Lost lawmakers and part-time legislature

The public indignation trailing the legislature in the country, particularly the National Assembly (NASS), has been indescribable. It certainly did not start with the trending budget-padding scam, though the scandal exacerbated public distrust, hatred (if you like) and scorn for NASS. Indeed, if words were enough to reform and retrieve Nigeria’s lost political class and inject requisite patriotism and moral rectitude in them, the bouquet of harsh words attracted by the budget padding scandal alone would probably have gone a long way. For reasons of space, the venom from just these three critics would do in conveying how Nigerians feel about the managers of their polity, particularly their lawmakers:

1. Okey Ndibe (PhD): I have often argued that the Nigerian state is, at bottom, a criminal enterprise, organized to serve the interests of its most unconscionable criminals, often chaps who go by the pompous designation of political stakeholders. And, save for cosmetics and a higher hypocrisy quotient, there is little in today’s
political environment to warrant a revision of my dour opening claim. It is still their
wont to serve themselves first, serve themselves next, and serve themselves last. They remain specialist profiteers from Nigerians’ collective misery. On any given day, members of Nigeria’s state and national legislatures — whose chief mandate is to propose or pass laws — provide proof that their country is a lawless, ethics-free, anything-goes space. The latest chapter of Nigeria’s absurd legislative drama is tied to what’s now known as “budget padding”…

2. Taju Tijani: Nigeria seems bereft of leaders and this state of play is an ill fate on this nation’s destiny. The mendacity and treachery of our politicians are the twin evils we have to live with. With vehement secrecy and the meanest objective, Mr. Paddington (Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep Yakubu Dogara) inserted into this nation’s legal document called budget, the princely sum of N248b in a scamfest that include his deputy, Yussuf Suleimon Lasun, chief whip, Alhassan Ado Doguwa and minority leader, Leo Ogor. With such action, his old patina of greatness was wiped off among Nigerians and fellow lawmakers. Mr. Paddington, a once darling and clean skin is today an exposed hyena who wanted to pick our bones and clean
them greedily. If democracy requires eternal vigilance, we have to thank Hon. Jibrin for blowing his saxophone… Our politicians are nothing but walking embodiment of greed, indolence, corruption, dishonesty, unpatriotism, wastage, stupidity and vulgar lifestyle. They are a bunch of malignant and manipulating plunderers who oppress us…

Professor Jim Unah: The greed of hungry men and women entrusted with power knows no bounds. This truism is at the root of Aristotle’s fear and distrusts that democracy, when not superintended by elected magistrates of integrity and expertise, easily degenerates into mob rule and a republic of rogues. Incremental office malfeasances from ten percent kick-backs, overinvoicing of contracts and the listing of phony projects in budget estimates to the mind-blowing phenomenon of budget padding involving all arms of government and agencies of state, master-
minded by the civil service, moistened and fertilized the soil for humongous network of corruption to sprout and engulf Nigeria’s economy in an unparalleled recession…

Indeed, on Sunday, July 31, 2016 and August 7, 2016, Professor Unah did a two-part piece captioned ‘Part-time legislature in a true federalism’ (see ‘Sunday Mirror’ of those dates).

Could this be as a result of lawmakers’ unrepentant roguish inclinations, the type we are witnessing today? That was shortly before former military leader, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) related how in 1989, his government proposed that the membership of the National Assembly should be on part time basis.

“If I have the opportunity to change the course of events in the country…, I still believe in that very strongly; all in an effort to cut the cost of governance”, Babangida stated.

But the other side of the story he may never reveal would be:
Why was it that the military hated the legislature with so much passion that it was the foremost arm of government disbanded each time they struck in the past.

Professor Unah used his two-part piece to truly buttress his point that “the greed of hungry men and women entrusted with power knows no bounds”. He shared with his readers a document posted to his WhatsApp, which listed (with clear names) 21 senators currently receiving pensions from their states either as ex-governors or ex-deputy governors ostensibly in addition to their outrageous salaries and allowances as senators. Not left out of course were former governors Chris Ngige, Rotimi Amaechi, Kayode Fayemi and Babatunde Fashola that are currently in President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet. What a nation!

In truth, the Nigerian enterprise ought to have no business with a full time legislature. How the country achieves it is the puzzle. It would have been easier if decreed by the military before now. The lawmakers as we have them presently will oppose it with the last pint of their blood. Can Buhari as a civilian leader brave it, possibly through a referendum? How do we save our dear country from the recklessness of the ravaging locusts? If in the United States, a foremost world power in every sense, only roughly nine states out of 50 have full time legislatures, why must all Nigerian states allow full-time lawmakers drain the nation’s purse at both federal and state levels?