by Andrew Samuel
It is a common saying around here that when you point an accusing finger at somebody, the remaining fingers point right back at you. In other words, he who must come to equity, must do so with clean hands.
Sadly, our legislators do not seem to have imbibed the lessons of these wise sayings; and that is why we have all these haughty talk from them and all that posturing. They have constituted themselves into judge and jury over the other arms of government without first cleaning their own stables, the impropriety in their hallowed chambers.
What is even more disturbing is that many Nigerians have failed to see beyond these assumed acts of piety to unravel the hypocrisy and selfishness underneath. Having followed them for sometimes now, it is clear that they are usually quick to point accusing fingers when a matter did not touch them personally.
For instance, the embattled Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, is now their beautiful bride simply because he has chosen to concoct stories to embarrass the administration. We forget so easily that in the not too distant past, these same legislators fought a huge battle with Sanusi when he said that 25 percent of the nation’s total overhead goes to the National Assembly and that the legislators’ emoluments were a major burden on the economy and an impediment to the growth and development of our nation. At the time, the statement enraged the lawmakers who summoned him to come and apologise because, according to them, his figures were fabrications. It is therefore really hypocritical for them to say today that every word uttered by this same man is the gospel truth.
In the same vein, one cannot help but recall when both Members of the House of Representatives and Senators were very mad at former president Olusegun Obasanjo for his statement that the Nigerian National Assembly is corrupt and expending a disproportional part of the nation’s resources. They dismissed his statement as a mere chatter, while the then Minority Leader of the House, Mr. Ali Ndume described him as their “…father and grandfather in corruption….”
So because Obasanjo’s statement touched them directly then, they said all manner of unprintable things about him. But they refused to see his so called letter to President Goodluck Jonathan for what it is – un-tactical and malicious.
It is not surprising that most investigations and probes conducted by our legislators usually come to nothing. Of course, many prefer to blame the executive for scuttling such investigations but the truth is that it is always the greed of our legislators that gets on the way.
Consider the investigations into the dwindling fortunes of the Capital Market by the House Committee on Capital Market, when it was alleged that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) may have been compromised by Access Bank Plc which have been severally accused of unethical and sharp practices in the banking sector especially in the stock market. If you recall, the allegations against the Director General of the SEC, Ms Arunmah Oteh, could not make any headway when she alleged that she was being intimidated by the then Chairman of the House Committee on Capital Market, Hon. Herman Hembe because she refused to agree to demands of N39 million and N5 million bribes by the committee to support the public hearing into the crisis in the capital market. Needless to say, after such an allegation, the case did not make much progress as the chairman of the committee was dropped.
Worse still, whenever any member of the House of Representatives is accused of any impropriety, the Ethics and Privileges Committee is called upon to ensure that a thorough investigation is carried out to ascertain the truth or falsity of such allegations. However, the sad reality is that we never hear of the outcome of such investigations. This has been such a recurring decimal that it can now rightly be seen as a way out for erring legislators.
Similarly, where was the furore when Farouk Lawan, the Chairman of the House of Representatives’ ad hoc committee that probed the alleged oil subsidy scam, was accused of collecting $620,000 (or $500,000) from the Chairman of Zenon Oil and Gas, Femi Otedola, to doctor the panel’s report. That was a great setback for our nation.
Without fear of contradiction, one can say that all that matters to our legislators is to remain politically relevant no matter what. This is clear from the way they kept switching from one party to the other as if they have no ideology. And you can be very sure that the good of those they claim to represent is not the major factor in such decisions.
The House is now set on another kangaroo probe. This time around, their target is the Petroleum Minister Alison Madueke for allegedly spending N10bn on chartering and maintaining a jet over a two-year period. This is a sad development because it is simply politically motivated.
Surely, she is simply being made a target of the opposition because this attack is basically selective. Or how does one explain the fact that no one in the House deemed it fit to raise any objections when state governors were busy owning, flying and maintaining private jets; or the fact that the House of Representatives still ordered its Committee on Public Accounts to probe the matter even after the NNPC had clarified that the jet was not hired for the exclusive use of the minister or her family.
This is especially disturbing, because the good of the nation should come over any party interest. We need responsible legislators, focused on the issues that will bring succour to the people not those willing to overheat the polity anytime they want to score political points.
The role of the legislature in a democracy cannot be overemphasised; they are the voice of the voiceless in the society. Therefore, the system and our constitution have armed them with enormous powers to be able to call the executive to order and even to impeach them if the need arises. But our legislators must put their house in order before they begin to call anyone to order, or very soon, people would begin to see them as selfish and conniving.
The truth is that our legislators cannot be effective if they themselves are tainted. How can you tell someone to shun corruption when he knows that you are muddled in it? Gradually, Nigerians are becoming more cynical about the sincerity of their elected representatives to do right by them.
The crux of the matter is that except they put their house in order, they’ll have no moral justification to call anyone to order.
Andrew Samuel works in Lagos and can be reached at [email protected].
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.