Nigerian Senate

By Martin Iorsmaber

THERE is a growing trend in Nigerian politics that needs urgent rescue and if left unchecked, will have dire consequences on Nigeria’s nascent democracy. John Francis Welch Jr, an American writer and former CEO of General Electric, popularly known as Jack Welch, had the famous quote: “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” This saying seems to be too far away from the reality of Nigerian politics, courtesy of state governors.

Governors of Nigerian states have made leadership to be all about them. They are bent on destroying everything that does not have direct benefit to them. For instance, the governors have killed the local government system in Nigeria.

The introduction of joint accounts between the local governments and the states has made the local government allocations from the federation account to end up as the governors’ teller machines. Talk of the state Houses of Assembly: governors have turned them to the proverbial toothless bulldogs.

I don’t want to talk about the state electoral commissions. Everything about good governance in Nigeria seems to be resisted by the governors through their collective body known as the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF.

The NGF which started as a freewill meeting of the governors during the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo was not seen as an organisation that will make any serious impact. By 2009 during the tenure of Governor Bukola Saraki as the NGF Chairman, DFID intervened and assisted in restructuring the forum and even made funds available for eligible states to benefit and implement programmes.

A good example was the $500,000 polio eradication grant made available for states by the Gates Foundation through the instrumentality of DFID. But instead of building on these for the benefit of the Nigerian populace, the governors have continually become a gang, forming one stumbling block or another for good governance in Nigeria.

Every day, the governors are heard either taking the Federal Government to court to resist local government autonomy or visiting the president to stop him from signing the Electoral Act or refusing to repay loans they collected from the Federal Government or talking tough about pensioners. The gang of governors has become a nightmare to Nigerians. No one in recent times can boast of too many things the gang of governors has done that is pro-people.

Then comes the biggest nightmare. The governors are gradually regrouping at the Senate when they retire. Questions Nigerians need to ask are: Why must a governor retire to the Senate? Are former governors better senators? Why are the governors making the Senate to look like it’s their right?

The first governor in the Fourth Republic to have moved to the Senate was Dr. George Akume who served as governor  of Benue State from 1999 to 2007 and was elected into the Senate in 2007. Akume was a powerful member of the PDP and was aware that permutations for the Office of Senate President by the party favoured the North Central geo-political zone where he came from.

Being a very wonderful political strategist in the region, his intention of moving to the Senate was to take the position of Senate President. Unfortunately for him, he had stepped on the shoes of President Obasanjo who wanted a third term and George Akume was the first governor to tell Obasanjo to his face: “No! I won’t support anything third term”.

Even though Akume won the Senate seat, because of his sins against the President, Obasanjo reportedly sponsored General David Mark to become the Senate president. So, from the beginning it has all been about personal influence.

Recently, because of the ‘I must go to the Senate syndrome’, former Governor Henry Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State threw caution to the wind to make Senator Diri Douye who is from the same senatorial zone with him the candidate of the PDP in the November 16, 2019 Bayelsa State governorship election against the wishes of all other stakeholders.

It could be seen in one picture how two former presidents were in a meeting to persuade Governor Dickson to drop the agenda but the meeting ended up in deadlock. The result was the defection of David Lyon from PDP to the APC.

The people voted David Lyon of APC in protest to Seriake Dickson’s impunity. It took the carelessness of the APC to lose the people-given mandate or better still,  luck was on the side of Seriake Dickson; so in the end, he succeeded and today he is in the Senate. That is how every governor wants to retire to the Senate by all means. But why?

The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a powerful legislative house. Most of the governors after spending several years in office, stepping on several toes and being conscious of their ‘sins’, desire to seek for ‘protection’.

Some, having been in power and tasted the affluence of power, don’t ever wish to let it go and the Senate becomes their most appropriate home of retirement. But have the people benefited from this? The answer is a capital NO!

Most of the former governors in the Senate are just there playing politics with every national issue and using all means available to evade prosecution from security agencies against money laundering, misappropriation, embezzlement and other fraudulent actions they took while in office. If Nigeria most progress, there must be a stop to this new-normal.

It will be difficult to legislate against former governors going to the Senate but the electorate need to be well educated not to vote their governors to the Senate because doing so will be extending the reign of the gang of governors who has stood on the head of development. 

If the same people who have used all means available to destroy the local government system, send retirees to their early graves by refusing to pay their entitlements, frustrated the deepening of democracy by calling on the president not to sign electoral amendments among several other anti-people actions end up to form the nucleus of the Senate, the hope of the common man in Nigeria’s democracy will be completely killed.

Iorsamber, convener, Movement for Advancement and Peaceful Nigeria, wrote via: [email protected]

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