the people running these companies and do they have legitimate experience or were our assets simply sold to adventurers with connections to power? Nigeria didn’t become the poverty capital of the world overnight. A lot happened to get us here which we are not discussing, again, to protect the people who’ve done us a terrible disservice.
It’s one thing to be disappointed by Buhari’s performance, it’s another to obscure what happened. Those are two separate issues which we must not confuse for the safety and sanctity of this nation. Interestingly, a highly publicised, high profile strategy session was recently held in Dubai featuring many PDP bigwigs.
High profile strategy session
Civil society groups alleged over 400 people were “flown” to Dubai by the PDP candidate, Atiku Abubakar, in contradiction with his recently disclosed earnings. Who paid to fly all these people to Dubai if the candidate himself stated he earns “only” N20 million a year? Who paid and what is the source of said income?
It’s interesting that Senator Ben Bruce the “made in Nigeria” champion couldn’t get his candidate to hold his strategy session in Nigeria and, therefore, grant Nigerian hotels, logistics or services companies the opportunity to “benefit” from his candidate’s rumoured largesse.
Elitism, like corruption often prioritises foreign goods, business interests and lifestyle products. Tax evasion by multinationals, illicit flows of public money to countries such as Dubai, have long characterised many administrations in Nigeria.
In fact, Nigerian “dirty money” has been of huge financial benefit to the London property market and the Swiss banking system. Nigeria and its citizens gain nothing from this. Many of Nigeria’s assets were allegedly sold at “throw-away” prices, cheating Nigerians, once again from funds which should have been used to fund capital projects, infrastructure, etc.
It’s not enough to say Buhari failed or that he didn’t perform. How did we get here? Are we honest enough to answer? And will we use our votes to force the National Assembly to remedy the situation?
A FORMERS aide of President Goodluck Jonathan faulted the governor of Kaduna, Nasir El-Rufai, for announcing a Muslim as his running mate. This is why peace and prosperity will continue to elude Nigeria.
Until electoral contests are debated in terms of merit and competence we’re going nowhere fast. Our focus on religion and ethnicity is a sentimental distraction to hide from the emptiness of a lot of politicians’ ideas.
THE APC National Chairman said: “There are no emperors in APC; if anybody tries to make himself as one, it will be an exercise in futility”.
Governors in Nigeria always want to install their successors, for obvious reasons, despite what the citizens or party members express as their wishes.
Oshiomhole said in reference to the tussle going on in Imo where Governor Okorocha is attempting to make his son-in-law is successor: “I do not have such powers to help him to create Rochas Okorocha political dynasty in Imo State in which he will be the APC senatorial candidate and his son in-law, Uche Nwosu, the governorship candidate.”
One commonly hears the excuse: “but there are political dynasties abroad”. Yes, but Bill Clinton retired from politics when his wife went to the Senate. He didn’t move to another arm of government while simultaneously placing his wife and daughter or any other family member in office. Only in Nigeria do husbands, wives, children and concubines all seek to occupy public office at the same time making a mockery of democracy.
Tabia Princewill is a strategic communications consultant and public policy analyst. She is also the co-host and executive producer of a talk show, WALK THE TALK which airs on Channels TV.