By Israel A. Ebije
Nigerians are concerned over who to vote for in the next general elections for good reasons. The state of the economy, social well being of the country has left so many Nigerians expecting better fortunes as 2019 draws nearer. Most political comments, permutations at the national level concentrate critical analysis on the president and state governors, not many remember the storm going on at the National Assembly. As the president continues to receive bashing, the vulture culture of the National Assembly continues to spread like cancer, eating deep into the economy where a negligible fragment of the population appropriates our commonwealth. It is about time for Nigerians to beam the searchlight at the legislators.
The senators and House of Representatives members have taken for themselves about a trillion naira since 1999 in the name of allowances and “constituency allowances”. The said monies allegedly used for constituency projects have only satisfied the personal luxury cravings of the stupendous spenders in both chambers of the house, leaving the masses and the economy in shambles. All the noise about who the next president would be or how the president is governing the country has managed to prevent people from addressing the monumental financial drainage in the national assembly. People are not taking out time at different constituency/state levels to stop the pillage by these self serving politicians. The vulture culture will continue where politics is seen as meal ticket for many Nigerians who are only interested in using their privileged position to milk the system.
The president and his handpicked officials may have a lot to answer in terms of economic or financial misplacements since 2015, it is however instructive for the national assembly members to be screened now that records show they are blowing fat in impunity, under false immunity.
The legislature at all levels are the fulcrum necessary to lubricate good governance, sustain vibrant democracy but they are championing impunity, most time preventing development from a very few dedicated sectors. They have lost value so much, some government officials flaunt their directives or appear to answer to inquiries. The situation Nigeria finds itself goes beyond who the president is, how much has been spent, the kind of policy implemented or who the president works with. A faulty National Assembly sends every other aspect of governance in spiral motion. Nigerian legislators are not only complicit in arrogating to themselves insane amounts of money, they have failed in holding government responsible – invariably making leaders too powerful, invincible with wands of impunity at their disposal.
In Nigeria, power is concentrated on a single individual identified either as president or governor. The presidents and governors have been given so much powers, they can almost do anything and get away with it. Governor Rochas Okorocha for example has decreed that his daughters husband is the best person to replace him. Before Nigerians could react, the state assembly quickly endorsed the anointed candidate. At the national level, ministries and MDAs have revealed severally how senators/ house members on committee assignments ask for bribes before approving policies, programs or projects. It is also important to note that MDAs who cannot give good kick backs suffer set backs even with good economic policies. The political system will never improve if financially compromised individuals manage the legislative arm of government. Once Nigerians cannot combat gluttonous appetite of National Assembly members for money, the system will automatically continue to endorse bad leadership, jaundiced economic policy.
It is difficult for Nigerians to phantom out how to address the issue of dealing with the legislative members who are by themselves custodians of the law except by voting out those who are there to seek themselves. Nigerians must apply the same attention they have on the presidency, governors on the legislative arm. It is possible to choose an incompetent president or governor but it is more disastrous to have prebendal national assembly members. Once the National Assembly members are competent, patriotic individuals, whoever the president is, cannot but submit to the supremacy of the wish of the masses through their representatives. Sadly, most of the legislators are known for legislooting. Top on the ridiculous list of monies wasted on legislators at the federal level every three months include but not limited to, N1.8 million on newspapers; N10 million for domestic trips and N1.5 million to maintain a computer. Attention has been over concentrated at the center and nobody is looking at the legislators who are indeed expected to check and balance the excesses of the executive.
The hope of an average Nigeria is festooned on the characters elected into the legislators. Nigerians should be prepared to change the system first by removing criminal legislators. Soon they will bring stipends to sprinkle on very hungry people. These stipends have fooled many hapless individuals years ago, but this is the time to come out of it. The system is designed by our leaders to keep the masses perpetually poor so they can be used as tools only good for re-election votes. Most of the legislatures are only there to add to the crowd, they have never made a single contribution. Some are clowns, others are just there to agree to the first signal their brains can understand. We must reserve some energy to push away the wrong people from the legislative arm of government. They have done worse than most of the leaders taking the heat. A bad leader can be checked if the legislative arm is functional for God and country.
Ebije can be reached via: email@example.com or @ebijeisrael