[Opinion] On Nigerian Senators, The Conspiracy of Dunces

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By

Bayo Oluwasanmi

Nigerian politicians are validated by corruption.

 

A system is as good as the people who operate the system. The unholy alliance between the legislature and Aso Rock presents a reliable compass for a fragile future.

 

The hallmark of a presidential system that we feign to operate is the separation of powers.  Separation of powers serves as buffer among the three branches – legislative, executive, judiciary – to ensure that no one branch has all the power.

 

Each branch has its own purpose. The legislative branch is made up of the two houses of Congress – the Senate and the House of Representatives. The most important function of the legislative branch is to make laws.

 

The President is the head of the executive branch, which makes laws official. The President approves and carries out laws passed by the legislative branch.

 

The judicial branch oversees the court system. Through court cases, the judicial branch explains the meaning of the Constitution and laws passed by Congress.

 

In order to further protect the citizens, the constitution has a system of checks and balances.

 

Basically, each branch of government has a certain number of checks it can use to ensure the other branches do not become too powerful.

 

For example, the president can veto legislation, the Supreme Court can declare acts of congress unconstitutional, and the senate must approve treaties and presidential appointments.

 

The upper house is supposed to be a chamber of people of superior intellect, unmatched wisdom, matured, reasoned, thoughtful, deliberate, and above all fueled by patriotism for the love of country.

 

Senators should be gently humble, responsibly committed, and sensitively responsive.

 

The way the Nigerian brand of presidential system operates leaves much to be desired. Because of corruption and blind party loyalty, the three branches function as one.

 

President Jonathan (the chief executive) wields power like an emperor with unlimited and unquestionable powers. Few examples will suffice.

 

Consider the enactment of laws. Ninety-nine percent of the times, the legislature has sheepishly rubberstamped any legislation and especially appropriation bills sent by Mr. Jonathan.

 

The senate screening of President’s Jonathan’s nominees for cabinet positions makes mockery of separation of powers. Usually it begins like a wonderful comic of the mocking bird.

 

As the screening progresses, the drama unfolds with increased suspended animation of movie scenes full of satirical tragedies.

 

Most of the times the protagonist and the cast members failed to capture the acerbic edge of the original play. Confusion, contraptions, and contradictions all add to the sinister twist of the movie’s plot.

 

The screening exercise patently exposes the senators’ political cowardice, impotence, and corruption. It reminds me of the French medieval representative institution the Estate General in the 1700s that remained dormant for 175 years until the French Revolution swept it away for good.

 

As members of the upper house, the senators are entrusted with the sacred duty of approving the president’s nominees.

 

The childish carelessness with which they undertake the assignment shows they’re either seduced or deceived. Either way, the senators behave like they’re suffering from conspiratorial fantasy.

 

Judging by the abysmal performance and parody of statements and questions, the senators have proven with stylistic stupidity that they’re in Abuja not for the country’s business but for “their turn to eat,” a nickname for corruption.

 

The senators’ handling of our nation’s business demonstrates beyond belief that they’re not thinkers but mere reflectors of the president’s thoughts.

 

How do you interview nominees without knowing the departments they’re going to lead?  Only in Nigeria is the absurdity possible in a presidential system of government.

 

How else can one explain the confirmation process that lacks probing, rigor, digging and drilling of nominees? The whole process is uninspiring, cold, and robotic.

 

I remember the confirmation hearing of one of the past leaders of PDP, Alhaji Bello Haliru. Before his nomination as defense minister, he was entangled in the Siemens’ corruption network.

 

While the case was being adjudicated, the senators confirmed him as defense minister without any objection or reference to his pending corruption case.

 

Look at the way the senators manhandled the case for a new constitution. They had the unique opportunity to fashion a new constitution. They bungled it. Instead, they settled for a ragged stained toilet tissue called 1999 Constitution.

 

They’re satisfied and comfortable with mends and patch-ups that would ultimately shred the shard of a piece of tragic military memento.

 

The same conspiracy by the three branches is employed on all issues that affect the country. They prefer to serve as rubber stamps for whatever the presidents sends them.

 

Anyway, this is Nigeria where things work in the reverse. No one is disappointed by the complicity of the senators because they lack the fortitude, the conscience, and the love of country to do what is right and righteous.

 

Needless to remind the senators that they occupy a powerful and influential position, they possess the constitutional power of check and balance to douse the excesses, and nearsightedness of Mr. Jonathan.

 

They have the legal and political weapon to alter Nigeria’s political landscape for the better and change the course of history. The people’s mandate empowers them to force the president to govern like an intelligent statesman.

 

But because of their insatiable appetites for luxury and lust like the greedy Cassim in “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” the senators are consumed and conscripted by their greed, selfishness, and wicked schemes.

One thing I would like to remind the senators: No one occupies a leadership position without God’s sanction.

 

A leader must practice the Law of Sacrifice by giving up the pleasures and comforts he might normally enjoy to ensure the welfare of the people that elected him and which he sworn to uphold.

 

The senators need to review their history and renew their memory to reclaim their legacy.

 

Representatives of both houses are elected to fight on behalf of the people. From all indications, they’re hopelessly out of touch with ordinary Nigerians.

 

They have the power to alter “business as usual” mentality of the president. For example, it is their primary duty to initiate bills that would directly impact Nigerians.

 

Bills that will fight corruption, reform the judiciary, trim the bloated bureaucracy; disband the relic known as the Nigerian Police Force (NPF), guarantee modern infrastructure, safety and security; and bills that will address other areas of dire human needs  beg for their attention and solution.

 

The only time they put up a feisty exhaustive debate and discussion is during appropriation bills: food for the belly, bell for the food!

 

It took a private citizen, Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) former president of the Nigerian Bar Association; to initiate, incite, and finally persuade the Congress the need for constitutional amendments the job for which the legislators were elected to do and for which they’re being paid eye popping salaries.

 

The senators’ collective negligence, ineptitude, paralysis, and the mediocre handling of policies and programs, the failure to halt orgy of spending by the federal government, their own escalating taste, and their lackadaisical approach to the urgent problems facing our country, enmeshed them in the conspiracy of dunces.

 

They should stop whining and whirling like juvenile ingrates asking for more outrageous allowances and unjustifiable perks. For once, they can serve as an antidote to the toxic nonsense of the Jonathan administration!

 

When our elected representatives cease to do what is right, Nigeria will cease to be great. The landscape of history is strewn with remains of once powerful and prosperous great nations.

 

Overtime, they degenerate, decline, and disintegrate as a result of spiritual apostasy, political anarchy, and corruption.

 

Greed, corruption, selfishness, and wickedness in high places are equal opportunity destroyer. Ancient Babylon was destroyed because of these sins.

 

The grandeur that was Greece eclipsed.  The opulence of Rome was trampled by the set of sins.  These ancient evils are reproach to any people. The parallel outcome in Nigeria is frightening!

 

To save our fledging democracy and make it a revolutionary experience and experiment, our representatives should move from spectating position to participating position.

 

They should embrace the principles of personal responsibility. If they defied the peoples’ calling for sacrifice and selfless service, they’ll lose their mind; and if they denied it, they’ll lose their soul. It is no win-win situation for them.

 

“Dulce et decorum est pro patria morire.”

Meaning “sweet and proper it is to die for one’s country!”

 

 

***We cannot drive a car forward drive a car forward by looking at the rear view mirror. We cannot use shoes as hammers, newspapers for umbrellas, and finger nail to tight a screw!

 

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