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03042019 - UNDECLARED OFFSHORE ASSETS: FG okays amnesty, immunity for defaulters

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  • Nigeria
  • April
  • Lagos
  • Nigerian
  • Nigerians
  • Vanguard
  • Delta
  • Assembly
  • Inec
  • Pension

30 — Vanguard,

30 — Vanguard, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 3, 2019

Laying the foundations of discord in the 9th National Assembly IF politics, especially in the Nigerian style, could be compared to the construction of a house, then it can be said that members of the All Progressives Congress are right now laying the foundation stones of another rancorous National Assembly and indeed executive-legislature relations. The tussle for leadership positions in the National Assembly is getting hotter and acrimonious which could be a foretaste of what Nigerians should expect once the ninth assembly begins work after May 29. The culmination of the implosive crisis in the APC was the defection of principal officers of the National Assembly who were members of the APC to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Although for many members of the APC and indeed Nigerians, these that had more or less cornered the leadership of the National Assembly in the wake of deadly intrigues that more or less permanently polarized both the APC and the National Assembly after a bitterlyfought leadership contest were never true members of the APC. They were always outsiders with one leg inside and the other outside the party. Remember many of them had been disgruntled and disaffected members of the PDP who decided to pitch tent with the opposition to oust the Goodluck Jonathan-led PDP administration from power? But they had scarcely achieved their avowed desire of sending Jonathan back to his kith and kin in Otuoke when they ran into the brick wall of NASS leadership that would pitch them against other leaders of the newly-constituted APC. Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara outsmarted APC party leaders and took control of the National Assembly on June 10, 2015. The falcon was never again to hear the falconer thereafter. Matters climaxed with the mass defection of powerful members that threatened to destroy the APC and with it the reelection chances of President Muhammadu Buhari and other leaders of his government in 2018. Both Saraki and Dogara, who appeared to be having second thoughts and started dragging his feet about leaving the APC at the last minute (until events made it too late for him to go back without losing face and influence), were the arrowhead of the internal opposition in the APC. The magic spell that the Saraki dynasty had managed to cast over the politics of Kwara State failed to work in February 2019 and Bukola Saraki, just as Adams Oshiomhole had promised, was swept out of power as he lost his re-election bid to the Senate in an O-to-gee moment. Dogara’s PDP took a hard hit (although it appears to be regaining control in some states with the conclusion of the “inconclusive” elections) in the February elections to the extent it can no longer contest the majority party position with the APC as it did for a long while after it welcomed APC defectors into its fold. The February polls settled the dispute of which party has the majority of seats in the National Assembly decisively in favour of the With members of the PDP and, perhaps, a few others ready to play ball, Ndume may be banking on pulling another Saraki-like sleight-of-hand on leaders of his party APC. But that does not mean it made the fight for the leadership of the National Assembly less of a contest for control that could very well slip through its fingers or, at the very least, sow the seed of disaffection that could portend ghastly consequences for the APC administration of Muhammadu Buhari. That is the point at which the party now stands with the challenge posed to its choice of Ahmad Lawan as the next President of the Senate against the Situational tribalists and a naïve populace By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye IHAVE said it so many times that when Nigerian politicians converge to map out plans for acquiring power which, in most cases, practically translates to securing unlimited access to unearned wealth, they do not usually remember that they came from different ethnic blocks. At such gatherings, they would all think alike, talk with one voice and even look and laugh alike. They would speak the same language. Indeed, illicit accumulation and all forms of corrupt activities do not have tribal marks. The colour of graft is the same any day. At such times, the masses are hardly remembered. They do not matter at all. Everybody is preoccupied with the much he or she would be able to accumulate and cart away for his personal luxury and that of his family and cronies. In the introduction to my new book, Nigeria: Why Looting May Not Stop, I maintained that corruption became very monstrous in Nigeria “when public office gradually ceased to be a platform for rendering selfless service and transformed into the easiest route to criminal accumulation of wealth. And the law, too, became increasingly very weak in the face of the overwhelming sleaze. Since then, generations of public officers have passed through this route, looting the country blind with utmost impunity and quitting office into incredible abundance, without any fear of anyone ever prying into the clearly unearned wealth they flaunt with revolting fanfare…” And because of this unhealthy development, I maintained on the same pages, “…an everswelling cult of looters has emerged whose nuisance value has remained the undisputed headache of the country… And given this very depressing situation and with the dreadful cult of looters growing in stature and influence, maintaining effective command at virtually all our public institutions, how then can we possibly hope to be able to sanitise the system or have free and fair elections in this country? Now, the members of this cult have so much money to throw around and so have easily enthroned themselves as formidable godfathers and kingmakers who deploy the billions at their disposal to install and remove governments at will. Many of them can single-handedly found and fund political parties without the slightest impact on their bottomless pockets. They also have all it takes to frustrate any attempt to pry into their hideous pasts. The very negligible few among them who manage to get ‘messedup’ in the ‘anti-corruption war’ are those foolish enough "to find the trouble" of those more powerful than them, or get themselves into some really complicated situation that it would be difficult to extricate them without a serious backlash capable of posing a dangerous threat to the peace and stability of the entire cult. So, they are carefully sacrificed to preserve the whole house and used in the process, too, to launder a dubious commitment to an ‘antigraft’ campaign” (Nigeria: Why Looting May Not Stop, pp.vii-x). That is the egregious story of Nigeria. Many of the politicians out there raising a lot of din about their patriotism and selfless-service may just be ordinary job seekers looking for meal tickets. And that is why I insist that Nigerian masses are so tragically naïve. Immediately these politicians disagree among themselves, either on the sharing formula or on the allocation of offices or spheres of influence, they would suddenly remember their differences which never mattered at all when they were sharing and carting away happily. Then they would return to the masses whom they had long forgotten to stoke ethnic tensions among them in order to use them to negotiate for themselves positions of power, influence and wealth. Consequently, the suffering man who had lived peacefully with his equally suffering neighbour would be persuaded to suddenly see themselves as enemies and start fighting each other. The people would be deceived into thinking they are fighting to advance the interests of their ethnic groups, not knowing that they are at war to help negotiate better Vanguard, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 3, 2019—31 Send Opinions & Letters to: wish and expressed desire of Muhammed Ndume. The selection of Femi Gbajabiamila as the next Speaker of the House of Representatives has not raised a major storm save for the potential threat that could have followed from Remi Tinubu’s wish to be deputy president of the Senate. It is highly unlikely that the office of the Speaker and that of deputy president of the Senate could be conceded to the South-West alone. While it is not clear that Tinubu has given up on her ambition, opinion seems to be settled around the fact that the choice of Gbajabiamila would be sustained without much, if any, incidence. This is hardly the case between Lawan and Ndume who is threatening to stand against the candidate of his party. Ndume is demanding a “level” field of play that he would have probably spurned had he been his party’s choice for the office of the Senate president. With members of the PDP and, perhaps, a few others ready to play ball, Ndume may be banking on pulling another Saraki-like sleightof-hand on leaders of his party. It is hardly surprising that the position of who becomes the president of the 9 th Senate has generated so much acrimonypoliticians like office. What may be of interest and, no doubt, concern for other Nigerians (given the long-term implication of the growing disagreement on the government) is the fact of the APC yet again showing itself incapable of managing victory. While it is the party’s business how it chooses to conduct its own affairs, to the extent that its failures portend danger for policy formulation and implementation in the country, then Nigerians have to be interested. We all know how the poor handling of places and limitless luxuries for selfish and callous politicians. Sometime ago, I was in one of the state capitals and what were on virtually everybody’s lips at that period were the media reports about some choice structures and juicy investments allegedly belonging to a former governor which were believed to have been acquired with the proceeds of his mindless looting. Opinions were divided on the mind-blowing report. Although some people rose in stout defense of the fellow, what I thought was unimaginable was that some others could go to the sickening extent of openly boasting that what the man was alleged to have stolen was The only divisions that ought to exist in Nigeria should be between the oppressors and the oppressed, the exploiters and the exploited, and criminally enriched and the wickedly impoverished “their” money, so, why should it be the business of anyone who was not from the state! One evening, I went to a nearby kiosk to make a purchase, and there, I saw two young men who, judging by their haggard appearance, should belong to the lowest rung of the country’s social and economic setting – the worst victims of the programme of impoverishment that successive corrupt politicians have unleashed on this country. As one of the young men expressed outrage at such mindless stealing by the former governor, the other one barked at him: “Go back to your state and talk about the stealing taking place there and leave our state alone. It is our money that was stolen and it does not concern you! Just shut your mouth, we are okay with that!” It was difficult to comprehend what I had just heard, but the fellow was dead serious, the NASS leadership crisis by the APC led to the poor relationship between the executive, particularly the presidency, and the NASS leaders. Not only were bills stalled, delayed or rejected (although a lot of the delays were caused by the incompetence of the executive personnel), members of the executive and the legislature could simply not see eye to eye. The hostility was palpable and personal to the extent that executive nominees for appointment and bills were rejected. We all know the fate the 2018 budget went through, with very damaging consequences on the economy and even the 2019 elections, before its passage. Supplementary appropriations of different shades had to be contrived in order to get things going. Rather than resolving issues inhouse, the contest for NASS leadership is now becoming an issue for national debate. Elsewhere matters like this follow laid down procedure. It is often very clear who and which party does what, either on grounds of seniority, control, influence or all three and more. But everything is done quietly without the involvement of every bystander. Conventionally, the party in control of a national legislature leads it and possible nominees for leadership position are known well ahead. But here everyone is a leader. Thus, even an Orji Uzor Kalu who has just made it to the senate is threatening “to shop” for support to be Deputy President of the Senate. This is the kind of foolery that leads to the sort of chaos that undermines legislative activities. Can our power-hungry politicians for once try to be responsible? repeating the same words to the other young man, becoming angrier as he spoke and showing clearly that he could initiate a physical combat if the other fellow continued to discuss the matter that “did not concern” him. With people who reason like this fellow abundantly existing across our country, why should any thieving public officer ever think of exercising any restraint? That is why the ethnic conflicts in most cities are periodic. Some say they only occur during elections or when some politicians have either lost out in their quest for power or are being tried for corruption. The most painful thing is that while the hungry and haggard masses are out there fighting each other, the politicians whom they wrongly assume is their champion is behind closed doors negotiating a better deal for himself. Once he has been settled satisfactorily, he would come out and tell his people to halt the hostilities. He may let a few crumbs fall to them; that is, those who did not die during the conflicts. And the deep bitterness which he had caused between the neighbours might take time to heal, if it will ever. He would move away to wallow in his usual luxuries until the need arises again for him to stoke another ethnic tension to service his narrow, selfish interests. I have been calling on Nigerians to stop listening to these politicians, but will they ever hear? There may be some of them breathing today who might agree to serve as thugs in future elections, and may lose their lives. They may champion the next ethnic tension when the politician would return to use them once more to further his selfish purposes and may even be killed or maimed in the process. Please, Nigerians, stop allowing yourselves to be used as cheap tools in the hands of these selfish and heartless politicians. The only divisions that ought to exist in Nigeria should be between the oppressors and the oppressed, the exploiters and the exploited, and criminally enriched and the wickedly impoverished. Stop fighting each other to impress your oppressors. You are all victims! *Ejinkeonye is a public affairs analyst and author. C M Y K