If they must fight…By Yomi Odunuga

It comes close but a fray in the hallowed chambers by ‘honourable’ members cannot be likened to the brawl of mere motor-park touts. If asked, I’ll be the first to admit that the general outcry over the free-for-all that broke out in the House of Representatives on Tuesday was more than justified. But before we get carried away with the usually euphoric ecstasy and short-lived angry response to our lawbreakers’ fumbles and foibles, we need to situate the latest sickening display in the green chambers. First, we must understand that there is nothing constitutionally ultra vires if the right-thinking persons we voted for regale in using pugilistic expressions and indulging in nearly animalistic disorder within the confines of the hallowed chambers. It’s legit. Second, it would be inhuman for anyone to expect these characters to always tread the sanity lane, having been internationally acknowledged as the world’s highest paid lawmakers. They are now no mere mortals!

Let’s face it; these fully inebriated guys need to let off some steam occasionally lest they get choked by the ever-increasing humongous pay packets! So, some pugilistic artistry shouldn’t be of any major concern to us for as long these folks do it for the collective good. Question is: can they, in all honesty, swear that those fights were in the nation’s interest?

Unfortunately, the history of legislators’ brawls and undiluted descent into hooliganism makes no pretence about oversized egos. If they are not fighting over allowances or allocations for legislative responsibilities, you can be rest assured that they would be flinging chairs and throwing punches in the interest of a nebulous paymaster. It was not, therefore, surprising that Tuesday’s fight had nothing to do with the price of fish or the growing public discontent over a cataclysmic economy. If it were, that would have been a departure from the norm. With all eyes set on 2015 and political darts flying with biting rage, it would have been unpardonable for the lawmakers not to show their true colour after gulping all the indulgences that a seven-week recess and multi-million quarterly allowances offer. If they had gone straight to the business of sitting on bills that will never see the light of the day or ever receive the president’s assent, how would they justify the over one trillion naira they had milked from the national purse without such loud announcement of their arrival with a free-for-all?

In a ‘developing’ or self-underdeveloped economy like Nigeria’s, the more your hedonistic entitlements, the greater your claims to extreme bragging rights. When you are part of the ‘distinguished’ 109 Senators or 360 ‘Honourables’ who make up Nigeria’s upper and lower federal legislative chambers, drawing a whopping N150bn from the national economy annually to take care of official business, you should be able to get away with anything. The executive arm condones impunity, so, you deserve or claim your own elastic latitude for misbehaviour or misdemeanour. And so when ‘honourable” men and women in the Green Chamber pulled off the gloves earlier in the week, howling depravities, tearing robes and physically attacking one another over who should take the pole position in queuing behind the BamangaTukur-led Peoples Democratic Party and the AbubakarBaraje-led nPDP, those familiar with the intriguing politics of survival here were not in any way jolted. Someone said it was shameful that all they could do, after such a long, undeserved break from legislative duties, was to turn the place into a boxing ring. And I ask: when was the last time that shame, or any semblance of it,was allowed to play a critical part in our politics?

Sometimes, I wonder why governments at the national, state and local government levels waste millions of dollars yearly on the capacity training of their lawmakers in foreign lands. More often than not, they travel to these places with their consorts, presumably to be trained on legislative etiquette and effective law-making. That, I assume, must be an additional knowledge to the natural skills most of them have garnered in past incidences of street fighting and total abuse of power. Don’t get it twisted. I am not saying that they have totally ignored whatever must have been learnt from the capacity-building courses. It’s just that they have never wavered in applying such principles selectively, especially when the legislation has to do with their personal emoluments and welfare. That is when they converge to disagree to agree!

Sports journalist, AfolabiGambari, hit the nail on its head when he posted on his Facebook account that Nigeria has the misfortune of having a bunch of lawmakers who are completely ignorant of why “they are in the otherwise hallowed chamber.” Ordinarily, they are constitutionally empowered to initiate bills for the common good, fight for the right of the poor, the rich and the vulnerable, check the excesses of the executive and sustain a robust oversight mechanism that energises development. Sadly, you hardly ever see them putting their hats in the ring for these purposes. What we see daily is an agenda to perpetuate base, self-centred pleasure principles against the idealistic expectations of the electorate that voted them into power.

 If they are the real fighters for democracy and good governance, they would have been asking questions about the frustrating ASUU strike that has dragged on for more than 84 days without any end in sight. If they are truly sensitive to the growing public rage over their world record allowances, they would have convened an emergency meeting to address the issue of prevalent poverty and mass unemployment in Nigeria. In fact, we wouldn’t have minded if they had dislocated some bones, fighting for the establishment of a social security agency for the millions of denuded pensioners and unemployed youth scavenging for survival. We would have praised them to high heavens if any of them had been given a black eye for demanding that the over 10 million children reported to be out of school ought to find their way back to the classrooms. It would have been a breath of fresh air if any of the lawmakers had been dragged on the floor for daring to insist that Nigerians deserve a better deal from the crooks, the VIP brigands in the corridors of power.

 But then, what do we know? For all they care, the education sector may take a tumbling for the worse for as long as they continue to appropriate enough money to send their wards to schools abroad or the criminally-expensive private ones at home. Our health institutions may continue its free fall as long they can visit Germany, the United Kingdom and United States of America to be treated by the over 40,000 Nigerian doctors scattered across the globe while the citizens walk to their death here. Infrastructural development needs no urgent attention so long as Dubai, London and other exotic destinations are merely one flight away. Our graduates’ plight with the demeaning appellation of being “unemployed and unemployable” can endure for as long the fat cats can influence the employment of their children by blue chip companies or turn them into overnight billionaires as briefcase oil moguls. Who cares? Certainly, not Nigerians who are too docile to demand for equity, justice and good governance from this bunch of unfathomable national liabilities!

 If we must halt this drift into anarchy, we must first insist that the clowns pretending to be fighting for us must get their priorities right. Obviously, breaking empty heads over their party’s internal power squabbles ought not to rank among these priorities! Do they get it? Sure, they are yet to grasp the essence of why they are in power.Pity.

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In the beginning...Let there be Light

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