Bleak Christmas in troubled chamber

Many senators came into the upper legislative chamber with misplaced expectations. Ignorantly, many had imagined that it was going to be business as usual.

Fred Itua

“I want you to be fair to me. I have been the spokesman of the Senate since the beginning. I have spoken on this issue countless times. There is no need to try. Let people say what they want to say. I pray that some of these people with the impression will find themselves here so that they can tell Nigerians what they have seen here.”
– Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, Senate spokesman

2019: Atiku no match to Buhari in North – Senator Abdullahi

Lawmaking is serious business. At least, so we have been told. If you are in doubt, check out the number of bills and motions churned out by our hard working senators in the last three years. Only the ‘blind’ will discredit our revered Red Chamber.

Before you launch any attacks, be reminded that senators have passed almost 80 bills to create new universities, polytechnics and colleges of education in the existing 109 senatorial districts in Nigeria. If you are not rejoicing, you are an ‘enemy of progress’. Our senators are working. Let me ‘steal’ President Muhammadu Buhari’s paraphrased words: “If you don’t like Nigeria, you can relocate to another country.”

The Nigerian Senate is already embattled. I will not add to its misfortune. However, I need to sympathise with them. Many senators came into the upper legislative chamber with misplaced expectations. Ignorantly, many had imagined that it was going to be business as usual. They were so wrong.

They didn’t envisage that the administration of President Buhari populated by saints will implement the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and cripple Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) financially. Some senators, especially first timers, went on a borrowing spree. Ranking senators who had serious battles with their state governors to return to the Red Chamber were not exempted from the ‘spendingmania’.

As usual, they had hoped that they will be appointed chairmen of juicy committees and get rewarded while plying their legislative business. Today, being a senator is no longer lucrative in Buhari’s Republic. For your information, senators are broke. Too broke to fund their campaigns at a time when vote buying is the new normal.

There was a time when senators in Nigeria were as wealthy as state governors. If you were a chairman of any juicy committee, it was a ticket for your family to escape poverty forever. Children of senators attended some of the best ivy league universities in the world. Their wife spent weekends in London and in Dubai. Girlfriends of lawmakers were not exempted walahi. They drove flashy cars in Abuja and life was good.

Unimaginable things happened in the private offices of some lawmakers who couldn’t control their libido. If you have doubts, ask cleaners in the National Assembly what they saw in the good old days. Their revelations will shock you. But let’s not dwell on that and lose sight of the main gist.

In the past, the National Assembly was our own Mecca. Those who were fortunate to get into the four walls of the National Assembly, left with something tangible. How unfortunate now. In the past, senators erected mansions within one year in office. Don’t ask me how they got their billions. Some of them still exist. Kindly ask them.

Today, many first time senators still live in rented apartments. In Buhari’s Republic, slush funds are no longer available to erect mansions within one year. Not even in four years. If Buhari returns, some senators will vanish before the expiration of their tenure in 2023. These are the realities.

Until recently, Christmas in the National Assembly was a sight to behold. Truck load of bags of rice, cows, chickens, vegetable oil, gifts, rams and goats tormented the vicinity of the complex. MDAs, apparently in an attempt to secure good funding when budgets were considered, sponsored these ostentatious lifestyles. Legislative aides were always too busy to carry out their primary functions.

Back home in the various constituencies of senators, festivals and fiestas were held. Constituents got a fair share of the dividends of Nigeria’s version of democracy. Like everything else in Nigeria, these pasts are now behind us. As a Nigerian who wants the best for this country, may those years of locusts never return.

If you have painstakingly followed my lamentations on behalf of senators, you would understand why I sympathise with them now. If you fall into the category of those expecting some goodies and niceties from senators this Christmas, douse your expectations and celebrate with what you have got. You will wait in futility. Senators are broke. Yes, they are broke. Too broke to even fund some of their fake lifestyles.

Barely two days to Christmas, no truck load of bags of rice. No cows, vegetable oil, goats or rams to share to anyone. TSA has crippled MDAs. As a concerned Nigeria, let me make an appeal. Remember the good old days and have pity on senators. They are human and bleeding silently. They can’t tell you because you won’t believe.

Some senators who are not so popular and despised by their constituents, are saving for the raining day. In this era of vote buying, they are saving their little resources to secure a return to the Senate. This is nothing, but the truth.

When next you see a senator, don’t ask for anything. Hug him or her and move on. Life is tough for them already. Don’t add salt to their injuries, please.

In other climes, lawmakers are elected primarily to offer three services: lawmaking, representation and oversight. Their functions stand on this tripod. In sane climes, senators don’t embark on road construction. They don’t sponsor weddings of constituents and friends. Senators don’t pay hospital bills of those they represent.

When they offer scholarships, it is not borne out of compulsion. They do that freely. Constituents don’t hang around their offices to get their own share of the national cake. Wives and children of senators in saner climes don’t spend taxpayers’ money to fly to other countries to spend week- ends.

If there are cases of vote buying in sane countries, they will be isolated. Senators don’t have to save money to influence the outcome of elections. Girlfriends don’t get car gifts from senators. If that happens and it becomes an open affair, the senator involved resigns honourably. These are the realities in saner climes.

But not so for Nigeria. Senators are overburdened with demands and responsibilities that should ordinarily not fall within their jurisdictions. Senators, out of pressure, cut corners to satisfy the avarice of some constituents and desperate family members.

If you desire a paradigm shift and expect our senators to be accountable, we must change the narrative. Let’s restrict their responsibilities to the three pillars of legislative business: lawmaking, oversight and representation. This is a tall demand and I doubt if Nigerians are ready to pursue this shift we so much desire.

The change we seek in Nigeria will not come if we don’t initiate deliberate moves. Things are tough and everyone is bleeding, including the rich. The stipends senators dole out to people may meet a particular need, but practices like that will not usher in the change we seek. This is my appeal.

Merry Christmas Nigerians!

***

Let’s set the records straight

Last week, Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu and its Leader, Ahmad Lawan, disagreed over the political party with the highest number of law- makers in the Red Chamber.

While Lawan claimed that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was in the majority, with 56 senators and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with 46, Ekweremadu said there was no reliable statistics to back the claims.

Lawan, while faulting the reports about the current configuration of the Senate in terms of numerical strength of the two dominant political parties, said he needed to set the records straight.

Senate Leader said: “The media reported that APC has 57 senators, while PDP has 58. For the record, APC senators are 56, while PDP senators are 46.

Countering Lawan, ‎ Ekweremadu explained that “as regards the party configuration, I want to say there is no any particular statistics for now. We cannot talk about the figures that each political party has because there is no such statistics. So, let it be on record that we have no such record now.”

Since our politicians lack the moral decency to stick to one political party, I urge the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, to do the needful and set the records straight. Although it is infinitesimal, Nigerians deserve to know which party holds the ace in the Red Chamber. Until that is done, no one should cry when journalists opt for any figure that suit them.

This is not rocket science. It is something any idiot can do. Oga Bukky, set the records straight and mandate those who should do the needful to come up with the current structure in the Senate.

Bukola Saraki: In a different race after a fierce battle

The post Bleak Christmas in troubled chamber appeared first on The Sun Nigeria.

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