Egbinrin Ote(h): The National Assembly and Matters Arising
By: Pius Adesanmi.
This will be a long read. Come patiently with me, I beg you. Beyond the impudent mischief of suggestions about if and how I should intervene in the matter of the latest psychological violence wrought on the Nigerian psyche by the National Assembly – arguably the most predatory, corrupt, and irresponsible wing of our democratic experiment since 1999 – I have received tons of legitimate queries about my distance from this moment of national angst. I cannot respond to you all individually. Please accept this offering.
Of course, only poltroons would believe, hint, or suggest that there is an issue, institution, or actor in the political field that I cannot take on. Even if I originally intended to intervene in a burning national issue at a time of my own determination, I usually cancel such interventions the moment I am subjected to irritating impositions. I usually do not give any satisfaction to those who try to impose their pet peeves on others. Your pet peeve must not necessarily be mine. I don’t impose my pet peeves on even my soul mates in the struggle for Nigeria.
That said, I have kept my distance this time for some reasons. I have NASS fatigue. In over ten years of reflection and public intervention, I have written about and struggled against the National Assembly more than any other perverse arm of the Nigerian democratic polity. By the time I wrote “Egbinrin Ote(h)” in 2012 – my intervention in the Arunmah Oteh/Herman Hembe corruption scandal – I served notice of my NASS fatigue to my readers and followers. Permit me to quote copiously from the essay, “Egbinrin Ote(h)”:
“My brother, Okey Ndibe, believes that the combination of Herman Hembe, erstwhile Chairman of the House of Representatives’ Capital Market Probe, and Ms Arunmah Oteh, embattled Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, translates to Nigeria’s loss. Okey is right but there is a slight problem with his equation. To assess Hembe as a factor in any equation – even if the result is Nigeria’s loss – is to risk admitting that the National Assembly is still a subject worthy of intellectual disquisition. I guess, deep down, Okey still dares to dream of the possibility of redemption for NASS.
Some of my readers have remarked that ever since I described Nigeria’s National Assembly as an institution “populated almost exclusively by school certificate forgers, Oluwole customers, University dropouts, active and retired political assassins, and puny election riggers” in a satirical piece in December 2010, I have hardly offered any sustained discussion of that institution. They are wrong. I wrote one more time about the National Assembly before I gave up. I wrote to apologize for omitting to state in my earlier demographic profile that the National Assembly is also the retirement home of failed and corrupt former governors and the nest of at least one pedophile. It was only after this correction that I stopped writing about NASS, convinced that the body is too irredeemably corrupt to merit any further waste of my intellect.
If we admit that the National Assembly, led by a scrofulous character like David Bonaventure Mark, is irredeemable, it stands to reason that the characters who strut their stuff therein, claiming to be Distinguished This and Honorable That, are also irredeemable. Furthermore, they are utterly predictable. Any Nigerian can close his eyes and hazard a relatively safe guess about the next corruption scandal to emanate from the National Assembly. Such is NASS’s deficit in credibility and integrity that any reasonable Nigerian must understand that the said institution is a black pot that can never produce the occasional white pap. It will always produce darkness.”
Let me state, for the avoidance of any doubt, that my assessment of the National Assembly has not changed irrespective of the party now poised to misuse her against the Nigerian people. If anything, I now believe that I was generous and benevolent in my description of that Institution when I still considered her worthy of my intellectual exertions. Except to fraternize with Nigerians on this latest tragedy, I really have no intellect to waste on a body now headed by Bukola Saraki.
The second reason for my distance from the wardrobe imbroglio is that I do not want to offend thousands of fellow warriors now coming together in #OccupyNASS even before we have really held a sustained conversation on what truncated #OccupyNIgeria, why it was truncated, lessons learnt and the possibly of applying such lessons to #OccupyNASS and future #Occupys so as to escape the quagmire of accidental and ad hoc #Occupys hurriedly cobbled together for emergency situations.
There is a reason why the current outrage is being largely ignored by the Senators or being greeted with insulting explanations by Bukola Saraki. There is a reason for the unbelievable stupidity of Senator Ben Murray Bruce who wants to donate his own wardrobe allowance to Ogbeni’s working victims in Osun state. Pray, does accepting and donating such lunatic funds not indicate a legitimation of the NASS’s right to the said funds in the first place? Who told Ben Murray Bruce that Congress has ever given sisi to Senator John McCain or Senator John Kerry (when he was in Congress) to buy their Savile Row suits and Ferragamo loafers? The Senators are married to old money from whence cometh their expensive wardrobe. Let Nigerian Senators do like their American counterparts: go and marry into old money and let your wives fund your wardrobe from Daddy’s funds.
In essence, Saraki and his NASS folks believe that they have the psychology of the Nigerian firmly in their pockets; that nothing will happen after all the hot air of #OccupyNASS. Go and read Segun Adeniyi’s book and focus on how President Yar’Adua advised him, at breakfast, not to worry too much about the noise Nigerians were making over a particular issue. The President advised his aide that by next week, the Nigerian people would roll on to other preoccupations. That is what Saraki and his folks are doing: riding the storm to exhaust it. We need a conversation over what to do about the accuracy of the predictions of our rapists about us. We need to invent new thinking about new modes of agency that would enable us to surprise them.
When I still considered NASS worthy of my reflections, I wrote a lot and warned the people about the consequences of sending the worst specimens Nigeria has to offer to represent us in the two Chambers. Let’s face it: our National Assembly is the world’s largest assembly of Orangutans. I said we needed to look into how we create that situation in our respective constituencies. We have never really done that.
Only last week, Musikilu Mojeed and my people at Premium Times did a census of the full criminals, half criminals, quarter criminals, and aspiring criminals in the latest National Assembly. That sobering article came complete with the picture and criminal portfolio of each listed Senator, starting with Bukola Saraki. I thought that the said article would go viral and bring down the roof. I thought that it would garner the reaction that the wardrobe allowance is now generating. For where? That painstakingly-researched article fell into our black hole of indifference and insouciance. It couldn’t even compete with Caitlyn Jenner in our national preoccupations.
You assemble some of the most enterprising criminals in one space in Abuja, you are not irked when a newspaper does a census of these criminals, you are not worried by their congenital criminality, you then scream blue murder when their first order of business is to award themselves a wardrobe allowance. How does appealing to the sentiments, good sense, morality, and conscience of a lion prevent it from eating meat? We need to be outraged by the deeper things that the wardrobe allowance points to.
A final word on recall: great idea. We need to keep investigating that possibility while also reflecting on the infinite ability of the oppressors to truncate recall. They are the ones with access and connections to the grassroots. Learn from Ayo Fayose’s strategy of connection to the forganaizer in the streets of Ekiti. What do you, activist-intellectual elite, have to respond to that? If you try to recall Dino because of his irresponsible champagne ostentation in the face of the Stone Age poverty existence of his constituents in Okun land in Kogi state, he will go to Okun, pay the school fees of 3000 secondary school students, ride Okada in the streets of Okun towns and villages, eat amala and eran oya with ordinary farmers in Okun land.
If you, disconnected elite, turn up speaking of recall after this, Okun people will stone you. How do we apply our brains and intellectual gifts to overcoming these difficulties?
(This article was published on the late Pius Adesanmi’s Facebook wall this day five years ago. The words still ring true today)