Like Mark, like Saraki By Steve Osuji

161212F1.National-Assembly-Cash is king, no, cash is god.

May history be damned! Monetise our legacy! Hand us cash bequeathals! This must be the silent chant of members of our National Assembly (NASS) in the last 16 years. If only they knew any better; if only they realized that the unit of measure of life’s worth lies in legacies and not currencies.

This is why history will have no golden chapter for Senator David Mark who was senate president and head of NASS for eight years. The refrain of his supporters has been that he was instrumental to stabilizing the Fourth Republic and Nigeria’s nascent democracy. But ‘stabilize’ to what end? Didn’t he merely hold down the cow for it to be milked to death?

As this column has always canvassed, the position of the Senate President is only second in importance to that of the president of the federal republic. Therefore, under the control of a noble and enlightened mind, the NASS is a veritable instrument for ringing far-reaching socio-political and constitutional changes. But as we have witnessed, none of the structural dysfunction plaguing the polity was righted; no landmark legislation such that could untangle the system and unleash the potentialities of the state was pushed.

For 16 years, the NASS remained a wayward, licentious lad and in eight years under David Mark’s leadership, it grew into a rapacious money mongering ogre; a loose King Kong trampling the polity and gobbling up our commonwealth. Mark will be remembered for the singular achievement of nurturing a NASS where members earned more than members of the US Congress and the British Parliament put together. We will remember him for bequeathing us with the inimitable legacy of a rogue assembly during his presidency.

We remember Mark today and for always for that outstanding record of creating a NASS that earned the highest wages in the world. We will always remember him for breeding a corps of hard-hearted men and women who are lacking in compunction or empathy for the teeming horde of a poor and deprived populace.

We will remember David Mark and his gang not only for mindlessly immiserising the people but for also over-sighting the historic pillage of Nigeria in the last five years. Never in our history had a parliament entered into such incestuous relationship with the executive branch to rape and ravage the country and her people.

Saraki, Chip of the old PDP block While we shall allow history to damn Mark and his baleful lot, we shall have to march on the current Assembly. In just a few days, it has become obvious that Senator Bukola Saraki, the new president of the Senate is as much a lost soul as Mark. For Saraki, ‘change’ must be a stupid new buzzword Nigerians have just discovered. None of all that ‘change nonsense’ for him; Nigeria’s billions of naira beckons, it seems. His eyes must be firmly glued to a future of imperial positions, and he needs money to purchase it. That is all that matters; again, legacy be damned!

One had thought that Senator Saraki would be influenced by the advantage of better learning and better democratic credentials. We are mistaken it seems. A buccaneer is a pirate and a vampire will always relish blood. Having tasted blood (of the people) in his first term it is too late to let up now. It does not matter that the economy is flailing, it does not matter that revenues have dried up drastically and it does not matter that workers are not being paid their humble wages across the country. All that matters is to grab positions over which they had bludgeoned themselves since inauguration in May. Now that positions seem settled, the time has come to shovel funds generously into their pockets.

This must be the best job in the world Is it possible that these NASS members have hurled home the sums we hear they have hurled in just three months of bickering and taking recesses? Is it true that about N13 billion has been shared by our lawmakers already? Is it true that each of the senators has been paid at least N36 million while each of the House of Representatives members has pocketed about N25 million so far?

It is scary that all our law makers including supposed ‘noble’ men and women (like Ben Murray-Bruce and Dino Melaye) in these pristine chambers would not take a definitive and open stance against what is obviously an obscene, under-the-table payouts. How on earth did the NASS arrive at an annual budget of N120 billion (N150billion up till last year)? Why should NASS comprising of only 469 lawmakers have a bureaucracy of about 4660 civil servants?

Even at that, why would a NASS with a total head count of 5129 persons have an annual budget of N120 billion while a state like Benue for instance, with a population of about 4.2 million people has an annual budget of N98.5 billion. To think that such states like Benue would have to also provide infrastructure and public utilities such as roads, water, health and educational facilities among others. What this suggests is that the NASS may not need more than N25 billion in total annual budget.

We will therefore expect the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) in all its twiddling and twaddling about fixing legislators’ emoluments and pay cuts, tell us what N120 billion is used for.

The Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (OAGF) which ought to scrutinize all appropriated expenditures in the federation has been remiss in its duties. It is its duty to ensure that every kobo of this whopping sum is accounted for.

Members of NASS have been sharing cash as if they were hooded bandits sharing booty this last decade because the federal audit system had become near moribund. Since it has become obvious that Saraki is anything but a change agent and that it seems his leadership would be worse than Mark’s, Nigerians must brace up to effect the change they need by themselves. Enough is enough! Who needs the senate anyway?

NATION