Let’s Gird Our Loins

BEN LAWRENCE

BEN LAWRENCE

Joseph Wayas beat Justice Atake with one vote to emerge as Senate president in 1979. Surprisingly, some Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN’s senators were rumoured to have voted for Wayas against their party’s directive. Gayus Bulama of former Gongola State, did not hide his option for Wayas. Atake was UPN.

As it stood in the National Assembly after the vote to return to constitutional rule that year, Wayas’ National Party of Nigeria, NPN, had more members in the two houses but not the majority to control any of the two chambers. So it went into coalition with the Nigerian People’s Party, NPP, to gain control of the two houses. It was not easy. Some NPP members threw their weight behind Atake who they believed was more competent than Wayas, defying party whip. Jaja Anucha Wachukwu, former Nigeria’s foreign minister, and some other NPP senators, made open their preference for Atake.

Atake would have narrowly clinched that seat but for those UPN members who voted for Wayas against party directive. Must a ruling president’s party necessarily control the legislature? Obafemi Awolowo, UPN’s leader, distanced himself from the elections of the Senate president and the speaker of the House of Representatives. The same with Nnamdi Azikiwe and Aminu Kano. They left the choices for legislators to sort out in their chambers.

I think Muhammadu Buhari should return to his neutral stand on the issue of who lead the National Assembly. The National Assembly cannot undo his progressive plans because the momentum rests with the people. Really, it was only in the praesidium of the Soviet era that party was rigid. In fact, it was any decision of the general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and his group that represented party discipline. Legislators vote independently in the British parliament, the US Congress and other western democracies so-called. Buhari should not get himself enmeshed in the petty politics for supremacy in his party. One had wished it was based on lofty ideals and not the struggle for control of party apparatus. Buhari should face how to clear the mountain of rubbish left behind by PDP’s irresponsible elements after 16 years of pillage. This is not the era of “sea never dries”.

The President personifies the Nigerian state. It is his examples that the people will follow, not those of legislators seeking to enlarge their wardrobes and increase the retinue of idle courtiers that should otherwise be employed in more productive and gainful endeavours to improve national growth. Our legislators are behaving like loafers and spoilt brats. Military, customs, police, immigration officers buy their uniforms. They put their lives on the line daily.

The positions in the National Assembly, apart from the Senate president, his deputy, the speaker and his deputy, are not written into the Nigerian constitution. The positions are improvised for the better running of the two houses and as such, have no relevance to public administration. They should not earn more than the other legislators.

What happened in the Senate in the second republic has repeated itself in the two houses of the National Assembly ever since because there is a limit to controlling man’s choices. The only ugly thing is that in the new dispensation of our trial with democracy and the abbreviated experience of the third, outsiders chose to control the two chambers.

I am more concerned with the ill-informed comments of some print and electronic media of what they called the slow march of Buhari’s administration. Does the naming of ministers amount to any speed in trying to clean the stable to build a new structure that will guarantee the welfare of all?

Are these people so illiterate about governance and government? They talk of forming a government. What government? Only the President and his deputy were elected by the people. The others are brought in as aides. It is only the portfolio of the attorney general that is written into the constitution and there is no compulsion that the President must appoint one automatically. The purpose of the presence of the attorney general in the constitution is to state the qualities of who should hold that position.

The President can change the title of secretary to the government to any other name if he so desires and redesign his duties. It is so with other cabinet ministers whenever he feels the need to have them on board. This is not PDP’s government. Its style must be different from that contract mentality – money, money and no service.

The media are exposing illiteracy about how Nigeria is ruled based on our constitution.

Let me state here that Buhari has done excellently well in 30 days, judging from the filth left behind for him to clear. The civil service is in tatters and it must be restructured before the government can deliver any goods. Security is necessary for growth. I am not talking of the peace of the grave, but a semblance that can guarantee life and property. These are not issues to be resolved in six months.

The preceding administrations did not only leave an empty treasury, but also undesired debts for Buhari to pay. These problems are not insurmountable. The problem of Nigeria is not that of Buhari alone but of all the people of this nation. We must change our ways. We must cut our cloths according to our sizes. Is it not unreasonable and stupid for legislators to be seeking special treatment in a nation that has been carved up like a chicken? We did not vote for them to be lords of the manor, we playing the serfs. Nigeria is in distress and they are asking for superlative comfort when they should gird their loins to help restore the nation to its economic and social stature that made it the centre of Africa, South of the Sahara before the locusts visited in 1999.

They are not thinking of crop failure in the North because of adverse weather, and the reconstruction of those man-made facilities that help agriculture to thrive in the absence of favourable climatic conditions, like dams and other farm accessories.

Senators and representatives are not thinking of how to revive our industrial sector to stem unwarranted importation. They are not thinking of education without which there will be no advanced manpower to adequately build a prosperous nation for 170 million people. They are massaging their base instincts of gullible consumption.

As I warned in my earlier piece, poverty has opened the eyes of the people to the brigandage in government in Nigeria. Any spark caused by the voracious appetite of those in leadership will lead to a violent uprising that will make other present scattered insurrections to look like a child’s play.

Yes, Buhari will need to re-open the talk about the structure of Nigeria that will maximise our potentials.

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