By Babayola M. Toungo
The eighth Senate (or is it Bukola Saraki’s Senate) is the most focused, one-agenda senate as long as I can remember. Their one point agenda can be summarized as the need to frustrate Muhammadu Buhari and his government. The overall objective of the senate, in my opinion, is to ensure that President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is denied the constitutionally envisaged cooperation between the three arms of government for the delivery of good, accountable and purposeful leadership to the Nigerian people. It may appear that the Senate has made up its mind to frustrate the executive arm of government from the day of its proclamation. As a matter of fact, to all intents and purposes, the Saraki senate behaves as if it is an independent government and not just one of the three arms of government.
But with the kind of characters populating the senate chamber, it should be asking too much to expect any different from such a bunch. Most of the senators are made up of ex-governors, politicians who failed to make their mark on their own steam and decided to hitch their wagons onto Buhari’s, PDP contractors and jobbers who were running away from the PDP sinking ship and others who made their names as noise makers and saw an opportunity in the gale that blew PDP’s sails in 2015. Such an assemblage could not be counted upon to be altruistic. It should only be natural for them to be selfish and self-centered. Looking at the quality and output of their three years as lawmakers, one will not be wrong to say Nigerians have been overly patient with these carpetbaggers.
They came to the senate with a mindset to make money by milking the country only to meet a frugal president who is not ready to play ball. Whatever Bukola promised them to defy their party’s choice on the day of inauguration turned out to be a mirage and they therefore decided to lash out at Nigerians by holding up government activities. The usual money-hunting expeditions known as “oversight functions” where senators used to brow-beat MDAs for ‘pocket money’ was no more; bullying Chief Executives of government parastatals like the Customs Service was met with stonewall frustrations; budget padding in the name of “constituency projects” is now contentious.
With all the known avenues for easy money blocked, the Senate lost its cool and became the de facto opposition to the government. I have always wondered why the PDP bothers itself in playing the role of the opposition seeing how the senate has appropriated the role for itself. As long as we can remember, the senate has always being working at cross-purpose with the executive. Most executive bills sent to the Senate since the beginning of this administration have been gathering dusts in the senate while they are more interested in promulgating meaningless bills like the Election Re-ordering Bill which became a subject of brick-a-brak between the senate and the executive.
While the senators demands to be respected (something they couldn’t earn) most of them don’t act senatorial. For lack of better word, and I beg to be excused, most, if not all of them, behave like kindergarten kids whose candies have been snatched away by a stern uncle. If Dino Melaye’s behaviour is anything to judge the rest with, then I am sorry for Nigeria. When the police succeeded in arresting Melaye after a lengthy cat and mouse game with him went full circle, Melaye jumped from a police vehicle and landed in the intensive care unit of the National Hospital. Bukola Saraki and his senate suspended plenary to visit Melaye – a person alleged by the police to have committed criminal offences, including conspiracy to commit murder. I cannot remember the senate suspending plenary for the numerous murders and kidnappings taking place all over the country. Dino Melaye is more important to Saraki than the thousands of lives lost.
I am sure most of our Senators know their legislative functions but chose to be rascally while claiming to be representing the interests of the people. They may have their justification for putting hurdles in Buhari’s way as a way of making sure he failed. I don’t know and I don’t care to enquire. In my view, they are torn between Buhari’s parsimony and their corrupt expectations.
Their latest attention-grabbing gimmick is the move to introduce impeachment proceedings on the floor of the not-so-hallowed chamber of the Senate. The President’s offence? He paid for military planes meant to be used against insurgents that our legislators asserted Buhari is not capable of defeating. While on the one hand they accused him of not being serious in fighting insurgents who were allowed to flourish by the immediate past administration, on the other hand they want to hamstrung him by denying him the funds to pay for the planes, which negotiations started way back in 2014. Ironic, isn’t it? Our imperial Senators are serial lawbreakers, because they don’t have any regards for us, they don’t see anything wrong in their double standards. The thirteen and a half million paid to them as monthly “running cost” apart from their salaries have been declared to be illegal by the Revenue Mobilising, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), the statutory body responsible for fixing the salaries and allowances of public officials. Have they stopped collecting the money because it is declared illegal? Do they really have any sense of shame or decorum? Anyway, they are banking on our timidity and fatalistic nature.
Our Senators, and Nigerians generally, want a President who will lie, flatter, compromise and pander to every ineptitude and looting of our common patrimony. Begging them and bribing them as past Presidents did, is the currency for them to allow him to function effectively as a President. They want him to tremble before them because they believe they hold the power to hurt him, unmindful of whether Nigerians are hurt in the process or not.
The President presented the 2018 Budget in November 2017 and this is April, six months down the line. We are yet to know what is happening to the Budget. Nigerians are not asking them why the delay in the passage of the Budget because those whose main goal is to ensure Buhari failed have turned our collective attention to the government’s inability to stimulate the economy. How do you stimulate an economy that your legislators are stymieing yearly by delaying the budget every year?
Some of their past transgressions against Nigerians include non-confirmation of nominees, deliberate delay in the passage of Appropriation Bills, constant harassment of officials who refuse to bow before their imperial majesties. These things slow down governance. They don’t care what we think or wish. They don’t even wish to understand what we think. We have to make them understand how we feel about their atrocities by making sure most of the clowns are not allowed to return next year.