Has the Senate lost focus?

The Nigerian Senate has turned itself to a house of commotion. Sometimes senators leave the substance to chase shadows; instead of treating leprosy they dissipate their energies in treating eczema.
This is the highest law-making body in the country whose president has refused to step aside despite facing trial on alleged corrupt practices and other related offences.

In other climes where people value good names more than silver and gold, such a person should have resigned long ago. But this is Nigeria where we are still test running our home-made democracy where some democratic institutions are still weak. Some powerful politicians seem to be more powerful than the institution that produced them.
In the same vein, some of our senators sitting comfortably in the red chamber were former state governors, who are still having cases at the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Whether by commission or omission, these former governors have turned the Senate into their resting place where they intend to stay put and shield themselves from the prying eyes of the anti-graft agencies. Since there is no limit to the numbers of terms they can serve as senators, the only thing that can remove them is death. Unknown to the Nigerian populace/electorate, some of them might even be nursing one form of terminal sickness or the other that may be affecting their productivity as federal legislators, yet they won’t vacate their seats for other persons to take over from them.
Having served out two terms of 8 years in their respective states as governors, some of them may have no fresh ideas to impact and contribute in the legislative process other than maintaining extravagant life-styles at the expense of the public.

One character that is still fighting the battle of his life to prevent the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) from extraditing him to the United States of America to clear his name from suspected drug related charges is still hibernating in this red chamber. Another character who used to fight while he was at the lower chamber has also found himself in the Senate. And so scandals have continued to trail some prominent members of this hallowed chamber. Despite these shortcomings, some senators have continued to be shining stars and guiding lights.

This article is not to x-ray the characters of our distinguished senators. No. Rather, our attention has been drawn to the standoff between the Senate and the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Rtd. Colonel Ahmed Ali. For goodness sake, there is a weightier matter that prompted the Senate to invite Ali to appear before it before the Senate began to make a mountain out of an ants’ hill.

What has the issue of wearing uniform got to do with a retired army colonel who was not a commissioned officer? Again, one of its principal officers, whose interest is involved, is also alleged to be behind the invitation of the Custom’s boss before the twist of uniform saga was allowed to overshadow the main reason for the invitation, in the first instance.
Anyway, we learnt that this matter of appearance in uniform or no uniform is already before the courts and so we want to pause and suspend our further comments on this issue.

Meanwhile, the issue of jumbo salaries/allowances being received by our senators and indeed members of the National Assembly is another controversy that is still trailing them. Given the current economic recession, one would have thought that our federal legislators will review their salaries/allowances to reflect the economic mood of the nation. Instead, they have chosen to turn deaf ears to constructive criticisms about their outrageous budgeting system and have continued to do their businesses as usual.

And may God deliver the poor masses of this nation from the cows of Bashan in Jesus name.
To buttress our point on the controversial emoluments of the National Assembly, it is instructive to copy and quote a  letter purportedly written by a former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria  (CBN) and the current Emir of Kano – Alhaji Sanusi Muhammed II to President Muhammed Buhari on the same issue.

It reads: “Change should start with the National Assembly –A Senator receives N36m monthly.  If this is divided into two=N18million), the second half which is N18million can be used to employ 200 Nigerians each earning a salary of N90, 000 monthly. When you multiply 200 people by the number of senators (109), this will give 21, 800 Nigerians gainful employment. In short, 200 Nigerians will be able to live a comfortable life on half a senator’s monthly salary.

Incidentally, before we saw this letter on the social media, we have shared and recommended this same idea with then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo who was holding the forte while President Buhari was away to London on medical leave which lasted for 7 weeks. In the said article titled “Acting President Yemi Osinbajo should demonstrate his style of leadership by example in consonance with the ongoing economic recession,” copying extensively from the Biblical account of Nehemiah, then Governor of Judah as recorded in Nehemiah 5:14 – 19, KJV we advised Osinbajo to emulate the leadership style of Nehemiah by cutting down some of their allowances and certain perks. Whatever money saved can be used to fund projects that have direct bearing on improving the wellbeing of the masses.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has appointed King Sunny Ade as the ambassador of its slogan, “Change begins with me”. And it will be nice if the juju maestro can move his campaign from our very Judea and Samaria (i.e Presidency/ministers and National Assembly members and judiciary) before reaching out to the uttermost parts of the world (masses). The bottom-line is let the change begins with our leaders. Let them lead by good examples.

Gbemiga Olakunle,JP
General Secretary, National Prayer Movement  [email protected] gbemigaolakunle.blogspot.com

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