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OYO STATE ASSEMBLY, THE PRODIGAL SPEAKER AND THE DOCTRINE OF “HUSBAND SUPPORT”

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One of the biggest tragedies of governance in Nigeria is the fact that the country's leaders often behave like the proverbial goat that is being asked by a farmer to look after his barn of yam; only for the farmer to end up with a very fat goat and an empty barn of yam.

While it is no longer news that Nigeria is bedeviled by a political class that wears corruption like a breast-plate, the Action Congress of Nigeria-dominated House of Assembly in Oyo State appears to have broken a new record in the art of legislative recklessness and profligacy. Only recently, the Speaker of the Assembly, Mrs. Monsurat Sunmonu accompanied by the wives of the 31-member House of Assembly embarked on a trip to London, United Kingdom, ostensibly to undergo a special training on what they have strangely captioned as “Husband Support.”

The trip which is reported to have gulped over N50 million has been made possible by the support and approval of the state Governor, Abiola Ajumobi. Instructively, this all-women jamboree was being undertaken barely one week after the Legislators returned from their own trip to South Africa. If you are rattled by the audacity of the Speaker's arbitrariness, wait until you hear her justification and reasons for the foreign trip.

In the Speaker's own words, “Oyo State is not the only state doing this. Some other states have been around (in London) before.” She further stated that they are “trying to secure the support of the opposition legislators,” and they think that “the support of the wives will be crucial so the government can achieve its goals.” Arguing further, she posited that “everywhere in the world, leaders get paid from public funds, and that the only thing is to ensure that money is judiciously spent.”

Reading through the Speaker's line of defence readily portrays the image of a public servant whose conscience has been rendered sterile by her submersion in the pool of a corruption-ridden system; one whose sense of mischief has become quite as incorrigible as it is implacably notorious. What the Speaker - in cahoots with the state Governor – has done amounts to a brazen rape of the democratic virtues of accountability and responsibility in the management of the resources of the people. By virtue of this sponsored prodigality – indeed, this glorified robbery – in London, the Speaker has lost the moral legitimacy to stay a day longer on the hallowed seat of Oyo State Parliament.

First, the Speaker's insistence that “Oyo State is not the only state” embarking on such a jamboree is appallingly and embarrassingly unscrupulous. It simply reveals her lack of appreciation for the magnitude of her moral derailment and, at such, exposes her unpreparedness to retrace her steps.

Second, by arguing that the trip was dictated by a desire to “secure the support of opposition legislators so that government can achieve its goals,” the Speaker is simply passing a self-incriminating verdict which suggests that she - and the state Governor - are chronically bereft of the rudimentary qualities needed to provide effective leadership at both the legislative and executive arms of the state. A leader who understands his mettle and whose overriding concern is the betterment of the welfare of his people, will naturally inspire the support, respect and cooperation of even his worst political enemies. The only reason why the Speaker will resort to “ferrying” legislators' wives to far-fling London is because she suffers from a certain moral kwashiorkor that is associated with the deficit of leadership.

Third, the Speaker is right in her assertion that “everywhere in the world, leaders get paid from public funds.” However, her idea about “spending such funds judiciously” certainly leaves a sour taste in the mouth. What really is “judicious” about her profligate junket to London in the company of her co-travellers remains to be seen.

In an interview granted by one of the beneficiaries of the jamboree – the wife of Segun Olayele representing Ibadan North in State Assembly, she said that “stealing on the part of politicians is the major reason Nigeria is backward as a nation, and that wives can influence their husbands positively after coming to London and seeing how things are done here.” What an insane logic! First, an admission that your politically-minded husbands are corrupt; then one of these corrupt husbands approves public funds to “parcel” you and your ilk to London just so you can come back and influence them “positively.”

Certainly, this perfidy reminds one of a popular Nollywood movie titled “Osuofia in London.” Indeed, the Oyo Assembly Speaker and her fellow choreographers must be acting out an interesting - but bizarre – movie to the utter consternation of Nigerians. And with its title aptly captioned as “Husband Support,” they would seem to have mastered the intricate details about supporting their husbands in corruption, treasury-looting, resource mismanagement and other notable forms of criminality.

From all indications, it would seem that these support-minded wives from Oyo State have become weary of just sitting back and watching their insatiably kleptocratic husbands loot their various states and governments into stupor. A few days back, the country's first lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, added fresh impetus to this concern when she openly called for the granting of a constitutional status to the office of the first lady and to make it pensionable. By projecting the notion of “Husband Support” as their operative slogan and guiding philosophy, these political “first ladies” and legislators' wives are invariably asserting their equal footing with their politics-oriented husbands as “partners-in-crime.”

The action of the Oyo State Assembly Speaker is morally offensive and ethically indefensible. It constitutes a terribly setback for the well-founded agitation which seeks to propagate and deepen the participation of more women in politics. It is a stab in the back of Oyo people who have had to endure years of unmitigated maladministration, economic paralysis and other forms of social and environmental upheavals. Above all, it makes a total mockery of the naïve perception of Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, as a credible and more reassuring alternative to the discredited, corruption-breeding and poverty-incubating Peoples' Democratic Party, PDP. Unarguably, it reinforces the belief by some discerning Nigerians that both the PDP and ACN are, at best, political Siamese twins.

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Articles by Ugochukwu Raymond Ogubuariri