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Smartass! By Pius Adesanmi

I have reached the conclusion that Baba Obasanjo is slightly less bad or slightly less mischievous than Senator Smart Adeyemi in the overall context of the farce we call national life in Nigeria. Last year, I proposed in this column that we have reached such a level in the decay of morals and the collapse of ethics as to preclude straightforward considerations of the difference between good and bad or right and wrong when dealing with Nigeria.

I have reached the conclusion that Baba Obasanjo is slightly less bad or slightly less mischievous than Senator Smart Adeyemi in the overall context of the farce we call national life in Nigeria. Last year, I proposed in this column that we have reached such a level in the decay of morals and the collapse of ethics as to preclude straightforward considerations of the difference between good and bad or right and wrong when dealing with Nigeria.

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In an election cycle, for instance, Nigerians are in no position to decide between good and bad candidates but between bad and slightly less bad candidates; between corrupt and slightly less corrupt candidates. In every facet of our national existence, one’s choice is always between horrible and slightly less horrible. When Nigerians say that Governor X, Senator Y, and Minister Z “are trying”, it simply means that they are slightly less corrupt than their predecessors. In my blissfully underdeveloping Kogi state, the carpenter, Ibrahim Idris, is slightly less horrible than his jibiti predecessor, Abubakar Audu. If we are lucky, Goodluck Jonathan’s new cabinet may be slightly less horrible than Goodluck Jonathan’s last cabinet. That’s just the way it is.

Given this nature of things in Nigeria, how did I arrive at the conclusion that Baba Iyabo in Ota is slightly less bad than my fellow Okun man, Senator Smart Adeyemi? Well, Baba really tried in the department of matching faces with names and naming those names whenever crimes were committed. The most serious crime of treason you could commit against the Nigerian people is to rig an election and steal the people’s sacred mandate.

Did Baba scream about your offence without naming you? No. If your name was Chris Uba, for instance, he summoned you to Aso Rock along with your co-rigger, Chris Ngige. He told you to your faces that you both rigged and were nothing more than two rogues having difficulty with the concept of honour among thieves. He chastised both of you before announcing to the nation that he had asked you to go and sin no more. As a looter, did your loot exceed even what the PDP would consider the bounds of decency? Baba would invite you for scolding in Aso Rock before announcing to the nation that you had been told “not to do so again”! Nuhu Ribadu was invited only if your looting had undesirable portents for the third term agenda.

Again, given our farcical circumstances, these scenarios provide sufficient warrant for the utterance: “Baba tie try” (Baba even tried). At least he named names, to use that popular Naija expression again. The same, sadly, cannot be said for Senator Smart Adeyemi who recently saw great evil, heard great evil but only half spoke about the great evil. In the build-up to the familiar confirmation hearings circus that Nigerians have come to expect from the Senate, Mr. Smart Adeyemi rushed to the public sphere to complain that powerful individuals, interest groups, and corporations were offering financial inducement (call that bribe) to Senators in order to prevent the confirmation of some of President Jonathan’s ministerial nominees.

I almost drank Senator Adeyemi’s kool-aid. He almost got me. I mean, here was one Senator - a PDP Senator for that matter! – frowning at attempted bribery and even complaining to the Nigerian people about it! Sadly, something felt odd about Senator Adeyemi’s “lagbaja and tamedun” (expressions you use in Yoruba when you don’t want to name names!) approach to the whole matter. Like most Nigerian big men, he probably did not expect to be consistently scrutinized about his claims. Nevertheless, the questions were persistent. Here are excerpts from his interview with Vanguard:

What are your comments as the Senate receive the list of ministerial nominees?

We have been under intense pressure by lobbyists and mercenaries to stop some nominees from being cleared or to disqualify some nominees by asking questions to embarrass them and stop them. They have given many of us sleepless nights with offer of millions of Naira so as to discredit some nominees.

How will it affect the screening exercise?

But to some of us, this will not in any way affect the screening. The screening will follow the normal pattern. Once they scale through security screening which normally would have taken care of their moral and integrity, ours is to ask questions on their state of intelligence and plans to midwife the transformation programmes of the President.

We have also noticed that political opponents and those whose business interest is being threatened by the reforms are involved in this crusade so as to settle business scores.

Majority of the Senators that I have interacted with believe in President Jonathan's transformation programmes and will not allow any of us to be used. Those who are prepared to spend millions to disqualify some nominees or the transformation agenda of the President should invest their money in charity work and leave the Senate alone.

Many of us will be very much at alert to make sure that money is not allowed to play any role in this screening exercise. We have been told that some people should not be allowed to pass through the screening simply because they effected or carried out reforms that will empower Nigeria rather than foreign interest.

Can you finger anybody as being involved in this move?
In this crusade are some multi-national companies and their agents who feel that some re-nominated ministers, who were part and parcel of the reform programmes and agenda aimed at empowering Nigerians as regards local content in the process of industrialization, should be stopped in order to kill such reforms. Even those of us that are perceived to be radical will not in any way make ourselves available for embarrassing or stopping any nominee except of course where such nominees display incompetence.

Obviously, Senator Adeyemi, like his ilk in Nigeria’s political elite, believes that Nigerians are foolish. For under the veneer of his patriotic outburst lurks the regular game of the status quo. The moment “some multi-national companies and their agents” started approaching Senators of the Federal Republic with Ghana must go, crimes were being committed against Nigeria. The moment this came to the knowledge of Senator Adeyemi, he had a civic responsibility to report that crime in progress to appropriate law enforcement agencies – the police or the EFCC. He had a responsibility to the Nigerian people to be specific, to name names and not just rabble-rouse about “certain people, certain interests, certain lobbyists”, etc.

Is there a part of this civic responsibility that Senator Adeyemi does not understand? Are we not in trouble as a country when a lawmaker, a Senator of the Federal Republic goes public with knowledge of crimes-in-progress but develops cold feet when asked to “finger anybody as being involved in this move”? What precisely are the legal implications of Senator Adeyemi’s failure to disclose the identities of the multinationals and the agents who brazenly attempted to influence a sovereign procedure of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with money? Instead of hounding Nasir el Rufai for expressing opinions in the 21st century, shouldn’t the SSS be playing host to Senator Smart Adeyemi by now? Shouldn’t they be asking him who and who approached him and other Senators? This is where Baba Obasanjo would at least have named the guilty multinationals and their unscrupulous agents before telling the Nigerian people that he called them thieves and warned them “not to do so again”.

Truth is Senator Adeyemi was only playing his part in a high-wired game of official deceit. He was only preparing Nigerians for another irresponsible conduct of confirmation hearings by our equally irresponsible Senate. He was already preparing the “bow and go” proscenium for President Jonathan’s favoured nominees by screaming that he and his colleagues would not allow themselves to be used to embarrass the President’s nominees! The window was thus open for clowns like David Mark and Ayogu Eze to sympathize with Diezani Allison-Madueke, a nominee they were supposed to be grilling! They became her parliamentary shield against repeated queries by NEXT and Sahara Reporters. President Jonathan confidently submitted tainted and corrupt nominees because he was sure that the Smart Adeyemis and the Ayogu Ezes of this world would deliver. Madam how now? Eeya, how have you been coping with media attacks? Pele o. Bow and go. Just when you think that the depravity of these fellas in Abuja has reached its nadir, they carry diggers and begin to dig!

This explains why Smart Adeyemi, whose oversight responsibilities ought to be exercised in behalf of his constituents in Okun land  and the Nigerian people, elected to exercise it in behalf of the Executive, claiming commitment to President Jonathan’s “transformation programmes.” Although the expressions, “transformation agenda” and “transformation programmes”, have been carefully slipped into public consciousness (to replace seven-point agenda) as part of the Jonathan regime’s struggle to invent and foist a certain narrative on the rest of us, I had believed, until now, that the two expressions have validity only in the mythopoesis of Reno Omokri and Oronto Douglas. Now, Senator Adeyemi says he too is aware of Jonathan’s transformation programmes. Immediately after being sworn in, Reuben Abati also pledged to help Nigerians “develop ownership” of President Jonathan’s “transformation agenda”.

Of one hundred and fifty million of us, four people – Reno Omokri, Oronto Douglas, Reuben Abati, and Smart Adeyemi – have somehow open sesamed their way into knowledge of some transformation agenda they claim the President has for the country. Senator Smart Adeyemi has even concocted a parliamentary process of deceit in the service of this mythical transformation agenda. I hope that these four people will let the remaining one hundred forty-nine million nine hundred ninety-nine thousand nine hundred ninety-six of us see the memo?


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