The N’ Assembly as ‘National Embarrassment’

The N’ Assembly as ‘National Embarrassment’

By: Idumange John

Every society is governed by laws and law making is a higher calling and not a business for derelicts, and economic opportunists. Many years ago, George Santayana
asserted “those who despise history are
condemned to repeat it”. Again there is no judge as upright and crude as Mr.
History. In the words of Leopold Von Ranke “history ought to judge the past and to instruct
the contemporary world as to the future. In Nigeria, history repeats itself at
a supersonic speed than many would have imagined. Since democracy resurfaced in
1999, the National Assembly has been transformed into a hallowed chambers of
unending scandals and chimney emitting toxic vapours of corruption.

Looking back in time, in 1999, the first symptom of legislative high handedness at the National Assembly was manifested in the demand for the outrageous “Furniture Allowance” when
legislators boasted that they were not in Abuja to spread poverty. The
legislators displayed affluence without regard to the prevailing poverty in the
land. The furniture allowance debate was their most profound achievement in
their first 100 days in the office. The same group of self-aggrandizing
legislators supported the tenure elongation project of the Obasanjo
administration and unashamedly sought re-election to the National Assembly.
This dishonourable tendency permeated
the hallowed chambers.

The Senate was also enmeshed in profound scandals. Late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo –the hard smoking Senate President raced to Ogbunike to hide the mace of the Senate, ostensibly to stall
his impeachment. He was eventually
impeached, even though he asserted that he never came to Abuja to spread
poverty. His tenure of his successor Rt. Hon.
Wagbara was also cut short by allegations of corruption. The volcano of corruption has
made the wise men susceptible to cheap blackmail and corruption. Because of
this trend, the NASS has diminished the
respect hitherto accorded it. The general perception is that members desecrate every known ounce of civilized
principles, as they are self-serving.
A National Assembly that is
insensitive to the plight of the masses has inadvertently deleted legacy and
stewardship from their perverted lexicon.
They have
demonstrated that the NASS is inundated by overzealous legislative proselytes
who put their parochial pocket interest before that of the Nigerian State.

The ex-Speaker Patricia Etteh epitomizes the meanness with which an average Nigerian law maker can desecrate the temple of law making, and the rapacity with which an average
Nigerian can loot the commonwealth and still display superlative bravado. Nasty as it may seem, some people are
beginning to embrace the idea that psychiatric test should be used as a
pre-condition for electing representatives at least to avoid the supplanting of
pugilism for law making. What happens at the National Assembly demonstrates
that the concept of representation in the country is bereft of its meaning.

The Speaker, House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, is alleged to be at the
centre of the N5.2 billion Rural Electrification Agency scam. Revelations emanating from impeccable
sources seem to have indicted the Chairman, Senate Committee on Power, Nicholas
Ugbane and his House of Representatives counterpart, Ndudi Elumelu in the lucre. In what is referred to as “fake contract
bazaar” it is alleged that Bankole and his father, Alani Bankole,
benefited massively from
contracts. The criminal aspect of the scam is that contracts were
awarded to unregistered companies – some of them purportedly referred to them
by the immediate past chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)
Chief Vincent Ogbulafor. The question is: if members of the Lower House knew all these irregularities,
why was the House persecuting Barr. Festus Keyamo when he raised the issue of
corruption sometime last year? Why is the NASS so vulnerable to the sin of
stepping on banana peels?

In other progressive nations where laws are respected , lawmakers legislate to protect the interest of the people. They do this through regular and periodic consultation with the
people. Law makers do not contemplate embezzlement of public funds. On the
contrary they get involved in issues
like tax cut, increase in tariffs, pursue trade liberalization, tackling
unemployment; and other crucial domestic policies issues. It is devotion to
legislative duties based on integrity and ability of law makers to protect the
interest of the masses that distinguish law makers from others. The NASS is a
direct antithesis of what obtains in other countries. It is a Legislature that
has lost its core values of representation, honesty and transparency

The behaviour of members of the National Assembly suggests that Nigerians are yet to imbibe civilized values in the art and science of law making. The general impression
is that if the NASS can be bribed to mutilate the constitution. Since democracy
is majority rule, majority of the NASS members can be patronized to turn the
constitution up-side-down. The attitude of law makers in matters concerning
State interest is far below the expectation of the Nigerian masses. Taking the
oath to make laws is more like a spiritual testament to serve the people
because the soul of a nation is
inextricably linked to the soul of a nation.

In Nigeria, there are many knotty issues to address as a nation. The level of insecurity is frightening. The monster of insecurity of lives and property metaphorically walks the streets of major towns and cities. Most
of our roads are shorthand for death traps, while the educational system is in
dire jeopardy, as standards are fast fading with no one to the rescue. There is
need to re-position of Nigerian Police Force; the electoral reforms are have
not made a head way; critical sections of the constitution need to be reviewed.
There are power sector reforms, which have been on the front-burners. Why are National
Assembly members active only when it comes to matters affecting their welfare
such as upward review of their allowances?

The former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory alleged that Senators Alhaji Ibrahim Mantu and Dr. Jonathan Zwingina demanded a bribe of 54 million Naira in
order to confirm him. The Senate President Adolphus Nwagbara and members of the
lawmaking body quickly cleared the accused persons.
The health-care
corruption scandal

brought down former Heath Minister, Prof. Adenike Grange, and led to the
temporary disappearance of Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello. She later appeared and resumed
her duties in the National Assembly and was left of the hook because of the
‘rare blood’ flowing in her veins.

In a separate incident, a bribery scandal in the Federal Ministry of Education led some Senators to tender their resignation as either committees Chairmen or
members on the floor of the Senate. Those who resigned include Senators John
Azuta Mbata (Chairman Appropriation and Finance), Abdulazeez Ibrahim chairman,
Education Committee), Emmanuel Okpede (Vice Chairman, Upstream Petroleum
Resources) and Badamosi Maccido, a member of the Education Committee. The
hurricane also swept off the then Minister of Education Prof. Fabian Osuji and
the youths wondered aloud as to who they should look up to for leadership and

There were allegations of the MTN bribery. Prior to the alleged scam, MTN gave N4.4 million worth of free recharge cards to members of the National Assembly.
However the three lawmakers were given a clean bill of health by the House Committee on Ethics and
Privileges. The matter was not given serious attention on the ground that there
was no convincing evidence of culpability in the alleged scam by the accused NASS
members. In other climes, the mere fact that allegations have been made against
people of such a high calling would evoke a gale of resignation.

Last year, there were allegations that the House of Reps. spent a whopping N51 billion on overseas travels. There was the N2.3 car scam in the Lower House. That was
before the Rural Electrification scandal that is threatening to swallow Hon.
Dimeji Bankole.
The level of budgetary indiscipline exhibited by the National
Assembly is alarming., and no amount of leadership induced free-for-all fight
or intimidation would satisfy Nigerians. The behaviour of law makers in matters
concerning State interest is far below the expectation of the Nigerian masses.
There exists a very wide gap between lawmakers and their constituencies, as
most members seldom visit their constituencies.

Quite unfortunately, the National Assembly is fast becoming a discredited House of people who desecrate every known atom of civilized principle because of the mad pursuit of
primitive accumulation. What the younger
generation of Nigerians and the masses have learnt from them is that the
business of law making is no longer the remit of mature, intelligent and
honourable men, but one of the designed for those who engage in criminality. If
the watchmen of society are corrupt, then who will watch the watchmen?

Three cardinal lessons can be derived from the unending scandals rocking the NASS. Firstly, the NASS has created the impression that Nigeria does not have people who are
above board in public offices, and this is a disaster for the countries
rebranding efforts. The up coming Nigerian youths have nothing positive to
learn from the so called law makers at the chambers of corruption. If the NASS
were the American Congress, then all members would have resigned. Secondly,
members of the NASS are a negative influence on the State Legislatures to the
extent that the State Assemblies derive inspiration from the NASS to loot with
impunity. Thirdly, by failing to investigate glaring cases of corruption, the
Federal Government has inadvertently entrenched the vice at the highest level
of government. In a nation where deceit is acceptable as the norm, telling the
truth becomes a revolutionary act and that seems to be the lot of change agents
in Nigeria, even the few who dare to speak the truth at the NASS. That is why
of the 360 members of the Lower House only ten could smell the rot in Bankole’s

It was Mahatma Ghandi who said ‘Corruption and hypocrisy ought not to be inevitable products of democracy, as they undoubtedly are today’. No corrupt nation can attract Foreign Direct Investment, which would have formed a basis for our partnership for development. With the present crop
of people in the apex Law Making Body, it would take any leader the wisdom of
Solomon and the bravura of Napoleon Bonaparte to keep the ship of state above
the rough seas of national disaster. With the of characters in the NASS it is
difficult for Nigeria to break the jinx of poverty and achieve the lofty
objectives of vision 20:2020. For now, the public perception is that the
National Assembly is not only a theatre of the absurd but a huge national

Idumange John, wrote from Yenagoa

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