[Opinion] Don’t they have a hand in Nigeria’s retardation? by Ugochukwu Ugwuanyi

How convenient it is for people to denounce an unattractive pass. It is so convenient that even those who have hands in making a situation hard-featured, can go ahead in condemning the parlous outcome of their indiscretion. An ugly state of affairs becomes a Mary Magdalene who many would want to stone notwithstanding that they have had quickies with her at some nights!

I’ve asked myself why some people would be this hypocritical and a major reason that comes handy is that they may be trying to exculpate themselves from whatever mess their innermost self know they are responsible for. Their mischievous mind must have told them that merely speaking against something torpid absolves the speaker of any complicity whatsoever. And so they shouted on top of their voices!

They condemned the turn of events in our country, hoping that that’s enough to blindfold we the populace from recognising them as being among those turning events from its straight course. This freedom of expression self! I was of the thinking that one isn’t expected to use his or her right to the extent that it abuses that of another. Here is a case of people exercising their freedom of expression and in the process, insulting our sensibilities.

Let’s take a trip to the red chamber so we can better appreciate today’s subject; in the course of debating a motion sponsored by Senator Victor Ndoma-Egbe which was titled: “Congratulations to Nigerians on her 53rd Independence Anniversary”, Senator Ita Enang and about ten others took turns to regret that Nigeria was performing far below expectation, especially when compared with its contemporaries like Malaysia and Brazil. They insisted that the country was in a more pitiable state than its peers.

According to Senator Ita Enang of Akwa Ibom North-west: a number of factories that existed at independence have ceased to function while those functioning had relocated to neighbouring countries following the absence of conducive environment for operations. Speaking on the swell in unemployment, the Senator recalled that when the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) recently advertised vacancies for employment, as much as six million Nigerians applied for the few vacant positions.

Hence this poser: Isn’t it within you and your colleagues’ powers to make the enabling laws for factories which generate employment to exist? For if the right laws are passed, that will be a veritable way of creating the conducive environment for factories to function.

One online commentator who gave his name as Okolie Emeka, in responding to Senator Enang’s claim of six million applicants going after few NIS job openings, said: “If you slash your monthly home take by 50%, and the Lower House does the same, in a year, that will be enough to sponsor more than 2000 graduates to set-up small businesses who will in turn employ others.” I can’t agree any less because 50 per cent off our federal legislators pay that is channelled to productive sectors of our economy would create enough jobs, yet wouldn’t make our lawmakers paupers.

In his contribution to the debate, Senator Smart Adeyemi of Kogi West said: “Unlike patriotic leaders like the late Sir Ahmadu Bello, the late Nnamdi Azikwe, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, etc, who started the Nigerian project on a very solid note, anchored on maximizing the greatest goods for the greatest number of people, most of the modern day leaders after the independence era, have been running aground the Nigerian nation, being parochial leaders.”

Did I just hear: ‘maximizing the greatest goods for the greatest number of people’? If only this principle had guided those of them at the Senate, I’m sure things wouldn’t have been this terrible. If they had had this in mind, they wouldn’t have allowed their budget take up to 25 per cent of our national budget (apologies to Lamido Sanusi).

Senators Mohammadu Magoro, Eyinaya Abaribe, Kabiru Gaya, were all of the opinion that at 53, problems such as teeming youth unemployment, poor electricity supply, incessant ethno-religious crises etc, should not be heard of in the country. But then I ask: what have they done to make these problems not to be heard of in Nigeria? This is as Senator Ademola Adeseun, in his contribution to the same debate, noted that the first republic is rated the best era in the nation’s history because that epoch was more or less driven by the parliament.

The rock band, Coldplay in one of their famous hits titled Clocks, asked a vital question: “I’m I part of the cure or I’m I part of the disease?” It’s obvious that members of the Nigeria Senate didn’t ask themselves this soul-searching question before electing to speak about the failure of leadership in the course of their last Thursday’s plenary.

For if they did, they would have found themselves as part of the disease hence sensed the need for them to refrain honourably from acting holier when they aren’t even holy to start with. However, it is possible they know they fall on left side of the question thus had to rely on orchestrating those eloquent speeches to conceal their collusion.

Yet, it calls for wonder that they would be so bothered about our knowledge of their avarice and corrupt tendencies amidst glaring ineptitude to the extent of trying to down-play them. This is because they have always swaggered with a whiff of arrogance and impunity; the one that suggests: now you know, what can you do? I suspect that they are either propelled by their conscience which must have continued to prick them, or they see us all as fools who know not the exact spot leaking in the roof that have permitted drops of rain to drench us.

But, hello! Your speaking out against the deplorable state of things in the country does not and cannot make up for the role you all played in making our country a hell hole. If you like, make the most flag-waving of speeches, that wouldn’t compensate for the fact that an American Senator earns 174,000 US dollars a year, his UK counterparts earn about 64,000 US dollars while in Nigeria, you lawmakers pocket about 1.7 million US dollars (240 million Naira) amidst the biting penury!

Little wonder that on the same day they were on the floor exonerating themselves from the deplorable state of our country under the guise of commemorating Nigeria’s 53rd anniversary, protesters marched from Eagle Square to the National Assembly building to demand transparency and accountability from them.

That demand just like other demands for accountability directed at them is on point considering that although our senators are the most paid in the world, they passed just 28 Bills in two and half years with majority of the Bills coming from the Executive arm. Also, out of the 109 Senators there is, 34 of them are yet to sponsored a Bill for the past two years. Tell me, does people with such an abysmal record amidst tremendous perks have any moral right to speak against what have become of our country?

Now, you can understand why many of them spoke with their tongue in check, for they surely know that they are parts of the disease. We couldn’t see them exude much mania in the said debate as they do whenever new PDP and old PDP is the bone of contention. Imagine how pleasant it would have been if those of them who considered themselves as impeccable seized the moment to point accusing fingers at the bad eggs amongst them, telling them to their faces and in front of the cameras that they are behind our backwardness as a nation.

Perhaps, we couldn’t see such an action-thriller because there is none impeccable amongst them.

Since many of them complained that countries which in1960 or afterwards attained independence are leaving Nigeria behind in the race for development, how many of them can vouch that they didn’t help these countries get developed at the expense of Nigeria? They must have done this by either establishing firms in those countries, travelling there for holidays and treatment of ailments or by sending their children there for educational trainings. With them doing any or all of these, there isn’t a way Nigeria’s independence-mates wouldn’t get ahead of Nigeria in the bid to get developed.

Taking it further, it is instructive to tell the senators that the slow pace of development in the country can’t be far removed from their luck-lustre attitude towards oversight. The oversight responsibility empowers lawmakers to ensure that ministries, departments and agencies(MDAs) of government are up and about in delivering the goods, but what do we hear? Cases of lawmakers making financial demands on the very MDAs they are supposed to supervise!

Yours sincerely considered what eventually became the caption of this piece as apt because many who watched the senators contribute to that motion commemorating Nigeria 53rd independence anniversary would have concluded that those responsible for our under-development are in Timbuktu. As such, it is expedient to jolt such people back to reality by asking again: can we truly acquit our senators of any complicity in Nigeria’s backwardness?

Ugochukwu is a freelance journalist who you can follow on twitter @ugsylvester or reach on [email protected]
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