The Senate’s Controversial Operation Vehicles Purchase – By Jerome-Mario Utomi

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The truth is that oppressor and slaves are cooperators in ignorance-James Allen (As a Man Thinketh)

It is no longer news that while Nigerians are still waiting for the commencement of governance, the leadership of the National Assembly before embarking on its eight-week recess recently, which ends on September 24, 2019, begun moves to procure operational vehicles for the lawmakers that make up its dual legislative chambers.

Indeed, while there is no question that high-offices such as the National Assembly needs operational vehicles to facilitate their responsibilities,  the stunning aspect of this episode going by reports is with the estimated current price of the chosen vehicle now N50 million. And the Senate according to the report, might need about N5.550 billion to get enough quantity for there members.

Amusingly, some Nigerians have since absolved the lawmakers of any wrongdoing. While some described their demand for the choice of cars as a befitting reward for their office and position, others argue that politics is an act of promoting and protecting one’s interest and not largely a question of the masses  party or faction-noting that every individual, among others, is a political creature seeking to secure his/her own position.

Admittedly, our leaders are reputed for using public office as an avenue for private gain, but for the Assembly (Senat

) to spend N5.550 billion on operational vehicles in a country with slow economic but high population growth- where  excruciating poverty and starvation daily drives more people into the ranks of beggars, is not only outrageous but a reality we should all worry about.

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Viewed differently, aside from this decision of the lawmakers sending wrong signals to the watching world, what, however, makes the development worth commenting on is that the 9th Assembly is becoming famous for being in the news for the wrong reasons.

First, was the intrigue that trailed the election of principal officers at both the Senate and House of Representatives? An exercise which constitutionally ought to be an internal affairs of the Assembly, suddenly against all known logic got characterized by national manoeuvre with non-members of the Assembly underlining the advantages, and otherwise of having a particular lawmaker in a given position.

This was closely followed by the Assembly’s first official assignment- the controversial screening of the ministerial nominees, which the list was silent on their portfolios; forwarded to the house by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Aside from the non attachment of portfolios rendering the senators clueless on generating relevant strategic questions for the nominees, what really caused concern among Nigerians with critical interest was the senators’ adoption of the doctrine of ‘take a bow and go’ for the majority of the nominees that were once senators. Without minding what they (former Senators) have done in the past; what they are doing currently; what they will do if they become ministers; whether they (ex-senators) are familiar with the magnitude and the urgency of our problem as a nation; or laced with the requisite knowledge that the ministerial positions demand to help the nation come out of its present predicament.

But before the dust raised by the above apprehension could settle, that of the planned purchase of the controversial SUV’s car has gone up.

This ‘interesting’ sidelight which is by no means unique to the lawmakers have elicited comparison between the lawmakers and the executive arm of government, where the money is also squandered on frivolities- going by the troubling manifestation of insensitivities contained in the 2019 budget.

As an illustration, it will be impossible to believe by sane minds that the President of a country where over 13 million children are presently out of school will allow Hundreds of millions go into replacing his plates and cutlery yearly. 2019 budgetary allocation bears eloquent testimony to this assertion.

This is in my views a practical demonstration of a leadership devoid of prudence and mercy for the masses. And, the more bitterly each round of this situation is remembered, the deeper the pains.

More important than the above, while poor Nigerians depend on their legs to move around, the President has access to fleets of presidential jets to move around. This explains why lawmakers are looking for something close to the cost of an aircraft.

Having said this, it is important to precisely recognize the root of our nation’s inequality and poverty so that we do not pin our hopes on false promises particularly as there is no evidence that our economy is a source of worry.

Regardless of what others may, the root of our challenge as a nation lies in institutions within the framework of governance. And the operators of these institutions are in the habit of doing little to spur sustained growth.

But in doing this, one point the public office holders such the senators failed to remember is that hearing the sound of thunder does not translate to a keen ear. They seem not to be aware that people’s support is the greatest asset they enjoy. They appear unmindful of the fact that what binds every follower to their leaders is unwavering fate built on trust.

And no one seems to have reminded the Senators that as leaders, they are watched closely, that people are noting every move they make, that their followers are learning a great deal about them and what they really believe is as opposed to what they say. This time to my mind is both a trying and defining moment for these lawmakers.

Since we cannot predict the future, we must start from the present.  And we can do this by reminding the lawmakers and other public office holders that greed, personal aggrandizement and selfishness among other things, share two sorrowful characteristics with borrowing. First, is the time-honoured belief that when one is possessed by any of the above, it becomes hard to break.

Based on this fact, chances are that we may see more mindless spendings come from the Assembly (Assembly) in the nearest future. Secondly, in borrowing, one’s reputation depletes. Invariably, in the estimation of Nigerians, these actions taken by the lawmakers are depleting their hard-earned reputation.

‘The greatest problem of man is that man is the problem’. If we make a decision to manage what we have well, we can do so much with it. And we need not go searching for the solutions to our national problem in the wrong directions.

 Jerome-Mario Utomi, writes from Lagos via;([email protected])

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