Six Years of Excuses, 22 Years of Locusts
By Martins Oloja
……. ‘Lawan and Gbajabiamila As Enemies Of Restructuring?’
POLITICS DIGEST – “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”― Robert F. Kennedy
The two presiding officers of Nigeria’s National Assembly, the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives urgently need some master classes on some critical leadership issues including political communication and character building. They need to look beyond motivational books that fill most bookshops here. They need to study biographies of great and successful leaders. They need to know at this time that as leaders of the foremost representatives of the people, they should pursue some consistency that will make most people to believe that they can stand up for ideals and acts to improve the lot of the suffering people here and strike out injustice from any quarters. They need to inspire hope and demonstrate to the hungry and angry people in their country that they are indeed leaders and not dealers in a time of crisis and despair. They should cast the words of Robert F. Kennedy quoted above on a marble and put it in their offices and even their bedrooms. They need to be reflecting on such words as a guide every day.
As we continue to debate the relevance of democracy the ‘militricians’ decreed for us in 1999 –(22 years ago), our national assembly leaders should note that we are indeed in a perilous time when the president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces could openly confess that he needs external help he has consistently rejected and even blamed his predecessor for. Our national assembly leaders should note as I declared here last week that when senior citizens are openly calling for coups and columnists are openly discussing coup plots and disintegration without considering the consequences to the polity, that is a warning signal to democracy. When respected men of God are beginning to tell their congregation that while they wait on God for salvation and solution they should prepare a ‘Plan B’, a self-help mechanism, our national assembly big men should note that the constitutional democracy that gives them the powers they wield is in some danger. And they should remember that the first casualty each time democracy suffers some reverses is the legislature at all levels. Who will weep for the fall of this Assembly, anyway?
That is why a recent report that President of the Senate Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan and House Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila blasted southern governors over calls for restructuring’ is quite unfortunate. A rampaging spirit of error struck again and democracy has been diminished by such unguarded utterances of the top shots who should be guardian angels of our still-born democracy.
The two big men last Thursday lambasted South’s governors for last Tuesday’s Asaba declaration. At the Delta state capital, 17 governors called for the convocation of an “urgent national dialogue”, “bold steps to restructure the country”, “total ban on open grazing” and for President Muhammadu Buhari “to address the nation”. The bold declaration was curiously faulted by Lawan and Gbajabiamila. The strange criticism of the presiding officers of the federal legislature is a contrast to the backing the call got on Wednesday from senators from the South and members of the House of Representatives from the South.
Lawan accused the governors of retreating to regionalism to address a national issue that should be collectively decided upon. Gbajabiamila, in the same vein, said to end the security challenge, all must ‘imbibe the spirit of oneness, togetherness, unity and love.”
Lawan and Gbajabiamila spoke at the Presidential Villa in Abuja after the prayer along with President Buhari. Lawan noted: “I believe that, as leaders, especially those of us who are elected, should not be at the forefront of calling for this kind of thing because, even if you are a governor, you are supposed to be working hard in your state to ensure that this restructuring you are calling for at the federal level, you have done it in your state as well…What you may accuse the Federal Government of, whatever it is, you may also be accused of the same thing in your state. So, we are supposed to ensure that we have a complete and total way of ensuring that our systems at the federal, state and even local government levels work for the people.
“We should avoid regionalism. We are all leaders and we are in this together. The solutions to our challenges must come from us regardless of what level of government we are, whether at the federal, state or the local government level. I believe that Nigeria is going to come out of these challenges stronger…”.
Gbajabiamila said: “If truth be told, we all have equal shares in the blame for what is happening today…Whatever challenges we have, we must all come together to make sure that we resolve these issues we’re facing. We must imbibe that spirit of oneness, togetherness, unity and love that would take us through this.” This is another face of what I called oratory and sophistry of our leaders here the other day, which might not end banditry that has overwhelmed our country.
You will recall here that on December 29, 2019, after my ‘ordination’ as a ‘Prophet of Hope’ for my country, I proclaimed in an article on Senator Lawan and Hon. Gbajabiamila (https://guardian.ng/opinion/weep-not-for-lawan-and-gbajabiamila/ that there would be a sound of freedom, among other things. Indeed to the glory of His name, there was freedom for some (un)lawful captives shortly after. I insist ‘Nigeria, our Nigeria, shall be free’ from years of locusts soon and very soon. Let all citizens say a loud ‘Amen’.
Then, I had looked into the seeds of time and seen that some of our leaders who are in one of the most important institutions in a democracy, the legislature, “need some words of life, some encouragement, lest they go astray”. I had then noted that if we continued to lament the tragic errors that they were beginning to pile up, we would all be the losers, after all.
As I advised then, ‘Let’s not condemn them. Let’s prevent some disasters from our national assembly. It’s like heaven falling, which no one can escape. So, let’s get together and counsel them. I mean here that the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives are too important to be ignored by just lamenting about their character flaws at this time. They deserve our prayers and, of course, our counsel, whether they like it or not…’
I wrote specifically then: According to our Order of National Precedence, the President of the Senate is Number Three Citizen and Chairman of the Joint Session of the National Assembly while the Speaker is Number Four and Deputy Chairman of the Joint Session of the National Assembly, (not the Deputy President of the Senate). So, if Nigeria becomes a success or failure story tomorrow, they will certainly be part of the blame-sharing formulae. They are part of Nigeria’s leadership at this moment. But the constitution has provided for their separate responsibilities in different arms and how each of the (three) arms can function independently and how the combined effects of their actions can make or mar Nigeria. So, I am convinced that instead of condemning them at this stage, let’s tell them some inconvenient truths so that they can act in public interest. Reason: the two national leaders are beginning to make public statements that are already promoting the public perception that can destroy the 9thAssembly. So, they need some redemption songs, some words of hope, yes some words of wisdom so that they can work for some common good.
In the same vein today, Senator Lawan and Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila need to know that they should transform by the renewing of their minds. They need to be advised by the Office of the Citizen that they do not need to tell us that the only office they need to serve is the office of the president who assisted them to be what they are. They should be told that the last two statements they (Lawan and Gbajabiamila) made concerning their relationship with the executive actually set the tone for the low esteem of the 9th Assembly. As I had noted here before: they need to know before they start blaming their reputation managers that there is power in the words that they use publicly. They need to be conscious of this too: their sycophantic relationship with the presidency has already damaged the image of the legislature in this dispensation. They should realise that the Office of the Citizen has already concluded that nothing good can come out of the 9th Assembly. That is why we need to tell them another bitter truth they would like to keep in the grave at this time: that they need an urgent damage control measure by the listening to what the people want them to do, notably restructuring of the federation to reflect federalism.
They should swallow their pride and vanity and work with the governors to restructure this failing country. The nation is in crisis and this is where the people will determine their relevance.
Leaders and managers need to know that in conflict management and peace building, we should freeze penchant for justification for our actions. Senator Lawan, our Senate President needs more than his doctorate degree to understand the implications of his claim published on November 22, 2019 that, “any request from President Muhammadu Buhari would make Nigeria a better place and such would be acted on expeditiously”. The president of the Senate had stated that when Professor Itse Sagay visited him specifically for senate confirmation of the then EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu who had then been acting since November 2015.
In the same vein, exactly a month after the public relations disaster by Senator Lawan, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Gbajabiamila too was quoted as saying that, “I wasn’t elected to fight the executive”. In fact, another version of the same statement was more offensive: “Better to be rubber stamp than fight executive arm of government”. Hon. Gbajabiamila spoke in this vein when he met with members of his constituency in Surulere Lagos where he distributed some ‘dividends of democracy’ he brought from Abuja including financial donations, cars, etc.
These were careless and reckless statements, which had then attracted condemnation.
Doubtless, they still do not know the weight and significance of the office they are occupying.
‘Leah Sharibu Clocks 18 (still) in the wilderness’
The ‘Princess of Resistance’, our ‘Hero of Faith’ clocked 18 in her fourth year in captivity at the weekend. She hails from Yobe state and so Senator Ahmad Lawan, President of the Senate, is her Senator. Let him speak up too on Leah Sharibu’s Christian life in a dark valley.
Martins Oloja is a Columnist with the Guardian