Friday, October 09, 2009

Their most honourable jokers

"LOOK, I think these our honourable lawmakers in Abuja are jokers."
" Easy. Easy, man... Don't allow anger to poison your soul. I have been warning you, the way you carry Nigeria on your head, worrying yourself sick about every little bit, you'd go grey before your time, and you'd be lucky not to go down with hyper-something. And the world won't end."
"It is just that some people make it difficult for you not to be angry in this country."
"So what is eating you up? "
"I have just read a story reporting that some lawmakers in the House of Representatives are pursuing a Bill which will grant lawmakers something in the nature of an immunity from criminal prosecution."
"Oh that. Don't worry yourself. It won't happen."
"The Bill has passed second reading."
"I say it won't happen. Because in that same House of Representatives, there are other lawmakers who are insisting that the law does not make sense."
"I don't want to count on that. I think we should all shoot down the Bill before it begins to develop a life of its own."
"To have any immunity from prosecution, members of the legislature would have to amend Section 308 of the Constitution. The point is that even that Section 308 which grants immunity from criminal prosecution to the President, the Vice President, Governors and Deputy Governors while they are in office is in contention. Our position is that it should be removed from the Constitution."
"Two years ago, we were told that once a President's or Governor's tenure expires, he will be up for prosecution for whatever crimes he may have committed while in office. So, how many Governors have been prosecuted? Are these not the same men who are being protected by their friends in privileged positions within the system? And now members of the House of Representatives also want immunity. The very thought of it!"
"If I may play the Devil's advocate, what the Reps are asking for is slightly different. Hon. Henry Dickson (PDP, Bayelsa) who reportedly sponsored the Bill for an Act to amend the Legislative Houses and Privileges Act, Cap L 12 2004 and for other related purposes is only asking for an expansion of privileges."
"That is..."
"The way I understand it, he is proposing that lawmakers should be treated with greater respect. If they commit any crime, law enforcement agencies should not just go and arrest them anyhow on the basis of mere allegation, except there is a warrant of arrest or if the man or woman is caught committing the crime. And in fact before any lawmaker in the National Assembly or the State Houses of Assembly can be arrested, the law enforcement agencies should first seek the permission of the leadership of the concerned House."
"€nd you say that is not a request for immunity and an abuse of privilege? Lawmakers want to usurp the powers of the police, and place themselves above the law. I say No. In fact, this is why I have always insisted that we should make our legislatures, part-time institutions, so some people don't think that they are so special. The law is no respecter of persons"
"Listen to this. The promoters of the Bill argue that the Bill will check the excesses of the security agencies"
"It will promote the excesses of lawmakers."
"Listen to what one of them said: "ìf we accept that members of the legislative Houses are honourable men and women, therefore the need for extra measures should be taken in arresting such a person."
"Well, I don't agree that all our lawmakers are honourable men and women. I don't see what is honourable about a lawmaker who slaps a security guard or his own colleague. I don't see what is honourable about lawmakers who during elections help to snatch and stuff ballot boxes. I don't consider an absentee lawmaker who is only interested in enjoying privileges honourable. These guys don't have the immunity they are asking for yet, and they are already going about telling people: Don't you know who I am? Have you forgotten how a former police chief once told us that the National Assembly is full of crooks? "
"Well some of the lawmakers disagreed, saying they don't need additional privileges as lawmakers."
"Those are the good ones. I salute them. The thing in this country is that people in positions of authority have a terrible reward mentality. They think they are superior to the rest of us. The only good thing I see in the proposal is the additional request that voting on the floor of the legislature should be recorded. I support that. We want to know the benchwarmers. And those who are are defending the people's interests. But immunity. No. If any lawmaker commits any crime, he should be subjected to the due process of the law like every other Nigerian. If he is innocent, the proper authority to determine that is the court of law, not the leadership of the Legislature. And it is also not the duty of the legislature to determine whether one of its members has a case to answer or not."
"You know when Nigeria is moving towards general elections all kind of things come up. If this Bill is allowed to pass, it means that if a lawmaker is accused of rigging or violent conduct during elections in 2010 and 2011, security agents cannot arrest him until they get clearance from the legislature."
"My take is that the proposed Bill is frivolous. Look in Italy, the Constitutional Court has just ruled that the Italian Prime Minister, Berlusconi can no longer enjoy immunity from prosecution!"
"I have told you it is all about the next elections. What do you think is happening in Anambra? It is all about the PDP wanting to win the Gubernatorial election, or to even frustrate it, so that their anointed candidate can be rigged into office. Look at what they are doing to APGA?"
"APGA's problem is not with the PDP. It is a question of internal crisis and disagreements with INEC"
"What is the difference between INEC and PDP? Can't you see the connection? Create problems in APGA, throw the party into confusion even if it means disobeying the court of law, and while APGA is fighting, smuggle the PDP into power. It is such a simple strategy. I can see through it."
"Poor Governor Obi. He had to turn into a newspaper article writer to draw attention to the conspiracy against him, against the rule of law, and against the ordinary voter in Anambra state"
"But he has been declared the APGA candidate by the Umeh faction. Although the two factions in APGA are in court."
"And you think INEC is going to wait for the courts? It has given the parties up till today to submit the names of their gubernatorial candidates."
"The same old story all over again."
"But the Ghanaian electoral chief who came to Nigeria to teach us how to conduct elections said something interesting. He says we should not blame Iwu for the problems with our electoral process. In his reckoning, there are many other factors that are responsible for electoral crisis and that other actors should be blamed."
"What do you expect him to say? Look, that line is taken straight from the pages of INEC's official report on the 2007 elections. He is telling INEC precisely what INEC would like to hear. And do you think the Ghanaian chief electoral commissioner will come to Nigeria as a guest of INEC or whoever and then condemn INEC? But we know the truth. What he is saying actually is that it is up to Nigerians to improve their electoral system. We can't quarrel with that can we?"
"To o o"
"But it is not only our elections that we need to reform, transform, change, restructure, redesign, re-focus... lend me one more word."
"It's alright. I think your point is clear."
"I watched the Nigeria-Germany match in the U-20 FIFA tournament in Egypt and I got all my answers. As a country we have lost the capacity to hold on to good things. We ruin our own chances with our attitude. We take one step forward, we take two steps backwards almost immediately. I am glad we are out of Egypt. And I won't be surprised if tomorrow our fate in the World Cup 2010 is sealed."
"We didn't deserve to win in Egypt. If we did, the Nigeria Football Federation would have gone round boasting about nothing. It is about time we realised that the world no longer respects nations that gamble, only nations that are properly organised."
"What is wrong with us?"
"You know, talking about Anambra, each time I reflect on what is going on in that state, I remember former Governor Mbadinuju who used to pray that "It shall be well with Anambra." And I ask when shall it be well with Anambra?"
"When shall it be well with Nigeria?"
"I guess when we all become militants, and we all take up grenades, mortar bombs, machine guns of NATO capacity.. did you see the list of frightening arms and ammunitions that those Niger Delta militants submitted? It is an open indictment of the Nigerian security system. Only God knows how many more of such deadly weapons are still in the unknown camps and in the hands of other militants who didn't have a chance to go to Aso Villa to wine and dine with the President ."
"ì hear the other people in the struggle are angry. They say some people have become elite militants shaking the President's hands, and have abandoned the struggle. They are determined to show that real power lies in the Niger Delta with the people. Have you not heard MEND saying it is not over?"
"But I read somewhere that Government Tompolo has now agreed to help the Federal Government protect the pipelines."
"No. The man has denied that. President Yar'çdua as part of the amnesty should have asked that man to change his name from Government to something else. We can't have two Governments in Nigeria!"
"I guess that all the arms and ammunitions that have been taken from the militants will now be handed over to our security agents and militants will now be asked to organise training for Nigerian soldiers and police men in the use of sophisticated weaponry."
"I feel like becoming a militant or a kidnapper. I hear those ones too may be granted amnesty soon. In fact, I also want immunity"
"But you know if they don't take development to the Niger Delta very quickly and address the core issues at the heart of the struggle, they are just joking. Have you read two recent books on the subject, Michael Peel's A Swamp Full of Dollars and Steve Azaiki's The Evil of Oil: Crises in the Niger Delta?
"What are they saying?"
"Look at the Governors, they think this whole thing is a joke. I understand the whole thing has been reduced to a competition: which Governor got more militants to surrender. They actually think this whole thing is a joke."
"But is it not?"