House of Commotion and Democracy dividends

There are so many things for reporters, writers, columnists and political analysts to feast on in Nigeria’s political arena of recent. First is the issue of Siemens scandal, where top official of the National Assembly were allegedly involved, then the nomination and screening of INEC Chairman and his commissioners, the PDP’s ‘gentleman’s agreement’ on the party’s zoning arrangement, agitations for the power shift to the North, the calls for Jonathan to do away with the arrangement and contest in 2011, N10 billion 50th independence anniversary, Super Eagles crashing out of South Africa 2010 FIFA World Cup and the story of all times – the commotion in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, June 22.

The ‘Honourable’ members threw decorum and decency to the wind and engaged in a free-for-all exchange of blows, (like goons) turning the Lower Chamber into a boxing ring of sort, to settle differences between the members of the ‘Progressives Minded Legislators’, who alleged that the leadership of the House, under Speaker Dimeji Bankole, misappropriated N9b capital votes appropriated to the House in 2008 and 2009 and the supporters of the Speaker. Whether this act is shameful or unbecoming of the ‘Honourable’ members is not the point, but how the Representatives can stoop so low as to adopt the thugs way in settling their differences.

It is indeed shameful and pathetic in this age for the ‘Honourable’ members to engage in an unruly behaviour which seriously undermines the legislature, knowing fully that the fisticuff was not driven by patriotism or the love of Nigerian people, rather by the quest to grab power by all means through violent and crude manner. It is also an indication to the extent to which our ‘Honourable’ members can go in dragging our hard earned democracy and its institutions to the gutter. Their actions are a disgrace and a clear indication that what we have in the House are not really representatives of Nigerian people but a bunch of Kalare boys, who choose violence in place of constructive debate to drive home their point. Nigerians are shocked and very disappointed with the conduct of the “honourable” members. What is it that cannot be resolved through debates? Why do they choose to disgrace us and mock our democracy and make us a laughing stock?

Today our democratic institutions are crippled not by the military dictatorship, but by the very people who swore to uphold it, mainly because of two reinforcing structural factors – the absence of a free and fair elections and the culture of entitlements inherent in our political system which our elective representatives enjoy to the detriment of the poor masses. Whether the fracas in the House of Representatives could be solved when we conduct a free and fair election in 2011 is something that we all wait to see. But what we saw on June 22 is an indication that majority of the ‘Honourable’ members are in the House not as representative of the Nigerian people but are there to serve their greedy and selfish interest because in the first place they were not elected – they were either rigged or picked by godfathers, therefore they owe no one explanation, including the very constituencies they claim to represent.

If what they were fighting for was in the interest of Nigerians, we should have even encourage them, but the truth is that our members are fighting because some felt they were left in the distribution of ‘democracy dividends’, which to them means the awarding of fictitious contracts to have an excuse to milk the national treasury dry. Our ‘Honourable’ members have disappointed Nigerians and me feel if such were to happen in advance countries of the world, the House leadership should have offered a national apology and resign honourably. If really the members of the Lower House are ‘honourables’ they should apologise to Nigerians and the civilized world for their unruly behaviour.

There will never be effective democracy in Nigeria with a House like this. Nigerians do not need to be taught to understand democracy’s merits – all the evidence shows that what they want is good representation, with people that respond to their needs and respect their rights. The problem is not that we do not know how to hold our representative to account but that we lack the power to do so or we were denied that power, since most of these people came through fraudulent and dubious means. We have seen in 2007 how most of these members were forced on people through what was described by political parties as consensus candidates. We have also witnessed how INEC was compromised; candidates declared winners in an election where majority were denied the rights to vote.

In the last 11 years that our democracy last, it is difficult to determine the direction to which our political system is heading.  Our economy is not improving, poverty is high, education has collapsed, and no town can burst of 5 hours steady power supply – all these are supposed to be the dividends of democracy  that the ‘Honourable’ members should ought to have been fighting for, which up till now Nigerians are yet to feel or reap. The toiling people are restive and anxious. Expectations are very high, whilst public delivery is poor. However, our representatives are busy engaging in fight for Chairmanship of Committees and protecting their selfish interest, they have little or nothing to offer their constituencies. For how long?

Kabiru Danladi Lawanti,
Area 11, Garki,


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