The Nigerian House of Representatives in the first 100 days – A look at the Class of 2007
Nigeria, we hail thee – the Eagle has landed once more. The Nigerian Eaglets claimed the U-17 FIFA World Cup title in Seoul 2007. Nigerians are full of Guts and Glory, and that makes the country envied by most. In spite of insurmountable conditions, we find a way to excel. It is for this reason that the whole world loves Nigeria. Some of us love Nigeria for obvious reasons, while some love to hate her out of spite. Little does the rest of world know that the Green and White colors NEVR RUN! However, that is subject for another discussion. This article is to address the actions or lack of it at the behest of our Federal House of Representatives – class of 2011, and their predecessors.
It seems that there is recurring theme in the Nigerian Federal House of Representatives. The lower Legislative House is supposed to be closest to the yearnings of our people, yet repeatedly, their actions or inactions appear to be antithetical to the welfare of the populace. This is not to absolve the Upper House of any juvenile misdeeds, but that would be subject for another discussion.
A timeline and refresher of the activities that inform this opinion may be in order. For a disclaimer, any omissions or errors contained herein are regretted, and stand corrected.
1) During the Shagari administration of 1978, the Honorable members spent months debating their benefits while the masses wallowed in abject poverty. First, it was about their living quarters – FESTAC Village or Victoria Island Legislative Quarters. The ramblings that ensued over their residences and allowances lasted for months.
2) Twenty-one years later in 1999, General Abdulsalam Abubakar successfully handed over power to elected civilian representatives. What transpired was another cacophony of events. Shortly after resumption of the truncated democratic journey, Alhaji Salisu Buhari was unceremoniously removed as the Speaker of the Lower House just as he had miraculously assailed to the number five (?) citizen of the country. Apparently, he had falsified his age, and education to claim the exalted position. Next was the usual pomposity of their allowances and the subsequent unending tussle between the legislature and the executive resulted in many a “Ghana Must Go” stories. . In the meantime, the executive ran rampant with despotic impunity killing innocent civilians in Odi, Zaki Biam and elsewhere. At the same time, ethno-religious skirmishes that claimed untold lives threatened to rip the country apart while politicians played ostrich in the posh palaces of Abuja. Electricity became epileptic, and public thievery reigned supreme in all three tiers of the government. Commendations are due to Honorable Ghali Na’Abba for his principled stand while at the helms of our House in spite of an overbearing megalomania as the executive
3) Fast forward to 2007, on May 29, 2007, a new class of Federal House Representatives both elected, and selected were sworn in office to represent the masses. One hundred days into office, these 355 Honorable members’ biggest achievement is the plot to impeach the Speaker Mrs. Patricia Olubunmi Etteh. This is not to excuse the award of 628 million Naira renovation contract on two houses, by the Speaker. To spend five million US dollars for renovation of a public living quarters in a country where 95 million people live under $1 dollar a day should be a crime punishable by stoning to death, and that is being charitable at best. Public stoning of erring politicians would be one Sharia law, I would subscribe to, however I defer that judgment (in this case) until investigations are complete.
The one question that begs the answer is this: The plot to remove Madam Speaker is it borne out of altruistic reasons or self-centeredness by the Honorable members? I let you be the judge.
A few years ago, Nigeria was awarded the dubious crown of being the happiest country in the world -dubious in the sense that the World Bank and other international agencies list Nigeria as a country where 70% (about 95 million) of the people living in abject poverty surviving on less that $1 US Dollar a day. Nigeria is a country where those in power siphon millions and even billions of public US dollars with impunity where infrastructural decay is common.. Yet, we are the happiest people on earth. Little wonder the House of Reps are left to do as they please without giving a damn as to the fate of the masses. We smile even with lack of access to clean water, motorable ways, public safety, and basic healthcare – so why should these politicians care? – The governed are happy. After observing this pathetic state of affairs in Nigeria, many years ago the late but great Fela Ransome-Kuti, wrote the song “Suffering and Smiling” to depict a people that would smile under the most adverse living conditions. This is what makes Nigeria unique.
Finally, signs on ground are that, we have persons in the Villa and some States with a human face. The World Cup Championship in Korea may well be the beginning of better days ahead. If only the Federal House of Representatives can wake up, and focus on the people’s work, this giant may be waking up from this developmental hibernation..
God Bless Nigeria.
Engineer Matthew Atim