By Anthony Obekpa
Nigeria is an unfortunate country on many flanks. There is nowhere this misfortune is expressed more pungently than in the National Assembly (NASS). The two chambers of our national parliament have the penchant to engage in actions which are inconsistent with popular cause and mocks the national interest they are supposed to jealously protect.
Some members of NASS have spent upward of three or more tenures in the NASS. But to say, they have acquainted themselves with the basic rudiments of legislation is expecting too much from members of this important arm of government.
The belief of the heavily populated NASS is that the legislature exists primarily to antagonize the executive arm of government to extract personal gains. They don’t think strategically for national interest. Every issue before the parliament is approached from the perspective of personal benefits, even at the detriment of the country. Once their personal desires are met, the country can go to blazes.
Therefore, the NASS has consistently failed in legislation and oversight functions. Most times when the NASS deliberates and passes national Appropriation Acts, tales of budget padding in billions reawaken national discourses. It reminds Nigerians of how badly the country has fared. Almost always, constituency projects funds end up in the drain. But NASS members loathe any investigation into it by anti-graft agencies. Attempt it, and they unanimously chorus political witch-hunt.
These Parliamentarians are more excited with driving posh cars as official vehicles and daily bargain for sumptuous allowances. And these cars must be imported at a huge cost of FOREX to the country and so, they rejected our locally produced vehicles from Innoson Motors as too inferior for them.
The NASS members feign the portrait of patriotism. But deep down their hearts, the opportunity of being in the NASS is for personal service and personal enrichment, instead of national interest. Each time they want to earn more objectionable allowances, the lawmakers arm-twist and blackmail the President and his appointees.
The only notable emblem of members of the NASS is that some are “distinguished” and others are “honourable” in the exact opposite of the prefixes attached to their names. But aside it, every other thing about them drapes with either incompetence or lack of capacity to serve Nigeria.
So, Nigerians have entered the new shrine of saints and angels, who are more satanic in thoughts and actions than lucifer himself. That is why in his days as President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo had consistent brawls with them, to the point of fisticuffs.
Once anyone who is the President refuses to play ball with them, the legislators create crisis and threaten the soul of Nigeria. Yet, these are parliamentarians some of who sleep throughout most plenary sessions. They only saunter from their trance to concord with motions which service their appetite for illicit money. They flaunt power like conquering emperors and dare anyone to challenge their impertinence to the same people they claim to serve.
Our national parliamentarians approach every issue upside down. It is doubtful whether some of them know their left from the right. When one listens to their debates during plenaries on national issues, the dullness disarms. Even secondary school debating competitions of those days were more energetic and stimulating.
Nigeria operates constitutional democracy, which is powered by the rule of law. And the powers to checkmate and sack an erring President is exclusively that of the NASS. But here, Parliamentarians told Nigerians that President Muhammadu Buhari has failed the nation on insecurity. They claimed Mr. President is incompetent.
But what was their reaction? They rather told the President to resign. Who elected them to play advisory roles to Mr. President on decisions that are personal to him? One can only imagine! It means they were not sure of themselves and as usual, were out to blackmail Mr. President.
And thereafter, they delved into matters they are neither empowered by law nor within their operational jurisdiction. It mocks commonsense that our so called parliamentarians will ask Mr. President to sack his Service Chiefs. It is laughable and only smacks of their confounding confusion.
One believes that the NASS members do not know that the power or decision to sack the Service Chiefs is the exclusive prerogative of the President and Commander-In-Chief. So, the hilarious cacophonies like “sack the Service Chiefs or no, the President should resign” meaninglessly resonated in both chambers. Oh! They are really confused and in need of urgent salvation.
These Parliamentarians bury any bill that threatens their personal interests, especially in business and promote silly ones. Any appointee nominated by the President for confirmation whose records demonstrates a flair of being a pain in the neck of NASS members is soundly rejected. No cogent reason is adduced for the rejection. They only crave the indulgence of Nigerians to believe in the supremacy of their decision whether good or bad.
This is the NASS which wanted the Acting chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu sacked because he was bold to investigate their Chairman over allegations of corrupt acts. Look at the speed they moved to amend the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) Act simply because the NASS chairman was facing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
Nigeria’s parliamentarians are very unique dramatists. Their altercation with Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), the Comptroller General of Nigeria’s Customs Service (NCS) was like a stage theatre. They summoned and harangued the customs boss, insisting that he must wear uniform before he appears before them or be sacked.
And his only offence was that he impounded an imported vehicle which the then NASS chairman smuggled into the country and evaded payment of lawful tax levies. The NASS was livid with anger against Hameed Ali for refusing to share cash and impounded cars to them. But they met a brick wall, as the old-soldier cum administrator stood defiantly against them.
What is unknown to them is that Nigerians are not fooled. Nigerians can’t be fooled by their antics anymore. They have overplayed this game and it has become too familiar. Each time they bark at Mr. President, it is not for national interest, but subtle blackmail for personal favours which he is adamant to approve for them.
The legislators want cars worth billions of naira to run assignments for Nigerians in the guise of oversight functions in a country majority of the citizens are living in penury. How did they arrive at the figure of N37 billion for the renovation of National Assembly Complex?
Even an entirely new NASS complex will not cost as much as N37 billion. Could it have been another subtle blackmail of the Presidency to pass the 2020 budget? Nigerians later heard that the parliamentarians endorsed the 2020 Appropriation Act without any inquest into it. What had a semblance that the national budget passed through NASS was its padding by over N163 billion.
But they pray Nigerians not to think about how much they have inserted into the budget for renovation. The money is more than the total cumulative budget for health, defence and education sectors. However, it must be given to them or there must be war. That’s the NASS Nigeria operates.
So, President Buhari, an upright and straightforward leader has always been in trouble with the NASS members. If the ICPC is investigating some NASS members over allegations of corruption and President Buhari refuses to intervene, he runs into trouble with them. They cry like little babies that anti-graft agencies are “fighting” them, but the President is quiet.
And in vengeance they go for the President neck. If they can’t get him, they trouble and intimidate his appointees. After all, an Africa adage says, “once you grab the ears, the head will come.” Gbam… Yes, that’s the key. So, the battle has to go to the President in another way. NASS members, how funny are thee in the new African shrine of hypocrisy?
Obekpa, a University don wrote this article from Bauchi.