Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dishonourable Tenants of the House

Dr. Wale Okediran was spot on in his analysis of Nigeria’s House of Representatives in his latest book titled ‘Tenants of the House’. The shocking, preposterous, nauseating and infantile display of shame enacted by some scoundrels in the Nigeria’s House of Representatives on Tuesday, June 22, 2010 vindicated the veteran author and immediate past president of the Association of Nigerian Authors.
In the full glare of cameras and right in the presence of some 75 pupils of the City Royal Secondary School, Nyanya, Abuja, our parliamentarians engaged in karate, judo, boxing and wrestling. They kicked and threw punches at one another, shredding clothes of fellow legislators in the fracas. One of them in the process had a fractured arm and another a bloodied nose. Even journalists covering the National Assembly were not spared as some of them were brutalised in the course of carrying out their legitimate assignments. This is awful! I couldn’t help asking myself, why are we so cursed?
Since June 5, 2007 when the 6th National Assembly was inaugurated, intrigues and power play have dominated its activities particularly in the House of Reps. Within six months, the first female Speaker of the House, Hon. Patricia Olubummi Etteh, was ousted over allegations of financial mismanagement and replaced with Hon. Oladimeji Bankole.
Bankole himself is having a running battle with some elements who do not fancy his leadership style. First, he was alleged to have been involved neck-deep in a N2.3 billion car purchase scandal. A committee was set up to investigate the allegation but nothing serious came out of it. The evidence of Barrister Festus Keyamo, who was a star witness at the public hearing on the allegations, was discredited by the committee. Thereafter, the masterminds and the arrowheads of that accusation beat a retreat and recently returned to ask the Speaker to resign within a week, otherwise they would expose his shady deals. The Speaker called their bluff and at the expiration of their ultimatum, the Group of 11 (G-11) who call themselves “Progressive-Minded Legislators” alleged a N9 billion contract scam against the Speaker. They even went as far as submitting a petition to the chairperson of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday, 21 June 2010. Subsequently, they petitioned the ICPC on June 23.
In the words of Dino Melaye, the kingpin of the ‘Progressives’: “We have documents to prove that some items approved by the Body of Principal Officers, of whom the Speaker Dimeji Bankole is the chairman, were inflated. “A unit of 40-inch LCD TV set was purchased for N525, 000 each, contrary to the price list by the Bureau of Public Procurement and market price of N180, 000.” Also, he said, “while three bullet-proof Mercedes Benz cars were bought for over N50m each, two Range Rovers were bought for N57m each.” The House leadership was further alleged to have bought torches, car seats, fire extinguishers and sundry items for members at inflated prices. What a bazaar! Pray, what are the House members to use electric torches for? Is that a requisite tool in the art of law-making or performance of oversight functions? These allegations should be investigated thoroughly.
Having said that, however, the so called “progressives or G-11” have a share of the blame going by the way in which they went about their whistle-blowing activities. What they did has a tinge of vendetta as many of them lost out in the re-shuffling of chairmanship and deputy chairmanship positions carried out by the Speaker on 3 June. Moreover, the way they disrupted the House proceedings on 22 June is infantile and unparliamentary. Having watched the footage of the fracas, I have a feeling that Dino Melaye and his cohorts were actually grandstanding and playing to the gallery. Their play-acting and over-dramatisation do not diminish in any way, however, their claims which I strongly believe need to be verified by the anti-corruption agencies.
Eleven years after Nigeria’s return to democracy, the hallmark of our legislature remains instability. It is crisis galore in many of the state Houses of Assembly. On 22 February this year, for example, the ugly scenario recently witnessed in House of Reps was also on full display in Edo State House of Assembly when Speaker Garuba Zakawanu was violently toppled in a power tussle. Similar occurrences had happened in Bauchi, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Ondo and Bayelsa States, to mention a few. This is mind-boggling and heart-rending!
While I am glad that the Peoples Democratic Party has come out to openly condemn the indecorous act of members of the House of Reps, the majority of whom belong to that party, I believe the national embarrassment the incessant brawls and bickering in the nation’s legislature at the national and state levels has caused the nation deserve having these undesirable elements recalled by their constituencies. Otherwise, they should be voted out in the next general elections. We the landlords of this House of Democracy must be prepared to sack these unruly tenants when their rent expires.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Deji of Akure's sacrilege

That the Ondo State government decided to bow to public wish by deposing the Deji of Akure, Oba Oluwadare Adepoju Adesina did not come to many as a surprise. The monarch before his removal from throne on Thursday, 10 June 2010 had been in the news for some time for the wrong reason.

He had earlier in November 2009 been dethroned by his kingmakers who levelled the following allegations against him: “Violation of Akure tradition and custom by personally going to the market to disturb market women from performing their legitimate trading business and engaging in wanton and indiscriminate destruction of essential food items in the market”.

“Flagrant breach of age long and hallowed custom of Akure that makes it mandatory for the Deji not to leave his official palace without the knowledge and concurrence of the chiefs”. “Deliberate failure and refusal to complete the traditional rites for the stool of the Deji of Akureland contrary to the tradition and custom of Akure, rendering his selection and appointment incomplete, in that he failed to give the Akure chiefs the traditional 'Igbarunjo'”. “Incessant, rampant and recurring cases of highhandedness, brutal and repressive oppression of the people in and around the Akure community”.

The accusations went further that the paramount ruler “has been personally leading a team of recruited and sponsored thugs, gangsters, hoodlums and armed terrorists to people's houses at the late hours of the night to inflict injuries on innocent citizens in the Akure community in his presence and at his instructions and directives.” Apart from these, the council added that the Deji was desecrating the palace by grooming a notorious gang known as “60 by 120” that was involved in land disputes.

The above allegations were contained in a resolution signed by the kingmakers and widely published by several Nigerian newspapers on 9 November 2009. The embattled Deji of Akureland ascended the throne on November 26, 2005 after almost 10 years of interregnum. Succour, however, came the Oba's way when the Ondo State Governor refused to endorse his dethronement. Unfortunately, like a dog that is bound to stray which will not heed the whistle of the hunter, the monarch mobilised his palace aides and his new wife to attack his estranged wife, Bolanle, on Sunday, May 30, 2010.

News report has it that the wife was brutalised. Since that fateful day, the wrath of the public has been vented on the Deji. His wife has sued him to court and petitioned the police and the Ondo State government to seek redress; the Ondo Council of traditional rulers suspended him; the Ondo State Government queried him; several women non governmental organisations castigated him; the Senate summoned the Inspector General of Police to prosecute him and his kingmakers commenced another round of impeachment against him while newspapers editorialised and 'cartoonised' him. Simply put, Oba Adesina has fallen from grace to grass having incurred public opprobrium by his indecorous, uncultured and uncultivated act.

However, many of those men calling for the head of the Akure monarch are worse offenders. They are being sanctimonious and hypocritical. Is it not in this country that the wife of our former President published a book detailing how he turned her to punching bag and routinely battered and assaulted her? Is it not in this same country that a Rear Admiral in 2008 ordered the assault on Ms Uzoma Okere for the simple reason that she refused to give way to the convoy of the Admiral? Are some of the lawmakers who are sitting in judgement on the king not themselves guilty of wife battery and assault?

Are they not the same people who have refused to pass the bill on violence against women? Nigeria is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) since1985 but our federal lawmakers have declined to domesticate the convention. It is okay to call for the prosecution of the Oba because truly what he has done is reprehensible. Moreover, he has refused to show remorse. However, we men must all learn from the saga of the Deji of Akure and mend our ways in the manner we treat the womenfolk.

The major challenge with Nigerian society is patriarchy. We see life from the prism of 'this is a man's world'. In politics women have been at the receiving end. They are denied party tickets to contest even when they are eminently qualified to be the party's flag bearers. They are rigged out of party primaries and as party executives, they are deemed fit to serve only as women leader or assistants. Women are generally denied key decision making positions. Out of the 40 or thereabout cabinet positions, women occupy only 6. Out of 109 Senators they are only 8 left after the exit of Joy Emordi. In Kwara State there is already a campaign by some Islamic clerics that women should not be voted as Governor in the 2011 elections.

In the area of sports, Nigeria's Falcons have won the female football Nations Cup a record 6 times or thereabout, yet we hardly celebrate them. Many of us can not mention five members of Nigeria's female national team but can reel out names of over 40 Super Eagles players. Sports fans look forward to the World Footballer of the Year but while the male winner is celebrated with pomp and pageantry the female counterpart hardly gets a mention in the press.

This is grossly unfair. A society that is not 'engendered' is endangered. Much as it is impossible to clap with one hand and impractical for the bird to fly with one wing, so is it unfeasible for us to develop as a nation without giving women opportunity to contribute their quota.