REPS AND THE ROYAL RUMBLE

By NBF News
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Anybody who did not watch last Tuesday's fight at the 'hallowed' chamber of the House of Representatives missed a lot. Yes, because it was not the common fight one often sees on the streets.

This one was an 'honourable fight' by law makers, precisely members of the lower chamber of the National Assembly. At the end of the duel which was interspersed with 'grammar', some of those who make laws for the 'giant of Africa' had sustained minor bruises. And that clothes were torn in the process became a non-issue.

For some people, what happened on the floor of the House that black Tuesday could be likened to a 'Royal Rumble', a fight in which a number of wrestlers, usually 20 or 30, aim at eliminating their opponents. The winner of the event is usually the last wrestler remaining after all others have been eliminated. In this case, those eliminated were members of the Progressives, a group which took up arms against the leadership of the House for allegedly perpetrating corruption and enriching themselves. Of course, the winner of the Royal Rumble is Mr Speaker, Dimeji Bankole and his overwhelming supporters.

The free-for-all which was preceded by an aborted motion, was presided over by the Speaker. He was all smiles as his supporters overwhelmed the Progressives and literally chased them out of the chambers like common criminals. As the chamber became a battle field with the lawmakers engaging one another in a brawl, he simply sat down and watched the drama play out.

But what was actually the bone of contention? It was the alleged N9 billion that the Speaker and other principal officers spent out of the N11 billion budgeted as capital vote of the House between 2008 and 2009. The Progressives would not allow that be swept under the carpet even if it meant throwing caution to the winds.

About 75 pupils of the City Royal Secondary School (CRSS), Abuja were in the House to observe the proceedings during the show of shame by the lawmakers. One of the students was quoted as saying, 'We saw how things are happening in Nigeria, the corruption and everything. Most of the leaders are our parents but they disgraced themselves'.

Analysts argue that since the reintroduction of democracy in 1999, the legislative arm particularly the National Assembly has performed below expectation. In the estimation of many, how to amass wealth has remained the preoccupation of members of the National Assembly over the years. Since the former Speaker, Patricia Etteh resigned in 2008 over a N628m House renovation scandal, at least three futile attempts have been made to remove the leadership of Bankole. Before the last Easter break, a group, Nigeria First Forum had raised an alarm and listed four allegations against the current Speaker. The include the N5.2bn Rural Electrification Agency scam and the controversial N2.3bn car fraud.

Based on all those allegations, not a few believe that they do not justify the huge amount of money the nation spends on them. Perhaps, that is why the 2007 presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Prof Pat Utomi has continued to insist that Nigeria does not need a National Assembly where the members are full time members. In his argument, the cost implication of a full time National Assembly would be too much for the nation. Sunday Sun here captures the views of some Nigerians on the developments at the National Assembly.

Tony Momoh
There is no way people would not fight and defend what they believe in or want. In Nigeria today, politics is still seen as a business and until it becomes that of service, many more manifestations of the kind of fight you saw at the House of Representatives would continue to occur. The people who call themselves Progressives have a petition and the place to table it is on the floor of the House.

The Senate has rules and the House also has rules. I fault the Progressives for not tabling it before the House. What we have now is that we are eating our future in our present. All over the world, the truth is that you cannot have democracy before development. We cannot develop at this rate because you must have development before democracy.

Prof Tam David West, former Minister of Petroleum
I am not surprised with what is happening at the House of Representatives. The people there are a bunch of non-honourable men. But I am surprised that Nigerians are surprised with the development at the lower chamber of the National Assembly. People should know that majority of the people in the National Assembly are a bunch of rubbish and they have nothing to offer this country. They are just there fighting for their allowance and other benefits. They are not in any way bothered about the welfare of the people they claim they are representing.

The so-called honourable men are robbing the nation blind. How can about 62 lawmakers go to South Africa to watch football when people are dying here? In fact, if Nigeria cannot conduct a free and fair election to elect credible people, let the country disintegrate and everybody would go his way.

Chief Yinka Odumakin, Secretary General of Afenifere Renewal Group

The fight in the House of Representatives is a total shame on the country. But I am not surprised because many of those in the House are thugs and political miscreants. Members of the National Road Transport Workers (NUTRW) are better than some of them in the National Assembly. But we have had enough of their distractions. In 2011, we should mark them out and make sure they are voted out. What we are seeing is the manifestation of the electoral fraud that happened in 2007. The process of rebuilding Nigeria will start by throwing them out in the next election.

Chief Maxi Okwu, National Chairman of Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP).

What happened at the House was a shame and a bad spot on the nation's nascent democracy. The Speaker, Dimeji Bankole is an interested party and what happened at the House was reflective of his anger. However, the Progressives went too far. Their leader, Dipo Melaye is too cantankerous because I recall that he was also one of the leaders during the saga of the last Speaker, Patricia Etteh.

My take is that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should dig into the case and prosecute those involved.

Transform Nigeria Movement
The movement takes judicious notice of the fact that the federal legislators have completely abandoned the people of Nigeria by ignoring their statutory responsibility of working to reduce the debilitating poverty in the land.

Spokesman of the movement Obi Ochije said that
'the national assembly is, without doubt, recklessly and frivolously pursuing their own happiness at the expense of the nation and her damned masses and the economy, as exemplified by the ignoble attempt to pad their allowances by more than 100 per cent. This is happening in an economy that has taken more than a fair bashing of the global economic meltdown. It is a wild decision and our organization perceives that as callous, reckless, irresponsible, mean-spirited and therefore reprehensible.

'Transform Nigeria Movement therefore earnestly implores all well-meaning Nigerians to rise, condemn and resist this fresh rising of federal legislators' conspiracy against the nation's fledgling economy and her poor people. There is no doubt at all that the nation's battered economy being bled to death by this leachy political class cannot support it and no decent society will accept it. If this is therefore allowed to go through unchallenged, then the nation must have surrendered to the replacing of military dictatorship with civilian version. The time to act is now or we forever keep silent!

'For our apex lawmakers to appropriate such outrageous sums to themselves in a nation where there is no form of welfare policy with majority of citizens living in extreme poverty, including unemployed graduates that left school sometimes for upward of a decade and more, remains most unconscionable. It is betrayal of the confidence the masses repose in the legislature as the flagship of democracy. We fear that this can only yield backlashes and self-help measures for counteraction, which can only weaken our democracy further.

We seriously note that the legislative arm is the bastion of any thriving democracy; it is the arm closest to the people as their direct representatives. The masses naturally expect these representatives to feel their pulse and connect with them. So, for the Nigerian legislators at the National Assembly to be as insensitive, they have not only betrayed the people but also constituted themselves into the biggest threat to the Nation's democracy as the worst enemies of the Nigerian people.

'For these cumulative and growing grievances of the masses, the national assembly does not only risk a revolt and mass action but also final erosion of whatever reputation it has got left. We warn that this weakest arm of government can ill afford to be so hated and maligned by the same masses they claim to represent.

'The leadership of the national assembly also needs to know that the Nigerian masses have soaked and borne with uncomplaining fortitude, the numerous betrayals they have suffered from the National Assembly, such as their inability to confer on the INEC, independence as recommended by the Uwais report and widely demanded by the Nigerian people.

The Nigerian masses are also aware that the nation's apex legislative body has taken very active part in perpetrating and perpetuating the rising poverty by paying only leap service to the fight against corruption and being in the forefront in looting the nation's lean treasury.

'Transform Nigerian Movement strongly warns, if we destroy the legislature, we destroy democracy. Nigerians should therefore rise and save the legislature from itself. For both the future and solutions to our nation's problems are in our hands as citizens of the nation who have no other country to call their own.