As Buhari And Saraki Lead Nigeria’s Quest For Nobility
When Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria conferred the nation’s highest honour, Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, GCFR, on his arch opponent, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Awo, never the most easily impressed of men, was not only grateful to the president, he was unmistakable in his understanding of the significance of that honour, deserving of it as he was.
It was very ‘noble’ of Shagari, Awo said, to have awarded him the honour.
Nobility. That grace of spirit, carriage and conduct that elevates. Possessed by politicians, it makes the fiercest opponents the best friends once the goal is the progress of the nation. It puts service above self.
How so much needed in Nigeria today! How so rare!
As the 8th Senate sets sailing, the rumblings that attended its inauguration and election of principal officers would seem to have conditioned it into something to look forward to. The National Assembly, since 1999, has sadly cultivated the image of a club of parasites, whose signature is the sumptuousness of its members’ lifestyle. Huge pay earned and extorted or directly pilfered from the common wealth under all manner of guises, for little or no work done. Poverty of ideas in individual members and in the whole body has made both chambers the best in hollowness
With the debate, even though suspended for now, on cuts to the senators’ pay and businesslike approach to issues within the short period the chamber has run, the portents are encouraging that in the new one, Nigeria may have a Senate it needs.
The confirmation of armed services chiefs was done expeditiously and with aplomb. Some strategic committees were quickly put in place with their chairmanship evenly distributed between supposedly anti-Saraki and pro-Saraki groups, raising hope of seriousness with legislative duties. In fact, one of such committees is spearheading the push for reduction in the expenditure of the senate. If the senators push through a number of reforms and shed the toga of fat cats seeking to feed fatter on Nigeria’s resources, they are likely to win hearts.
The ball was set rolling by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in his opening speech at the resumption of plenary two weeks ago.
“Now it is time to move as one house in one direction to fulfill the promise we made to our constituencies that gave us our mandate to deliver real change…
We want to show and indeed must show that this Senate is alive to its lawmaking, oversight, policymaking and representation duties.” With these words, Saraki acknowledged the division his own high-wire politics-driven emergence as Senate President caused and the fact that this could continue to hamper performance.
In a direct attempt at showing an understanding of the issues of the day, he was right in pointing out that “Our revenue profile has taken a great hit with the economic realities we face today,” noting that aside the drop in the oil receipt, “we have seen revenues plummet due to oil thefts, indiscriminate grants of numerous import duty waivers, concessions and grants.” According to him, Nigerians want to see the National Assembly tackle these obscenities in the revenue systems as it denies the people the right to good governance.
“Our country is passing through a difficult time. We cannot afford to watch the mindboggling leakages in our oil receipt to go on,” he exhorted.
Furthermore, he appropriately noted that Nigerians are tired of the inadequacies in the power sector and want to see a reinvigorated power sector capable of delivering enough energy to power the new Nigerian economy. Nigerians, he also said, dream of seeing a more open economy, they want to see legislative instruments that will help to open and stimulate private sector investment in infrastructure development, and enhance the ease of doing business in the country.
Saraki then acknowledged the resurgence in the activities of Boko Haram and thereafter led a high-powered Senate delegation to visit the troops in the trenches as well as some of the victims of the terror in the North East.
By telling the Senators that “we cannot afford to frolic,” he seemed to show an appreciation of the image the National Assembly has garnered over the years as one exclusive club of sinecurists in which members engage in one long orgy of just feeding on the state and living large without any commensurate work. And he was frank enough to speak to the fight over power and positions in the Senate by saying Nigerians did not give him and all other senators the mandate to be in the chambers for the purpose of pursuing leadership positions. “It is time we remind ourselves of the solemn promise to deliver to our people real change. Leadership (of the chamber) is secondary to our primary responsibility of good governance.”
By picking his words this carefully and practically appealing to the conscience or emotions of the senators, Saraki quickly sought to put the fight over offices behind him and asked the entire Senate to do same. By telling his colleagues to focus on the work for which they were elected, he took the high road. And sounding so statesmanlike, even as many would want to paint him as nothing more than another politician, he asked members to do away with the usual chatter of politics, stop the noise of their personal ambitions and interests so that the voices of the Nigerian people who sent them to the Senate are not drowned out.
Sophistry or playing to the gallery?
Whatever interpretation may be given to the conduct of the chamber and the words of its leader so far, they seem to resonate with Nigerians. Which is why, as Ayo Ogungbile, a management consultant and public affairs commentator says, “There is an immediate appearance of seriousness about this era that must be acknowledged.” And Charles Yila Tadi, an accountant from Gombe State adds, “The potentials are very high that this set of leaders would do better than those who came before.”
“Whether it is the Muhammadu Buhari persona and the expectation of integrity in all spheres that everybody is plugging into or Nigerians are lucky to have picked this set, there is no doubt that there are attempts to do things differently. Nigerians only need to hold them all to their promise.”
Indeed, if this Senate would live up to its potentials, it has to be fully engaged in the reform business. There are too many Nigerians for whom life’s barest requirements are out of reach. They are not lazy. But they lack opportunities to put their feet on the starting rung of a ladder of progress. This is what should engage attention now, Nigerians would say.
It is easier to run for office than to run the office. Getting the job is one thing, doing it is another. Saraki’s supporters believe he is ready for and capable of doing the job. And he is showing with some body language the right signs. Maybe there is something good in his so-called over-ambition. For once, a man is defying the norm by saying he not only wants a job, he has done the homework required and developed the capacity to deliver.
The days are still early but he has shown the promise of a deft hand and the resoluteness of a steady force.
So, Saraki has the potential. But it is a potential that must be fulfilled.
It takes the grace of the Almighty and special skills to be in the Senate, a chamber that oversees the operation of government and passes laws that benefit constituents of each senator, the whole country and the whole world. It takes even much more to be the first among 109 equals as Senate President. A cardinal leading a college of fellow cardinals, without the powers of a Pope, must be the ultimate test of maturity, intelligence, cunning, truthfulness, honesty of purpose and a dose of large heart that makes for ability to compromise when necessary and stand firm when required. Attention to details and a deep knowledge of policy will stand a man in Saraki’s shoes in good stead to deliver and win a race into the history books.
From the journey so far, and it is still just the beginning, it would seem this Senate and its president is in a race to prove a point that it is completely different. And that is very good for Nigeria.
Muhammadu Buhari is running a race to justify the confidence Nigerians reposed in him, especially on account of his integrity and promise of change.
With the cynicism occasioned by the disappointment from previous senates and the now almost successful campaign by those he beat to the seat to paint him as a power-hungry over-ambitious man, Saraki is running a race to prove a point that he wanted the Senate Presidency not for its own sake but just so as to make a difference. He can only prove that point with hard work. Which is why the gale of activities from the chamber now and his own words are re-assuring.
With this scenario, a President who has a point to prove may already have the kind of Senate he actually needs under the leadership of a man who also has a point to prove to Nigerians.
If service to the people is what is most needed now, this is good for Nigeria. At least, through them, nobility may find its way back into the nation’s polity.