…the nation awaits our Honourable Reps to measure how many people will be hurt by this proposed suffocation of the ideal independence of NGOs in their proposed journey to consign it to Golgotha. From their unquestioned salaries and allowances, the Reps already have enough to grab, they should let NGOs be!
“How many children have you fathered”? Stephen Sackur, BBC HARDtalk presenter demanded from ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo in one of their gruelling encounters.
Obasanjo responded: “in my part of the world, normally we don’t count children, and if I go by that culture I will say, many”. Obasanjo exercised self-restraint and Sackur escaped.
Sackur was pointedly accusing Obasanjo of hypocrisy; that after fathering about 20 children, he had no moral justification to complain or warn against Nigeria’s population which is at a tipping-point projection of 450 million people by 2050.
Obasanjo, a no nonsense man, took it calmly. In a very penitent and surprisingly humble tone, he said, “I tell my children, don’t go my way. I made a mistake and I admit that”. Once again, Sackur escaped.
Then, like the “Alaseju” that he is, as Yorubas would say, which in pidgin rendering means, “Oversabi”, Stephen Sackur aimed a bombshell dart at Obasanjo. He said the National Assembly during President Obasanjo’s tenure had accused him of being the “Grandfather of corruption”. That was it! Obasanjo’s cobra tail was stepped upon and all venom was let loose. Obasanjo responded in fury:
“Stephen, is it right or they’re talking rubbish? Listen to me! When I took over (as president), the first thing National Assembly sent to me was that whenever I’m sending a bill to them I should send it with money, and I said NO, if I send a bill to them and they don’t pass it, I will still run the affairs of Nigeria!”
President Obasanjo went further to berate Stephen Sackur as being grossly biased without a honest assessment of his administration.
Those verbal projectiles launched by Obasanjo and aimed at his adversaries in context, the National Assembly, describing them as money-mongering frauds aptly re-echo Nigerians’ harsh and hush-toned distrust in the legislature; in this case the House of Representatives. Not a few feel the same way and nurse misgivings about their lack of probity, transparency and accountability.
Obasanjo was probably right or wrong. That is not a question for today. Having presided over the affairs of Nigeria twice, he has already booked his place in history, and we leave history to judge him.
Now, as that interview commenced with the issues bordering on potential population growth and development strategies to match up with potent instruments of tackling numerous mind boggling social and economic development issues, it is obvious that governments across our continents have failed woefully. This is owing to corruption, myopia, the crude mentality arising from a stone-age fiefdom sense of maladministration and, of course, unfounded fear rooted in the quest for primitive wealth accumulation in delusional future assurance and self-preservation. It is for these reasons citizens have really never accessed due benefits accruing from their social contract with government.
This sad development resulted in the design of imperative mechanisms for interventions and, without wasting words, gave rise to non-profits providing the succour to citizens as cushions for the government’s lapses. The interventions have come in hefty investments and have in no small measure filled gaps in global, continental and national necessities.
NGOs have also been active in calling out corruption and human rights abuses in government. In Nigeria, they have confronted military oppression, corporate underhand dealings and other acts undermining societal values and citizens’ wellbeing from leaders.
The fuelling factors of these cankerworm from leadership is poverty mindedness, power-drunkenness and a grab-all mentality.
Despite the enormous responsibilities handed to our Representatives by the electorate, which is to “represent the popular will” as conceived by the framers of our constitution, one is compelled to ask, what is the hurrying interest of Reps in an NGO Bill of all issues currently militating against the nation’s healthy existence? And why are they quick to play the morally fraudulent motif-card of the quest for transparency and security?
A couple of months back, I sat with Yemi Adamolekun, the executive director of Enough Is Enough. She picked interest in the Corruption Not In My Country campaign and thought we could work together on a similar concept to demand accountability from both chambers of the National Assembly. She expressed deep concern about the amount of colossal resources that goes down the wallet of our legislators from taxpayers without clear accountability on expenditure, awarded contract procedures and how sincerely they bring the impact of governance to bear on their constituencies for which they collect huge funding from the federal purse.
The likes of the activists at EiE and many of us who raise questions around probity must have drawn the ire of the Representatives who wrongly assume representing the people means they have become unquestionable.
From repeated face-saving submissions of the Reps, “security concern” has been part of why the House wants to gag NGOs. They presume NGOs are funding pipes for terrorism. Is this from a DSS security tipoff? Okay, let’s assume the Honourables are right on this concocted populism, how about we naming and shaming these security saboteur-NGOs? Is it Danjuma Foundation which in its 2016 grant cycle provided concepts on Community Health and Education and Skills Training that is sponsoring terrorism?
Is it Transparency International that calls government out to do the right thing that is sponsoring terrorism?
Is it MacAuthur Foundation that committed heavy funding in building development research centres in the University of Ibadan and that has committed countless grants to global human capital development that is sponsoring terrorism?
OR it SERAP, EiE or Actionaid?
Or is it some of us that devoted our resources, time and energy to exposing social malfeasance at micro level that are sponsoring terrorism?
If the Reps are certain about suspicions that NGOs are in cahoots with terrorists but are not forthcoming with any indicting information other than to proscribe and then “regulate”, then their posturing is suggestive of sheer manipulation, hunger for more political control levers and exploitation of citizens’ weaknesses in the lack of adequate information on the veracity of bogus security scare-mongering claims.
Let us examine some of the very disturbing and unpopular pursuits of this House overtime. On June 14, 2017, Nigerian Reps led by Linus Okorie, who represents Ohaukwu/Ebonyi under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ebonyi State, sponsored a bill to grant amnesty to economic saboteurs. The bill was to be read for the second time when legislators would have returned from Salah break. Reports say there is no doubt that the long delay in doing this might not be unconnected with the bill’s unpopularity.
How about Reps meddlesomeness in the case of alleged fraud involving Mrs. Patience Jonathan and the EFCC?
Nigerian Newspaper, PUNCH, reports on December 23, 2016 that a Federal High Court in Lagos ordered the freezing of multiple bank accounts linked to the wife of the former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The accounts, opened in the names of companies and an individual, had a cumulative balance of N7,418,829,290.94 (N7.4 billion) and $429,381.87. Simply put, one woman, several accounts and containing billions of allegedly stolen taxpayers money!
The Nigerian EFCC got a court order to seize the fund. Mrs. Patience Jonathan challenged the order of interim forfeiture in court. Under the rule of law and the rules of procedure of the House of Representatives, I am not certain the legislators are empowered to debate or discuss matters that are sub judice or pending in court. Is it not a shame that Nigerian Reps are threatening to have Mr. Magu arrested for not “appearing before them to explain why Patience’s account was still being frozen?
And now that former US Ambassador to Nigeria, Peter Campbell released a salvo against Patience Jonathan describing her as “arrogant, flamboyant, and widely disliked with a greedy accumulation of $35 million in a poor country” such as ours, we patiently await the Nigerian House of Representatives Committee on Public Petitions to immediately order the arrest of Ambassador Peter Campbell!
Just before the eventual swearing in of Dorathy Mato, I read “HOUSE JOTTINGS” with Kemi Yesufu on August 12, 2017 in The Sun news. She made clear the frustrations thrown at the the rightful representative of the Vandeikya/Konshisha Federal Constituency of Benue State under the watch of Speaker Yakubu Dogara even after the Supreme Court declared her the authentic representative of her constituency. The Apex Court nullified the candidature of erstwhile chairman of the House committee on Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Hon. Herman Hembe. The former chairman was asked to vacate his seat and return all monies collected as salaries and allowances since June 2015. The article frankly submitted that Dogara “who has managed to sell an image of dignity and candor was doing a great disservice to himself and the 8th House for not seeing to Mato taking the oath of office”.
On Thursday September 21, 2017, THISDAY newspaper reported that the Supreme Court “warned Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, of the consequences of disobedience to court orders, saying such disobedience will spell doom for the country’s democracy”.
When the news broke on June 23, 2017 that the Supreme Court has sacked Hembe from the House of Reps, Nigerians would expect Dogara, a lawyer and the country’s number four man to demonstrate grace and honour as a “Honourable” by promptly swearing in Mato just as the Senate President Bukola Saraki did for Senator Isha Lau. The fact that Dogara waited this long and till the apex Court called him out is a chilling revelation of what reluctant respect Dogara has for the rule of Law. It gives us a glance into the inner workings of a man who has rigidly taken a stand behind an unpopular bill being proposed. It tells us Dogara has enjoyed the allure of power so much he has forgotten his core mandate of representing the people and working for their popular interests. If Dogara could stall a Supreme Court judgement, then Nigerians should prepare for a long and rough ride to steer the house from heading South with its malicious intention to hand over NGOs to the whims and caprices of a strange, ghostly control. However, Dogara should weigh the consequences of presiding over and rubber-stamping the mundane desires of a seeming insensitive bunch of gangsters masquerading as Representatives of the people. Dogara must resist any power-drunkenness that predisposes him to rough-riding the nation with quasi-military jackboots.
This counsel becomes expedient as Dogara took a biased am disturbing position in The Cable news online published on September 26, 2017 where he was reported as saying “NGOS CAN’T INTIMIDATE US”. Again, that is the tragedy of misapplied power of people’s mandate. At certain times, grab-all mentality gives power-holders the inebriation that comes from power alcoholism. Their decisions beg the thought-process question and their conscience posturing if any, portends that of cancerous victims of parochialism and mendacity.
On September 22, 2017, Senator John McCain from Arizona in signalling yet another death knell for the proposal to repeal Obamacare said, “I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried. Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will (affect) insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it.”
Taking a cue from this McCain submission, the nation awaits our Honourable Reps to measure how many people will be hurt by this proposed suffocation of the ideal independence of NGOs in their proposed journey to consign it to Golgotha. From their unquestioned salaries and allowances, the Reps already have enough to grab, they should let NGOs be!
Akin Fadeyi is the Convener of the Corruption Not In My Country Project.