- Water-tight security in Kano •7 churches, 8 shops razed - Police
- Terror suspect nabbed with N3m •As army uncovers bomb factory
- 2012, deadliest year for journalists - UN
- Court adjourns on missing N12.4bn oil windfall
- Why we cleared Molete under-bridge - Oyo govt
- Court jails courier over $286,400 cash
- Court rejects fridge repairer’s plea to keep Ibori’s bribe money
- Oyo to involve artisans in N.5bn schools rehabilitation contracts
- All set for LG poll today in Benue
- Mrs Braithwaite buried amid encomiums
- Forget presidency, Jonathan’s aide tells ex-military rulers
- FG sends delegation to Onaiyekan’s consecration, Suntai
‘Many Lawmakers Are Briefcase Businessmen’
Shehu Bankole-Hameed, who came home from the United States to seek a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senatorial ticket in Ogun State last year, speaks on the probes and other current issues in the polity with KUNLE ODEREMI. Excerpts:
What significant difference can you discern in political appointments in the United States and Nigeria, given similarities in their political systems?
Political appointments in Nigeria, from my experience, are based on personal, tribal, even regional biases. There seems to be no clear vision or developmental strategies to position the winning party or its apparatuses for the long term growth of the citizens, a clear departure from countries that struggled out of colonial domination as Nigeria did. For example, a country like US freed itself from British control, went on to define a collective focus and journey, chose a unique government style as against that of the departing masters. And of course, very essential to achieving the goal of any government are its economic and political appointees; whom many successful countries have mastered along the vision/ideological lines. The appointment of Google’s Eric Schmidt, Warren Buffet - sage of Omaha and our Nigerian, Funmi Olopade (appointed to America’s National Cancer Advisory board), were all done on merit and in line with the vision of the Obama administration. These individuals are colossus in their rights. However, the posturing and contributions they all bring go a long way to enhancing the position of the president, benefit his party and the country at large.
The reverse is very true with us here, where serving ministers cannot wait to jump boat, hop on any available party ride to contest elections. Many more people are appointed to foster cronies, as not a single thought is given to the citizens.
Nonetheless, the appointment of the Inspector General of Police seems to me a bull’s eye. This is a man that appears to have a vision. It is strange that almost no significant political appointees show any clear strategy as regards their respective portfolios. A president is like a CEO, who must work with a vision, a clear strategy to achieve it; his advisers and other directors must share in his dream. I don’t see a dream here. It’s disturbing.
What is largely responsible for the difference in scenario, since the country is also abundantly blessed with distinguished professionals?
Looking closely at the founding fathers and their successors, I must say that the foundation of our country was slightly warped, as true national belonging was apparently absent, but substituted with regional strife and power grabbing mentality.
Subsequently, we had the khaki boys, who frittered away golden opportunities of youth, and needless selfish carnage that was a sad interregnum. Even when that ended, the so-called infrastructural projects that followed were done to enrich a few. It’s therefore a case of vision-less leadership; it has been the bane of our nation. Our democracy is more of Dem-all-crazy, where no real efforts are made to achieve true representation. However, there is silver lining.
How focused is the present crop of political leaders in pursuing the ideals of democracy?
This is a very good question. To a large extent, I think the political leaders are less interested in any ideal of democracy. This is so because many of these leaders are not listeners; they want to put all the directives out there, yet they lack the wisdom or serenity to recognise fresh and alternative perspectives, or the courage to accept that people can have a difference of opinion without being enemies. Without mincing words, I would state that the attitude of the ruling elite affects the polity- more often negatively. Their actions and inactions translate into policy directions without recourse to the governed .When appointees are foisted on a governor or minister or even the president, without due regard to the position or vision of the affected officer, then chaos is the result.
Another example is the insistence of our elite to retain state representation in the appointments of ministers, rather than regional. We should really have fewer number of ministers and ministries.
Why is corruption in official quarters and indeed among top officials on a steady upward climb?
That is simple. If one is to take the law of thermodynamics as a guide, it is not difficult to see that men in their “free” state would tend to disorder. Therefore since a lot of our elite -political and their cronies in other walks of life- are ‘free’, sort of, to loot the treasuries (in their custody), then we should expect corruption to rise. How this has come about is that there seems to be no serious effort to punish the ‘ big’ thieves. We now have many common criminals parading themselves as leaders. Also, the people share in this blame game, as my people are quick to celebrate these rogues - waiting for their turn to get there and steal more.
Is PDP giving the right leadership to the country and how?
The system of governance adopted by all the political parties in the country at this time is ‘rulership.’ Therefore, I see PDP as being the best among the rest, because of some of its attempts to introduce certain aspects of democracy- hence a glimpse at some forms of leadership. To my mind, however, generally, there is an absolute lack of leadership at any corridor at this time. This is so because we have posturing rather than actions, we have endless committees- committees for making cassava bread, same for roads, committees for learning how to eat bread, and drive trucks, committees to study the result of some other committees. When are we going to drive the programmes? No one is responsible for anything. I think this is so because we adore power for itself. The former Mozambiquan president, Joaquim Chissano did a lot for his country and left voluntarily. He knows and truly appreciates power and leadership for what it is. So, he presents a good example for the Nigerian elite.
Doesn’t the opposition appear a genuine and veritable alternative to PDP for voters in 2015?
I really don’t see any opposition in the true light of it. Rather, we have a cluster of envious agitators bent on grabbing power for ulterior motives. That example is most discernible in the instances of name substitution in the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) during their respective primaries before the 2011 elections. The whole episode was a huge charade, a farcical attempt at mocking our people and the intelligence of the common man.
How effective have members of the National Assembly in their constitutional role of oversight and monitoring functioned so far?
To answer this question, I will refer you to the president’s remark as regards the workings of his government. He posited that the majority of legislators are from PDP, yet they tend to behave like an opposition party. This informs me that ‘oversight’ functions are being mistaken as opposition, to that extent there is a gap, which suggests that many of the lawmakers do not appreciate their work. When they hold public hearings as a prelude to an oversight project, it is ridiculed with allegations of bribery and arm-twisting. Take that of Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) probe; budget deliberations are another journey in wilderness. Probes are really the arena of police and the justice departments. Even at that, nothing has come out of any probe in the country.
Then, what would you make of the various probes conducted such as the ones on fuel subsidy, pension funds, including the police pension fund scam?
The public hearings, as attempts to throw light upon the issues at hand, are very necessary. I don’t see these hearings as probes- because they are not. To my mind, these are attempts to score cheap political points and send messages to other agencies that they better fall in line. It is common knowledge that many of our legislators actually are briefcase business men and women. They see those hearings as opportunities to showcase their inherent power. I pity our people; every business in the country knows that it has a senator / representative as a competitor for juicy contracts. We, as a people, are being misled.
Are you taken aback by the claims and counter-claims by oil chief, Femi Otedola and Representatives Farouk Lawan over an alleged $600,00 bribe saga?
No! It is to be expected. As I mentioned earlier, the competition between the big boys in business and our legislators is unhealthy. They, the elected and appointed politicians, rarely add value. Only a mentioned few do add value. Otedola is into diesel. For this reason, he has no business discussing with Farouk on any subsidy; and the chairman of public hearing on fuel subsidy should be educated enough to know this open fact. There is more to this scandal than we are being told.