…the quality of those who make it to the legislature at all levels calls for serious examination. How can you make laws when you are not knowledgeable enough about the challenges and opportunities that you are seeking to address? This Senate is doomed in the hands of the pall-bearers who forced themselves into over-sized shoes. But, it seems they are not ready to retrace their steps and leave until they get wet in the rain they have induced.
Diarrhoea in children is caused by many organisms, among which is the Rotavirus which is responsible for about six percent of diarrhoea episodes and 20 percent of diarrhoea disease deaths in children. Rotavirus infects nearly every child between the ages of three and five, and is globally the leading cause of severe dehydrating diarrhoea among children under five years. Diarrhoea remains one of the two leading killers of children worldwide and its prevalence rate in Nigeria is 18.8 percent, the worst in sub-Saharan Africa.
The good thing is that there is a vaccine that prevents this disease in children. The World Health Organisation had recommended that the Rotavirus vaccine be included in all National Immunisation Programmes, and the Federal Government in 2014 promised to introduce the vaccine into our immunisation scheme before the third quarter of 2015. That, to the extent I know, is not yet the case. So for those who know about it and can afford it, they pay about N20,000 for two doses to be administered on their children or wards, just as they have to pay for the pneumococcal conjugate and some other vaccines.
It was an uncomfortable realisation for me that there is such a vaccine that can prevent needless deaths and the government will not hasten to ensure all Nigerian children benefit from it. I was even more disturbed when I got to know that India facilitated the production of the generic version such that this vaccine can be administered at the cost of $1 only.
I wrestled with what to do for a while, wrote an article explaining how only $2 billion of what has been stolen from us can ensure the administration of the vaccine to 20 million Nigerian children. $2 billion at N200/$1 at that time would have given us N400 billion. At the market price of N20,000 per head for two shots each, we can very easily guarantee rotavirus vaccination to protect 20 million Nigerian children against diarrhoea. We need to consider the fact that at the price of $1 being spent in administering the Rotavirus vaccine in India, we can save costs through the bulk-purchase of generic drugs, while enabling opportunities for the administration of other vaccines against the diseases of Nigerian children. These include vaccines against Pneumococcal conjugate, MMR, Meningococcal conjugate, Chicken-pox, etc. needed for millions of children, who, at the moment, are not immunised against many of these childhood killer diseases, as these vaccines are excluded from the NPI immunisation list.
It took the Attorney General going over to the Senate to lecture them on their own rules. One listens to them and simply wonders: How can anyone justify the amendment of rules on the basis of norms and convention when there is a clear provision in writing on the amendment of the said rules?
Sometimes last year, I had the opportunity of a strategy session with one of the lawmakers in Lagos and I brought this up, and advocated for him to kindly take this up with the Lagos Sate Government so that the Rotavirus vaccine can be included in the NPI list. To his credit, he did just that whilst also conducting an independent enquiry on the matter. He raised a motion to that effect on the floor of the state legislative House a few months ago. But it has not been as smooth-sailing as I thought it might be.
Recently, a report I saw on the television was quite shocking, to say the least. It was in fact those who one would have thought would rally in support of the motion who argued against its adoption. Two ladies, members of the House, would not let things be. I recoiled in utter amazement as they argued that it was not possible for the vaccine to prevent the disease, citing as authority the fact that one of their fathers is a Medical Doctor, a scientist or something to that effect. I did not know what to make of it. Could she not have simply checked up her facts online first? Do people take to the floor of the chamber without adequate preparation? How do some of these people even get elected in the first place? Why would a woman, out of ignorance, mischief or possibly politics, stand up to speak against the provision of a World Health Organisation-recommended vaccine for children? I could not get over it.
But that is the price we pay for not paying enough attention to the calibre of those we elect to serve as our representatives in the legislature. We even pay a greater price by not following what transpires there. We do not attend public hearings, yet we are quick to protest against laws that do not make sense, when we could have aborted the process early enough. The problem is indeed systemic. As an instance, the national Senate has been reduced to a joke. We can now seeing more clearly the need to pay greater attention to the quality of minds that end up as our legislators. The clown from Kogi might have succeeded in making it a more compelling imperative with his irreverent behaviour in the Senate. Following the quality of contributions to issues on the floor of the red chamber can easily reduce one to tears. How could the chamber have brought ridicule on itself by abusing the power of summons to call the Attorney General of the Federation to justify his decision over a criminal matter instituted in court. It was such a poorly-thought out script.
It took the Attorney General going over to the Senate to lecture them on their own rules. One listens to them and simply wonders: How can anyone justify the amendment of rules on the basis of norms and convention when there is a clear provision in writing on the amendment of the said rules? If the bureaucracy or a group of Senators can sit on their own to amend the rules, does it mean they could have tinkered with other provisions, such as those to do with the qualifications for offices in the Senate and it will be explained away on the basis of convention, as it’s been done now? They even passed a resolution to the effect that the document was not forged as if that can nullify the act of a crime already committed.
I will even rather we operate a presidential-parliamentary system where though the president is elected directly by the people, he selects his ministers, who remain as members, from the House of Representatives, directly accountable to their constituents, while ministering.
As difficult as it might be, the best option, in the long term, is to scrap the Senate so we can have a single chamber, ceremonially presided over by the Vice President, with proceedings directed by members on a rotational basis, patterned after the American model. I will even rather we operate a presidential-parliamentary system where though the president is elected directly by the people, he selects his ministers, who remain as members, from the House of Representatives, directly accountable to their constituents, while ministering. Apart from the gains to be made from the synergy and savings made from the scrapping of the Senate, we also will not have to waste more money paying another set appointed as ministers.
Since there is no vaccine yet for verbal diarrhoea, the only way to take care of that clown from Kogi will be to activate the power of recall, and as difficult as this might be to execute, it should not stop his Constituents from starting the process. How does one explain what happened last week at an executive session of the Senate? According to the accounts we have: A man gets up and threatens other Senators not to dare testify in a court case, which is in itself a crime. Another Senator, duly recognised to speak, queries the propriety of this fellow always threatening others ‘like a thug’, especially in the light of the fact that the essence of the meeting was to bring about reconciliation. The man rises, not having been recognised to speak, charges towards the woman, threatening to beat and impregnate her. Yet he is still allowed to roam around, so much so that he could fly to Lagos from Abuja, in a childish attempt to prove that he is courageous. Talk of a butterfly thinking himself a bird?
There is little justification for retaining the Senate, seeing it only serves as a retirement pad for governors to idle away in some conceited belief in national political relevance. Also the quality of those who make it to the legislature at all levels calls for serious examination. How can you make laws when you are not knowledgeable enough about the challenges and opportunities that you are seeking to address? This Senate is doomed in the hands of the pall-bearers who forced themselves into over-sized shoes. But, it seems they are not ready to retrace their steps and leave until they get wet in the rain they have induced.