By Deji Fasuan
Distinguished Senators. That is how members of Nigeria’s Upper House address themselves, and wish to be addressed by all of us, one hundred and seventy million Nigerians.
Now, let us look back and see contemporary legislators across the globe. We would discovered that the above expression is one of recent concoction. It was never in our historical political lexicon. Humbler and more evasive parliamentarians up to the end of the last century did not bother about high-sounding nomenclatures. They were concerned about public interest, in deference to the wishes of the people who voted them into parliament.
Things have since changed.
But this is not surprising considering the caliber and orientation of our political practitioners today. Today’s Nigerian legislators want to be cast in a different and unique role. In addition to remunerations that are hidden and repellant to societal norms, they want to have life pension and also be immuned from the consequences of all malfeasance.
Looking more critically, the word ‘distinguished’ denotes extraordinary performance or beyond the ordinary. In Abuja however, you become a ‘distinguished’ senator the moment you are sworn in. To say the least, this is ridiculous, as it makes a big joke of the level of comprehension and the low level of responsibility which these pampered politicians think they owe us.
My English dictionary describes ‘distinguished’ as follows – very successful and admired by people or having an appearance that makes people look important or makes people admire them.
In Abuja, does this cap fit?
Some people have said that many members of that hallowed chamber have been in public domain throughout their adult life. From council chairmen, to members of the state assemblies, to state commissioners, speakers and governors, they have lived and fed fat on the public. Arriving at the Senate is the climax of their political journey through life. All they have to do is go to their constituencies once or twice a year, distribute T-shirts bearing their names, give out sewing machines or potato grinders. They could also add Ankara materials.
All these generous donations would make the poor, the unwary and unsuspecting gather together like butterflies, dancing and singing the praises of these ‘wonderful’ people. Don’t these people have conscience? Certainly, some would have, but unfortunately the game is, if you cannot change them, join them!
The stark reality today is that the social and economic conditions or the large chunk of the population is dipping. It has come to the stage where people trade their young children for a bag of rice or gaari. As obnoxious and obscene that this is, it has not occurred to these ‘fantastically’ wealthy Nigerians, especially people who are used to ‘sharing’, to have a rethink and modify their vision and purpose of life.
Some of the countries in the Far East experienced what obtains in Nigeria today. This was barely four decades ago. Today, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea, collectively known as the Southeastern Tigers, have created economic and political conditions that made them elevate their citizenry above poverty line, creating an enormous increase in the middle class of their various societies.
None of the practising politicians in these countries live in separate worlds. Why can’t we learn from them? For Nigeria, the future may be bright, but for now, it is suffering all round, except of course for the professional politicians, the contractors, the ‘sharers’, the ‘distinguished’ senators and we must not forget the Honourables.
It is time for real change, not chasing the looters only, but in transforming the society which is fast grounding to a screeching halt.
So, are all the members of the Upper House distinguished?
The cost and the national scandals involved in having a super-structured two chambers at the national level is gradually dawning on us. Apart from the fact that our legislators are living on another planet, the scope and benefit of their their lawmaking has no bearing on the development of our democracy. Rather, the system is creating tensions, envy, suppressed insurrection leading to possible explosion.
For now, the saving grace is that our society, at least most part of it, are structured along hierarchical strata that constitute natural checks and balances. Our Obas, Emirs, Ezes etc., have below them elders of varying degrees of responsibility and command structure that one layer respects and accepts the superiority of the other and therefore be hesitant to topple the applecart.
This in fact, was what the British discovered and built upon in the 19th century when there was a rush to colonize Africa. But with education and especially advanced education which elevates many youths to higher planes, one cannot for too long depend on this traditional restraint or constraint.
So, what do we do now? We should put into motion the process of amending the Constitution so as to make the National Parliament a one-chamber, law-making body, or make law-making part-time. The later postulate, that is having part-time lawmakers, would attract to the Assembly those whose main or sole purpose is to serve their fatherland, not those who will earn N18m to N20m per month, take a car loan (essentially free), acquire a N38m SUV car, crave life pension and immunity from all criminal and civil misbehavior, and live a free life throughout their sojourn here on earth.
Disenchanted Nigerians have urged the country to reverse to the pre-1963 position which is the parliamentary system of government. It is believed this system is more economical as it does not accommodate unnecessary political positions and financial manipulations.
Let us start thinking on these things before our disenchanted youths forcibly takes over things