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Obasanjo’s ‘NASS-ty’ Missive


The Nigerian former President Olusegun Obasanjo could be described as an executive letter-writer of repute. Right from the Locust years of Ibrahim Babangida and the late Sani Abacha he was known to have been critical of the abuse of power of those eras thereby bringing a moral force to bear on the bruised national psyche. 

It was in one memorable interview he had granted a Lagos-based magazine during the Babangida epoch that he lampooned the pervading “settlement” scheme of ‘Maradona’ qualifying the regime as a “fraud”!  The “settlement” phenomenon referred to the debauched Babangidaized system of using slush state funds to buy the loyalty and conscience of otherwise good men and women leading to the bastardisation of the polity. Decades on, there are still Babangida in some of us!

In the Abacha era the retired General was simply marked down for political liquidation through a phantom coup d’état he could not have been involved given his pedigree. He was thrown consequently into the gulag and gagged. He came out, physically and psychologically broken and financially broke, only after the Kano-born despot had eaten his last apple on earth laced with some corrosive substance that took him out for good thus liberating a nation and her nationals from imposed political limbo.

During the Goodluck Jonathan presidency Obasanjo took to his apparent hobby of delivering no-hold-barred missives. In a celebrated one he threw at GEJ it was fraught with grave revelations and accusations which threw Jonathan off-balance leading to his hard-hitting response weeks later. In the missive that OBJ made open he had excoriated GEJ for his mooted re-election bid advising him to retrace his steps and embrace a ‘decent descent’. It goes without saying that GEJ had ignored the OBJ counsel to his political peril as he used what we now know as “Dasukigate” to defy all odds by going for another term which failed woefully.

After the exchange of letters which had generated national interest and debate the systematic ‘dismantling’ of the GEJ presidency began in earnest. Prior to the presidential poll of last year OBJ released a controversial book entitled “My Watch”. GEJ and his supporters and sympathisers had sought to block the release and launch of the book through the judicial process but failed. OBJ outsmarted them and made the book public. In the book he took GEJ to the cleaners labelling him an incompetent weak President, one competing as it were with other presidential forces within and without.

Jonathan was so flabbergasted and frustrated with the castigation from ‘Baba’ that he once called him a “motor-park tout”! When the glorified ‘godson’ labelled his overbearing godfather a tout then he himself must be a junior or apprentice tout indeed. Imagine a scenario where two of them were to be found operating and working in a motor park with OBJ as the ‘agbero-in-chief’ while GEJ would be the ‘loader-in-chief’. Passengers were bound to suffer enormously as they would never give a damn about the welfare or security of those travellers at their mercy.

Recently, Obasanjo was in the news for good reason. He had sent a well-publicized nasty missive to the leadership of the National Assembly. It was vintage OBJ in his best patriotic element! According to the open letter whose reception has been acknowledged OBJ laid out the ‘sins’ of the ‘distinguished’ Senators and ‘Honourables’. He expressly accused them of corruption, impunity, greed and of repeatedly breaking the nation’s laws. Let us quote some portions therefrom for emphasis: “It would seem that it is becoming a culture that election into the legislative arm of government at the national level in particular is a licence for financial misconduct and that should not be …. Although the constituency allowance is paid to all members of the National Assembly, many of them have no constituency offices which the allowance is partly meant to cater for”.

Yes, OBJ was right when he declared that a culture exists that encourages election or ‘selection’ into NASS as a license for fiscal malfeasance. Yes, constituency allowances are collected by members as ‘estacodes’ without commensurate functions in the various constituencies where no offices exist. These are few anomalies in a litany of crimes and sins.

We may not like the Obasanjo persona but the Owu Chief has carved a national and international niche for himself for good or bad reasons. We may indeed dislike him for his hypocrisy, vindictiveness, godfatherism and corruption but no one can ever deny his patriotism and detribalised nature when it comes to state leadership and/or matters. He may not be a great statesman or leader in the real sense of the word but he pushes on his jaundiced legacy believing without compromise in the Nigerian dream and her indivisibility.

The Nigerian National Assembly is populated by crooks and criminals in suits and ‘agbada’. Of course you can find some good people out there but they are in the minority. Many see the NASS as a safe haven that guarantees immunity from prosecution thereby perpetuating impunity in the land. You find in the Senate and House of Representatives failed and corrupt politicians and dealers of every hue having ‘bought’ their tickets to the hallowed chambers to avoid any scrutiny of the past, of their stewardship. The NASS is, in all intents and purposes, a profile of prodigality, of profligacy!

Dino Melaye, the flamboyant wife-dropping Senator from Kogi State had fired back at ‘Baba’ sarcastically asking OBJ to mind his business wondering if his letter was not a misplaced anger or priority given the history of the past where parliamentarians had “defrauded” him over his third term bid. But Dino’s statement conveyed the impression of more fear, one of losing their undeserved privileges than addressing the issues ‘Baba’ raised in his missive. While it is trite but true to note that some members of NASS during his third term gambit had ‘scammed’ him by reneging in their promise of support with some bringing some Ghana-must-go bags filled to the brim with cash to the floor of the House as evidence of inducement using that as a barometer to measure the OBJ missive is disingenuous.

As an establishment man, a Saraki loyalist, Melaye has suddenly found wealth doing nothing in the Senate other than escorting Saraki’s wife to court for her trial for fraud and removing a tattoo bearing the name of his estranged wife! And operating a foreign account in clear contravention of the senate rules and regulations. Melaye has battled his way to the top abandoning the oppressed and downtrodden he had pretended to ‘defend’; now he is a merry-go-round guy with dollar muscles to flex! Politics Nigeriana, you know, has a way of transforming people and bringing out the best or worst in such persons.

No one should be surprised if and when the ‘Ekitigate’ star actor, the executive scoundrel in Ado Ekiti parading himself as Governor, Ayodele Peter Fayose, finishes his stolen mandate (really?) and goes on to arrange his way to the National Assembly as many had done before him: Godswill Akpabio, Theodore Orji, Sani ‘Sharia’ Yerima etc.  The national assembly has become a hallowed sanctuary for retired executive thieves and reprobates seeking for relevance and the utility of immunity clause against any form of litigation or investigation for graft-related offenses.

Like millions of voiceless Nigerians I hold that Nigeria cannot afford a bicameral parliament with its exorbitant maintenance cost. The state resources presently can no longer bear it in this era of dwindling economic fortunes owing to the tumbling oil prices. A unicameral system is hereby advocated for as it could be managed with smaller members challenged by their legislative duties. The present NASS, it must be said in the final analysis, is unwieldy, unproductive and unnecessary. If it involves changing or amending the constitution to this effect so be it.

SOC Okenwa, soco_abj_2006_rci@hotmail.fr

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