Our Not-so-distinguished Senators By Chido Onumah

Chido Onumah
Columnist: 
Chido Onumah

Distinguished Senator David Alechenu Bonaventure Mark is a very lucky man. Indeed, he is one of the luckiest Nigerians dead or alive. In the last three decades, he has featured prominently on the national stage as minister of communications, Governor of Niger State, four-term senator and two-term Senate President.   

Other things being equal, Senator Mark may yet end his long and illustrious career by emerging as President of the Federal Republic, an ambition I am sure he doesn’t take lightly, the constant denials by aides notwithstanding. Senator Mark has had occasion to take shots at the Jonathan government on the problem of insecurity, poor infrastructure and the government’s fiscal policies. It is the mark of a military strategist. In all, though, he is a loyal party man; and a patient one at that.

Every now and again, aides of the Senate President alert us of mischief makers “bent on causing disaffection between President Goodluck Jonathan and the President of the Senate”. The reference is to the cacophony of voices championing the 2015 presidential ambition of Senator Mark. The Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, to Senator Mark, Kola Ologbondiyan, had this to say recently in response to one of the ubiquitous “Mark for President 2015” groups: “It is imperative to state and emphatically too, that Senator Mark and President Jonathan are on the same page in the onerous task of providing democratic dividends for Nigerians. It is therefore irresponsible, mischievous and misplaced for any set of Nigerians to embark on overheating the polity at this time of our national history. The Senate President is faced with providing qualitative  legislative leadership  for our nation and (has) urged mischief makers not to distract him”.

I had the fortune of encountering Senator Mark in all his power and splendor  earlier in the year. It was during a casual visit to a friend, a former legislator, at the Apo Legislative Quarters in Abuja. After my visit, my friend decided to drive me home. A few metres down the road, as we drove out of my friend’s house, we were halted by a detachment of policemen. While I wondered impatiently what was going on, my friend who obviously was used to the scenario just rested both hands on the steering wheel and waited as a convoy of more than ten vehicles, including three black limousines, a bomb disposal van, an ambulance, numerous police escort jeeps with heavily armed policemen, crawled into an imposing edifice a few metres ahead of us.

After about five minutes, we were given permission to continue our journey. My friend commented off-handedly, “That is the Senate President”. My immediate reaction was amazement and then revulsion when I realised that the Senate President was coming from his office a few kilometres away. My mind wondered furiously about what democracy was costing the mass of our people; the cost of maintaining the Senate President’s fleet of vehicles and aides; of the imposing house we just drove past and the fact that the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Mohammed, was building a new official residence for the Senate President and the three other presiding officers of the National Assembly, the Deputy Senate President as well as the Speaker and his deputy, for more than N1bn each.

So, it was a bit of a surprise when Senator Mark spoke recently during his condolence visit to the family of the late Senate Leader in the Second Republic, Dr. Olusola Saraki, in Ilorin, Kwara State. While praising Saraki, the Senate President noted: “Baba is not dead. He lives on because a man who lived as he did does not die. In everything, he was always himself. He did not pretend. He was a natural man doing what he loved best. He did all he did from the bottom of his heart. Unfortunately there are many actors and pretenders on the political scene in Nigeria today. Politics should be played with honesty, with honour and a lot of integrity”.

It seems Senator Mark never misses an opportunity to say the right things. But doing the right things is a different kettle of fish. Someone once asked: “What manner of ‘god’ is the office of Nigeria’s Senate President that the occupant should earn six times more than what President Barack Obama of the United States takes home and three times more than what the British Prime Minister earns, in a country where over 65 per cent of the citizens wallow below the $1 benchmark?” That is the tragedy of the Nigerian situation.

This piece is as much about David Mark as it is about the “hallowed chamber” he leads. It was prompted by an event earlier in the month involving the chairman, Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC), Deaconess Joan Ayo. During its 2012 budget performance before the Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Service Matters, Deaconess Ayo was confronted by the vice chairman of the committee, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, who alleged that there was rumour making the rounds that “some staff of the commission were compelling young job seekers to part with N500,000 ($3,000) to get jobs”.

Senator Ojudu noted that “such a rumour is not good for the image of this committee, it is not good for the image of your commission and the image of the country.” The FCSC chairman responded by saying the commission had zero tolerance for corruption and corrupt practices and that she was hearing the rumour for the first time from Senator Ojudu. She challenged the senator to show proof of the alleged money-for-job scandal.

Of course, Deaconess Ayo was being economical with the truth. I don’t know if Senator Ojudu was able to provide proof as requested by Deaconess Ayo, but the exchange threw up an issue that is equally troubling. Talking about rumours, we have heard allegations that senators collect bribe before approving budgets. But this pales in comparison to the fact that many government agencies now insist that job seekers must get letters from senators before they are considered for employment. And this is no rumour because I have been involved with two federal agencies where this issue came up. It seems the only reason our senators enjoy this privilege is that they have control over the budget of these agencies. It is understandable if senators use their influence to help their “constituents”, but it is criminal for them to legalize it.   

Dr. Sam Amadi, Chairman/CEO of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), put this phenomenon in perspective during the 7th Ralph Opara Memorial Lecture organised by the National Association of Seadogs (NAS), on Friday, November 2, 2012. In a speech titled, “Terrorism, Insecurity and Irredentist Movements: the Challenges for Nation-Building in Nigeria”, Dr. Amadi noted, “Today, Nigerian leaders have added to their sin of the exclusion of Nigerian citizens from the wealth of the nation, the sin of excluding them from employment opportunities. Every employment in private and public sector in Nigeria today is based on a letter of sponsorship from one Senator or Governor or Minister.

“Poor Nigerian working family that spent life savings to educate their children have little hope of them getting a good job because the people in power distort the recruitment process from merit to privilege. This is the new aristocracy in a republic. Recruiters in the public service will not ask for aptitude. They ask for a letter from a Senator, Governor or Minister. What will the much deprived graduate without such reference letter do if he is never considered for employment many years after leaving school than to seriously consider resort to violence and criminal enterprise?”

This is what the average job seeker in Nigeria has to contend with. Senators Mark and Ojudu can’t say they are not aware of this phenomenon. And if they are not aware, I am using this medium to bring it to their attention. They should denounce the agencies that are bringing the Senate into disrepute.
For the amount of money the country spends maintaining the Senate, the last thing we need is for our so-called lawmakers to become a menace to society by shamelessly acting out the despicable role of thoughtless enablers and overseers of an extremely dysfunctional polity.  

conumah@hotmail.com

Comments
17 comment(s)
Post a comment

Our Not-So-Distinguished Senators (7)

I was amused to read T Johnson's reply to my post on the above topic. It appears he is denying the fact that the least-paid legislator in Nigeria gets a salary of $1.3 million. I will like him to tell us all how much they earn and to back up his claim with relevant facts. At that point, I shall eat my words. Even these thieves who call themselves legislators do not deny they earn these unconscionable salaries. Who is T Johnson? Is he one of the legislators? How do you dare to be more catholic than the Pope?

Tell you more? What have you

Tell you more? What have you done with the one you already know? The people in the diaspora have veen crying out for years. What have you done? Who voted for Goodluck and not PDP? Was it they? If David Mark were to come out today, would you not vote for him, and not PDP? Foolish man. Ewu!

HEAR @OLADAPO ODUMOSU

Hear @Oladapo Odumosu, "...yet the leader of the US get a paltry $400,ooo dollars as salary, while the least paid Legislator at the national level in Nigeria gets at least $1.3 million." LIAR! LIAR! LIAR! The problem with most Nigerians is that they think they have to exggerate or outright lie to get their points across. I always say that dishonesty is the hallmark of Nigerian society. Everyday I am proven right by commentators on this site. Most Nigerians politicians are corrupt. I heared you, loud and clear. But just the facts, sir. No coloring. As much as I hate Nigerian politicians in general, I want them to be held for what they have done to this country not what they are perceive to have done. That is the different between me and you.

Where Is Young Alhaji?

If we must have an Idoma President come the nearest future, may GOD preserve young Alhaji to emerge cos from evidence before us, he is humane, affable & reach out to his people. This is the hallmark of great leaders not those who do contrary things to what they postulate. If people like OBJ & Mark can come to the realization that the Almighty has given them immense privilege to positively touch humanity, they will turn new leaves least they regret in their graves!

@Osita Dioka

Bros, we ARE a nation of idiots. Look who we elected as President...

@Osita Dioka

Bros, we ARE a nation of idiots. Look who we elected as President...

BRIBE FOR BUDGET

Talking about rumours, we have heard allegations that senators collect bribe before approving budgets-Chido Onumah

Bros, it is neither a rumour nor an allegation, it is a statement of fact. By the way, don't worry about David Mark, he will NEVER be Mr. President. His cup is already full which started running since his horrid days as the Chairman of Abandoned Properties in Port Harcourt; the clock is finally approaching the zero hour for the fool...

Our Not-So-Distinguished Senators (6)

One way we can start removing corruption in Nigeria is to vote out the PDP which has become a center of corruption itself. There is no way that Jonathan or any other PDP member can fight corruption when the party itself is a surrogate for all that is corrupt in this world. Next is to empower the EFCC to be able to perform its job by removing it from the control of the Attorney-General.

Our Not-So-Distinguished Senators (5)

In reply to 'Same Old Story' by an anonymous contributor on this topic, you do not have to be a rocket scientist to know that the solution to Nigeria's problem is taking care of corruption. If we minimize corruption to what obtains in most of the countries that want to develop, we will see the difference in less than six months and all of us in the diaspora will be trooping back home.

Our Not-So-Distinguished Senators (4)

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has just developed the prototype of an alternative source of energy that when mass produced, will drop the price of oil to about $30 a barrel. That is when countries like Nigeria that have wasted their opportunities to develop their infrastructures when the going was good, will become dirt poor.

SAME OLD STORY

In as much as you have said something, it is still the same old story. We have not heard anything new. It is so unfortunate that Nigerians ( especially those in diaspora) are quick to identify problems but slow in bringing out solutions.
Please tell me one thing i dont know

Decayed Society

My brother true talk.
I weep for my country.

Nigeria is a huge mess.

Everything about Nigeria is messed up. From the president, to the way the people think. Unfortunately for me I am still a Nigerian. That is the most fucked up country on earth. 6 yrs out of that country and getting reintroduced to the real life where people are encouraged to work hard and at the end are assured something not bullied to work hard and at the end aren't assured anything unless you are sharp(a criminal). Nigeria is so dysfunctional that one can see the difference clearly by living in a 3rd class European country (like Czech Rep, Slovakia, Lithuania, Poland or Bulgaria). I pray to God that I right this wrong of being a Nigerian citizen. It's the worst country on earth. A 3rd class European country will easily transform to a 1st class country given Nigeria's resources and size. What a mess of a country. I think governing Nigeria should be outsourced ELSE an implosion is imminent. I see Nigeria turning to Somalia if Nigerians keep managing Nigeria.

Our-Not-So-Distinguished Senators (3)

At least we know the salaries of our Senators and Representatives. Nobody knows what each state governor earns. Nobody knows that of the Ministers, not to talk of the President, who does not give a damn. Chido: all occupants of these offices have thrown those offices into disrepute by not coming out clean with Nigerians. This is more disheartening when the minimum wage of the average Nigerian is a measly $112.50 a month or $1350 a year!!!

Our-Not-So-Distinguished Senators (2)

It is usually not fair to compare the US with Nigeria, but when it comes to the outlandish salaries that our public officials - Senators, members of the House of Representatives, Ministers, Governors and the President earn, the comparison becomes more inviting and necessary. Everyone knows the US has the highest GDP (official exchange rate)in the world. Yet, the leader of the US gets a paltry $400,000 dollars as salary, while the least paid legislator at the national level in Nigeria gets at least $1.3 million.

Our-Not-So-Distinguished Senators (1)

Chido spoilt an otherwise well-written article when he said and I quote "They should denounce the agencies that are bringing the Senate into disrepute"
The Senate and House are already in disrepute. This began from the day they set out for themselves, salaries that are out of this world.

A MARK PRESIDENCY WILL COMPLETELY ERASE MORALITY IN NIGERIA

First of all any sane person when voting for a candidate like mark should be sincere,we all know what this man stands for.I do not think he will have the courage to confront his past,his baggage is just too dirty ,not even the biggest shipping company on earth can afford to undertake the odd job.
If Mark thinks we are a nation of idiots,then he should run for Presidency,for now Nigerians will not dwell on this evil and nightmarish speculation.

Post a comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
Comments are limited to a maximum of 1000 characters.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <p> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

More information about formatting options

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.