This month a year ago, Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu conspired with top clerks of the National Assembly and bastardized the senate rules of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Saraki and Ekweremmadu used the resultant playbook to choreograph their coronation as Deputy Senate President and Senate President respectively. On the first anniversary of that farce, they are parlaying the very powers of the incumbency they procured through forgery to shield themselves from the judicial consequences of their culpability. They are moving to alter the constitution to grant themselves immunity: And they are proposing, for good measure, to gift themselves life pension –a reward for perpetrating the forgery!
To be sure, Saraki and Ekweremmadu couched their life pension bid in terms radically different from the selfish agenda it is. They are marketing it as a national interest project. They are hawking the fallacy that guaranteeing them life pension equates to building the institution of Nigerian legislature.
Saraki and Ekweremmadu included the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives as beneficiaries of the emergent clause to bestow tonal balance on the ‘institution building’ trope. They co-opted the heads of the lower house to make more credible the far-fetched claim that this package is not about the persons of its co-authors: It is about the National Assembly, the institution they happen to represent.
At the two-day retreat organized by the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Constitution Review in Lagos, Ekweremadu pitched that line. He said, ‘’ This has nothing to do with an individual. It is about the institution. Let us not politicise it. Nobody elected the Chief Justice of Nigeria but he enjoys pension. But if we cheapen our own institution, so be it. Let us not make this a personal thing.”
Propriety does not permit a potential beneficiary of a legal review to dictate the letters of a provision that will exclusively favor him. But, let the awkwardness of Ekweremadu’s interference fade into the background. For a moment, assume the messenger is above conflict of interest. Weigh the message.
Ekweremadu would have you believe his life pension bid is not a personal thing. But the case he makes has zero altruistic content. His remarks, instead, confirmed that he is impelled by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. He said he begrudges the Chief Justice of Nigeria his entitlements. He wants to be pension mates of the head of the Nigerian judiciary!
More important, Ekweremadu was remiss in substantiating the premise of his case for life pension parity. He predicated his proposal on the hypothesis that the strength of ‘the institution’ of the Nigerian legislature is a function of the payment the Nigeria state guarantees former principal officers of the National Assembly in retirement.
To appreciate the illogic that is the core of this egocentric proposal: Ekweremadu confuses a life pension that will build up his individual fortune with abstract ‘institution’ building. He sells the specious notion that the Nigerian legislature and by extension, the Nigerian democracy, will rise to its best promise when himself and Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Deputy Speaker start living happily ever after –at the taxpayer’s expense!
No lie can be more false and risible. But this thinking typifies the Nigerian politician’s strategy of projecting a selfish rip-off design that will enrich him as concept that will benefit the country and the citizenry.
Poverty of the mind is what underlies this Saraki/Ekweremmadu effort to superimpose their avarice on the law of the land. These two men have certainly accumulated an abundance of creature comforts that will last them till death. But they are not contented; they are hankering after more worldly goods. They are possessed of the nagging fear that they would fall into destitution the day their taxpayer-enabled accumulation streak stops.
The Sarakis and Ekweremmadus are people whose interest and ingenuity would not lean toward the conditions of the poor. These are ultra-narcissists who are infatuated with themselves. They are egotists who can’t help anybody but themselves. They are wretched money grubbers who are so greedy every money they grab merely serves to make them needier than they were before!
The muslim from Ilorin and the Christian from Ani-Nri are spoiled children of an over-generous polity. Nigeria has so pampered them they have inevitably grown to presume that Nigeria is indebted to them as they long as they exist. They now have a god complex. They believe that Nigerians owe them sacrifices, sacrifices, sacrifices.
The god complex inspires them to advise that it is in our best interest to prioritize the filling of the abyss of their pockets. It drives them to suggest, most patronizingly, that we would be doing ourselves a favor if we place them on life pension. We would be helping our miserable lives by paying them pension. We would be enriching ‘the institution’: Not them.
This god complex presupposes that they would be doing us a favor by accepting that token. They would be bending over backwards to receive the paltry pension for our own sake. They would be condescending to receive the pension because they know that ritual will translate to the deepening of Nigerian democracy and improvement of the lot of the Nigerian people!
The gods, like Ola Rotimi would say, are not to blame. Gods don’t make themselves. Man creates them. Saraki and Ekweremmadu are the gods we created. We created them, like their less audacious predecessors, by assigning a value differential between them and us. We deified them, by a protocol of prostration and repetitious giving, to develop an appetite for expensive sacrifice.
Saraki and Ekweremmadu are one of the highest paid legislators in the world. Their pay is infinitely higher than the value they add to the polity. Their pay is plain hyper-indulgence. Outside their current positions and the universe of Nigerian politics, they have a near zero chance of landing a job with comparable remuneration. The life pension bid is, thus, their attempt to secure immunity from the real world, a value-rewarding system that would be loath to pay them ten thousand times more than their demonstrable aptitude for problem solving!
Saraki and Ekweremadu, deep down, dread the day in the future when they will be required to collect ‘severance allowance,’ that one last payment that would mark the end of their dependence on the Nigerian treasury. The ‘forgery’ they seek to effect on the constitution will insure them against that eventuality. The forgery will ensure that their parasitism on the Nigerian taxpayer lasts till kingdom come!
The camp of Saraki and Ekweremmadu says ‘enjoyment’ is the operative word. Stella Oduah (PDP, Anambra North) said that much. While speaking in favor of the proposition, Oduah argued that Saraki and Ekweremadu ”should enjoy this benefit”.
And you have to take her word for it. Oduah cannot possibly misidentify an ‘enjoyment plot’. She is veteran of ‘benefit enjoyment.’ She was the Minister of Aviation who ‘enjoyed’ by purchasing two BMW cars for the price of five Obama limousines!
She is a ‘Princess.’ The only reason why she could have deigned to subject her royalty to the rigor of running for the senate was because being a ‘distinguished senator’ would reunite her with the ‘enjoyment’ she experienced as an ‘honorable minister’!
She was right when she implied that the life pension was a euphemism for lifelong enjoyment. The life pension is, indeed, a code for servicing hedonism. It is about catering to the tastes of men who would rather vegetate as idle, financial invalids than hustle and fend for themselves.
If shame weren’t a scarce commodity, Saraki and Ekweremadu would have felt insulted if somebody broached this life pension joke. They would have protested against being officially listed as national liabilities. But these men are the ones trivializing themselves. They are the ones saying they can’t feed themselves as private citizens. They are the ones saying they would turn beggars if they were separated from the taxpayer’s money.
What has the Saraki senate presidency achieved in one year to earn him and Ekweremmadu life pension?
Saraki brought in ‘opinion boxes’ into the National Assembly and organized a big, press-covered event to ‘launch’ the outdated pieces of furniture!
Saraki shut the Nigerian senate countless times and coaxed Nigerian senators to rally like a football supporters’ club at his every appearance at his Code of Conduct Bureau corruption trial.
Saraki reduced the Nigerian senate to the point of scorn. That body has never been a well respected assembly. But he has done a spectacular job of diminishing it; making it a symbol of prodigality, an excrescence of waste!
In February, Saraki took delivery of new exotic cars worth 330 million naira. He did that in the midst of national famine, at a time when the Federal Government and a plurality of state governments could barely finance their basic routines.
When reports of the development spurred outrage, he made his now pro forma plea: The cars are not for self; they are for ‘the institution’!
Saraki’s background makes him an addict of freebies. He was raised in the lap of pleasure, groomed to be heir of his father’s political real estate, and educated with a sense of entitlement.
Close to the end of his term as governor of Kwara State, Bukola got his surrogates to hand him an obscene pension law that entitled him to 100% of the base salary of the incumbent governor, three cars every three years, furniture allowance, free medical treatment for his family members, unlimited number of drivers and domestic staff, etc!
Saraki wants life pension from the Federal Government to supplement his Kwara entitlement: So that he can collect, ambidextrously, pension from his Ilorin serfdom with the left hand and pension from Abuja with the right hand!
Ekweremmadu, in comparison, seems pitiable. He is an apostate lawyer, having left his practice since 1997. He opened an FM station in Enugu recently. He needs the life pension because the profit from that modest shop cannot fund the lifestyle Abuja has benchmarked for him as a ranking senator and Deputy Senate President!
Times are hard. Majority of Nigerians are experiencing untold hardship and hunger. They cannot bear more blood-sucking from insatiable leeches. If Saraki and Ekweremmadu are in doubt, let them ‘forge’ the constitution and insert their right to life parasitism!
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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