OPINION | NASS Debates:  When Personal Interest Conquered Public Good





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By Itodo Ikongbe
Though America can loosely be referred to as a crazy country, with its endearing epaulet of “God’s Own country, “notwithstanding.  Some even derogatively call them “Yankees.”
But I admire the political cum leadership maturity and national patriotism of Americans in positions of authority. It is consistent with the disposition of Americans that national interest is elevated first before self-interests. American parliamentarians especially, have imbued it with canonical powers.
Except for a slight stroke of destiny, which locates Nigeria in the African geographical axis of the world, we are supposed to be like Americans and replicated their might. Our leaders would have been acting like Americans in leadership and private lives.
It amazes me why we are so miles apart from Americans despite the similarities we share. In keep wondering, while the gulf between us and Americans in perceptions, character and conduct. It’s worth brooding because America has crude oil and we have crude oil too. What else?
If America prides itself as “God’s Own country,” we also have our own symbol of such reverence, though of a smaller scale than America. Nigeria has its own version as a state. There is “God’s Own state,” we call Abia state.  In worse case scenarios’, we shall use our small status of affinity with God to compete with Almighty America, the global policemen.
But we are a hapless race either by divine proclamation or by our own greedy designs. Therefore, from our own state of Abia in Southeast Nigeria births some of the most repugnant and black-hearted men, who either have ordained themselves as leaders or grab leadership or are simply anointed by unsuspecting people to lead them.
It is in Abia we have encountered a debauch by the identity of Nnamdi Kanu, who regales in leading a band of outlaws under the canopy of IPOB. When they operated freely, they were like cannibals. They could devour their own kith and kin once engulfed by slight, but unrestrained furiousness.
He has an elder uncle, who has supplanted himself in the upper chamber of the National Assembly (NASS) representing Abia  South Senatorial district.   He is identified as Sen. Enyinnaya  Abaribe and Senate minority leader.
Many mistook him as matured and so, could exhibit tendencies of maturity in character and utterances. But they were disappointed when Abaribe,   while  debating  a sensitive national  issue such as renewed spate of attacks and killings in parts of the country in Senate plenary last week condescended to personal emotions and partisanship.
He is a PDP senator, so, condensed the nucleus of the debate into an emotional partisan affair.  He threw tantrums, daggers and swords at the ruling APC government of President Muhammadu Buhari under the guise of expressing anger over the resurgence of insecurities. But we alI knew, it was not from his heart.  He was only playing the partisan emotions and sentimental card of the opposition PDP against the “failed,” APC national government.
So, Sen. Abaribe straightforwardly asked President Buhari to resign from office or be stoned by Nigerians in accordance with his promise during electioneering campaigns, since  APC pledged to be stoned on account of failure upon assumption of office. And childishly, he mouthed that “stones” should be thrown at the party, following the insecurity realities in Nigeria now. He narrowed a national debate into infantile and imbecilic vibrations.
Abaribe’s utterances nevertheless provoked the ire of some Senators. And Sen. Abdullahi  Adamu, representing Nasarawa West Senatorial district. He has to call for sanity to be restored into Sen.  Abaribe’s  thinking faculties.  Adamu bellowed “I take exemptions to the contribution by the minority leader. Abaribe should be called to order. His call for the use of stone means weapon against the ruling party”.
Such was the only fecundity Sen. Abaribe infused into a sensitive national debate on security. And he had apostates in and outside the chambers who cheered him for speaking the “truth;” a truth only known to the clan of the  Abaribes.
I expected no less or anything better from him as elder brother of the eccentric Nnamdi Kanu. Both hails from Abia state.   I think the Almighty Creator visited partiality on Nigerians when He contemplated creating the two races-Americans and Nigerians. I guess, He was fair to America; but very unfair to Nigeria, as with the existence of “God’s Own state” in our country, we are faring worse.
To my utmost surprise, the debate was sustained on such trivialities enmeshed in emotions and the aggressive pursuits of personal or regional interests.  Some Senators rebranded the insecurity problem with dictums such as  “over-personalization” of security personnel. Whatever the phrased meant, only the Senators could decode.
Sen. Mrs. Betsy Apiafi of Rivers West’s only mania was the overstayed tenure of Service and Security Chiefs (SSCs) and its “illegality.” It was unarguably the dumbest contribution on the topic.
In the Southwest, a voice resonated. Sen.  Ibikunle Amosun, representing Ogun Central Senatorial district was a bit tactful. But at the same time, exuded such emotions and personalized regional interests. I sensed subtle campaigns for Senate’s official seal of Amotekun, private security outfit baptized as Western Nigeria Security Network.
He said;  “…the best thing to do is to allow every state to have their police but we will still have federal police.”I cannot laugh enough! The majority of Senators in this apparently deceptive games and clowning, at best  were rewarded with a decision on the motion which a Senate resolution, passed  a vote of no-confidence on the military, police and other security outfits in the country. This was their wisest panacea to the spate of renewed attacks and killings in Nigeria. Quite hilarious!
At the lower chamber, representatives played similar emotions, and personalized interests, while wittingly creeping into pretenses of debating national security interest. It was the funniest session ever, portraying lack of vision, focus and purpose, outside what the hunter caged in the hole for his personal family.
The motion sponsored by the Majority Chief Whip, Hon. Mohammed Monguno and 14 other lawmakers, very few Reps demonstrated the true Nigerian national spirit. Incidentally, Hon. Monguno is from the Northeast zone, ravaged by Boko Haram/ ISWAP terrorists.
 I couldn’t discern whether he had personal scores to settle with any of the SSCs. But he instantly dropped the bombshell, by frowning at their failure of Service Chiefs to sustain the achievements recorded in tackling the insurgents’ activities particularly in Yobe and Borno states.
 At least, he was a bit frank by his veiled insinuation that the SSCs appointed since July 13, 2015, at least harvested insurgents or did something worthwhile some time ago, in crushing insurgency. What an insightful testimony.  But the overwhelming discordant voices of his colleagues never averred his words deep contemplation on this angle because it aligned or bowed too much to truth on SSCs from minds fixated on their disparagement.
Chairman, House Committee on Defence, Hon. Jimi Benson, animated the emotions of hatred and mockery of the SSCs and Mr. President. He said, “the National Security Adviser is from the North East and cannot get to his village. The Chief of Army Staff is also from the North-east and cannot get to his village. The Chief of Air staff too. That speaks volume of their ability.”
Benson irately thundered; “ I don’t know why he has kept them since 2015 when they were first appointed. He (Buhari) should decide whether to continue to keep them or not. I believe the resolution here will prick his conscience.” It never occurred to him that the issue of national security was not confined to Mr. President or the SSCs alone, but he had an active role to play as a national lawmaker for impacts.
Both Hon. Francis Waive and Hon. Abubakar Fulata flawed on same idiosyncrasies.  In their warped wisdom, since all the SSCs have overstayed and have lost efficiency, all should be withdrawn and replaced with fresh hands. It was their only antidote. I wondered whether they ever know the implication of pulling out all security personnel from a warzone simultaneously for whatever reason.
How is elongated service of SSCs affected efficiency and they explained, as “tiredness.”  How could anybody for any reason argue for a soldier’s fatigue in the frontlines and withdrawal on such lame excuse? Its unheard off. May be, the legislators had relations in the Military, whom they enlisted into the forces through the backdoor and now deployed to Northeast. Perhaps, they secretly clamoured  to their elder uncles in the corridors of power like the legislators to influence their  come back home. So, Waive and Fulata discreetly argued to push  this possibility.
And to Hon. Tobi Okechukwu, it was an undisguised resort to the 2019 campaign slogans of the PDP, castigating the APC. “Why invest heavily on “trader-moni” instead of adequately funding security agencies,” he seemed to whine. But the power to reverse this perceived negative indulgence also rests in the hands of the legislature, his official constituency.
Initially, Minority leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu staged out perfectly. He assessed the problem of insecurity from nationalist lenses, gunning for more investments in equipment for security agencies, but floundered midway.
He thereafter, toed the footprints of the crowd of ungifted legislators, lashing out at the SSCs as devoid of good example. But a warfront is not a monastery, where the etiquettes of morality constitutes part of tutorials. What exactly was on his mind?
Not long thereafter, he blow out his emotions thus; “the best thing for them  (SSCs)to do is to take a bow and go. If you don’t know when to leave, then you will be eased out…. People are stealing money and not doing what they are supposed to do.”
But if people are allegedly stealing money voted for counter-insurgency operations, who should be the whistle blower? It is  the same Rep and other colleagues’ through oversight functions. So, have they reneged on duty?  He craftily escaped without touching  the actual setbacks of gross underfunding of Security agencies in the age of insurgencies. And the blackmail of SSCs ricocheted on the initiator, one might say.
An overhaul of the motions, the debates and resolutions by NASS over insecurities, leading to calls for the resignation of President Buhari; voluntary retirement of SSCs or their sack by Mr. President never answered to any genuine interrogation of the insecurity quagmire.  It notoriously pandered to emotions, partisan, regional and personal interests of the national parliamentarians.
It inextricably left me with a poisonous killer hole in a weakened heart already gasping for breath. The tenor on the motion on national security debates clearly indicated a perfect example of a people fighting their emotions at one end; while others fought to illuminate or deepen their pockets.
I remember sometime recently that an  Honourable member   declared being a breadwinner to a family of four wives and 27 children. That is already nearly the size of three football teams and enough to make up a federal constituency in a place like Bayelsa state. One can therefore understand that the family and neighbours definitely need money which must flow from the parliamentary chambers.
Insinuations were rife that lawmakers were lobbied with $3,000 each to sponsor and serve Nigerians the motion. I was really shocked to watch all the  plenary gibberish on TV, as  if  some of those who made up the  majority members of the blackmailing resolutions are  not from the Northeast  or severed from this world or were not in this country in 2015.
 But the concern of lawmakers is not with the  time a university is being built in the local government area of one of the Service Chiefs, the plots to diminish his leadership aura are thick.
 Is God really not wonderful? That under President Buhari the Police college at Gwoza is preparing to take off again after the Army renovated it? Ah! Maybe, it will be a sort of miracle to also remind these legislators that whilst many of them were chasing the mermaids in Wuse 2 at nights, and thereafter, instigating the police to arrest them for prostitution, our military were busy holding their annual sporting event in the demystified Sambisa forest hitherto dreaded by soldiers and civilians alike.
If all these are not miracles enough, let me also point out another shameful aspect of their lives as parliamentarians. Whilst they were busy calling for impeachment signatures at a lounge in Maitama, our military were busy rescuing women and children from the Boko Haram/ISWAP captivity in the Northeast, with backing from  the police, DSS and even Civilian Joint Task Force members.
I make it abundantly clear to NASS that though the debate hinged on the  ntional sensitive topic of insecurity and killings, it  still never obfuscated  the fact that parliamentarians were more emotional and  personalized interests antithetical to issues centered on national security.
 It explains why, NASS never gave attention to the ingenuity of the minority members  who constantly voiced out on poor funding of security agencies; inadequate personnel, lack of standard equipment; poor officially approved welfare packages for troops at the frontline and absence of incentives to security personnel. But with time, every one would carry his cross.
*Ikongbeh is a parliamentary staff and wrote from the National Assembly.
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