Reps’ Rumpus: Which Way For Nigeria’s Democracy?

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They are  honourable members, but still with all the trappings and traits of motor park touts. Our hallowed chamber was once again desecrated by our “honourable” members whose pent –up anger exploded resulting to a free-for-all fight as the house resumed plenary after two weeks recess. The group which calls themselves the progressives accused the Speaker, Dimeji Bankole, among others, of the misappropriation of N9 billion from the N11 billion allocated to the house in 2008 and 2009 budgets. There was physical confrontation, with clothes torn to pieces, legs broken while some almost had their arms severed from their body. Haba! What a show of shame even before children who came on excursion to learn from these ‘honourable’ men and the lesson they got is better imagined that being said. Nigerians bear their minds on this. Excerpts:

 

Caleb Ajagba – National Cordinator, ITPI

 

The recent fight that broke out in the House of Representatives should be condemned by all well meaning Nigerians. It is not strange to have divergent views that at times can inflame the passions of the Legislators, for in a democracy one of the advantages is in its diversity of opinions.

Genuine political opposition is a necessary attribute of democracy as well as the tolerance, and trust in the ability of parliamentarians to resolve differences by peaceful means. The existence of an opposition, without which politics ceases and administration takes over, is indispensable to the functioning of parliamentary political systems.

However the disagreement in more matured democracies centre on ideologies and issues of national importance. But in the case of Nigeria, they are parochial in nature and centre primarily on those who are supposed to project the positive image of the country. When issues begin to shift focus from national importance to focus on individuals instead of their policies, they lose credibility both in their immediate constituencies and in the eyes of the international community. It is indeed a shame that accountability in all areas of our national life is generating so much controversy. Nigerian leaders find it difficult to be accountable both to the institutions that threw them up and to the generality of the masses. That corruption has continued to be the centre piece of our political discourse and national life is unfortunate. The various regulatory agencies. EFCC, ICPC and Code of Conduct Bureau should be bold enough to do a thorough investigation in the issues involved in the show of shame and ensure that those found culpable are brought to book.

Sunny Yobo – Public Commentator

The recent fighting in the house of Representatives is one too many, which portrays the house in bad light. It shows that our legislators (more especially) those in the lower chamber are an immature and shameless bunch who do not know the enormimity of the tasks before them. It shows them as a group who instead of fighting to better the conditions of those they claim to represent, are a bunch of drunk and overfed people who are there fighting for their selfish interests.

What actually started like play some two weekly back when a few of the house members began to feed the public their grouses finally snowballed into a bloody physical confrontation which sent some of them to the hospitals. This fight is the height of irresponsibility by those who should be seen as parents and high-up in the society who normally should be shinning examples to up coming youths. These are people who should be role models to the masses, but have suddenly become a group of disgraced and discredited lots. Pity.

Nigerians are terribly enraged by the house of representatives show of shame on the floor of the house. And the average Nigerians are baffled at the rate of scandals on display by a group who are over enjoying themselves piling up stupendous wealth at the expense of the masses who can barely get a complete meal per day. One can conveniently agree with those who formed the opinion that these guys were not elected but selected. For true representatives of the masses will not exhibit this type of animalistic behaviour in the public, knowing it will be unacceptable. They cut a picture of human beings who have no regard nor respect for even their families. The Nigerian public deserves public apology from the discredited house, no doubt. And none of them deserves a return to the house or any other elective position whatsoever in 2011. Enough is enough.

Comrade Chika H. Onuegbu – State Chairman, TUC Rivers State.

The fight by the members of the House of Representatives is most objectionable and completely unnecessary. In democracy, people must resolve differences based on the rules of the game rather physical confrontation. But what is most painful is that this fight took place in the presence of school children who came on excursion to the house. I am terribly worried about the picture they will have about leadership in Nigeria. The issues that led to the fight at present is still not addressed. And these are serious issues because they are bordering on allegation against the leaders of the house. And whether the leadership of the house has suspended those who fought or not I think it has not addressed the fact that the issues of allegation need to be investigated. So the EFCC and the ICPC, not withstanding the suspension of those who fought, should go and investigate. If they are true, Nigerians deserve to know that their leaders are corrupt. They deserve if those who sit in the hallowed pattern – they are either fighting to settle personal differences or for personal gains. This is the aspect that we are not happy about.

Nigerians are not happy because it does appear the people are not representing Nigerians. They should take time and look at the poverty on the faces of those they represent, the deplorable state of our federal roads, we know they fly let them do it for those of us that can not fly. A lot of workers have lost their jobs because of the power sector challenges. Mecheline readily comes to mind here. Some companies are re-locating heir staff from Rivers State to Lagos and the implication of that on the revenue of the state. And I think the government of Rivers State really chambers that make the laws guiding all of us are actually people of integrity or not. If the investigation reveals that the allegation of corruption is a reality, then they should move in and do their job in terms of the prosecution of those involved. But two things are important here, these people that are suspended are actually the representatives of people – they represent constituencies and suspending them for one year raises questions. Does it mean that those they represent, at this crucial period of constitution review would not have a voice in the house of representatives for one year? Is it not another way of discenfranchising the electorate? This has to be looked into.

Barrister Naabulobari Naazigha – Lue, Chairman, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights

It shows two things – one that our politicians are not matured at this stage of our political development and two, that the so-called honourable representatives are not actually elected by the electorate. If they were really elected, the show of shame that we witnessed on television as a result of simple dispute among members of the house would not have arisen. It also shows that our democracy is not matured and cannot be comparable to any advanced democracy anywhere in the world. Inspite of the fact that they claim to enjoy some level of immunity on the floor of the house, there ought not to be such outrageous scene in the first place.

And come to think of it, what were they fighting over? They were not fighting over the position of water or basic amenities to those that elected them nor the state of either power or level of poverty of the constituencies they represent. But rather they were fighting over, possibly the increment they expect to be added to their emoluments. And this shows that majority of our politicians are so very greedy. It also shows that the electorate are not exercising the right which the constitution confers on us. The constitution confers on the electorate to withdraw and recall the representatives that are not representing us well in the first place. Because for those who were unfortunate to have seen their representatives on camera fighting over based material things for themselves, it is very very embarrassing in the extreme. Even if we know we did not vote them but they are representing some constituencies and when you see your representatives fighting over what will not translate to meeting the basic needs in your life; I think it is so very unfortunate. For the purpose of another constitutional amendment, I think that the process of recall should be made very simple in such way that even 50 members from any of the constituencies can just file up a paper and recalled their representatives if such things arise again. Unfortunately their amendment process has taken some certain turns that also bear grip on what the imputs are.

Otherwise, we would have suggested that whatever amendment that will be inserted into the next constitution should make it necessary that a very simple majority should be able to recall any recalcitrant representative that behaves just like what we saw last week.

Venerable Christian Erekosima- Retired Archdeacon of  Anglican Communion

Actually what is happening in the House of Representatives is abit embarrassing. The country is suppose to look on them for good example. And what do they constitute there when they start to exchange blows, use obscene languages and do certain things that will be embarrassing the whole nation. And  besides, what they did was not an exposure of odd behaviour to Nigerians alone but to foreigners who should look at us through a better image. But they have created a spectacle that is so distorting to the image of all Nigerians. To say the least, they have disgraced us. Democracy is not a stagnant issue. Let us believe we should learn from their ill behaviour and correct ourselves for future. Democracy stands out, to me, as how we love ourselves, how we love  our country and how we should do everything possible to make the country move well in peace and in love.