Nigeria: Mark – Between Service and Opportunism
Babatunde Ajibade, Leadership
The current wave of insecurity across Nigeria has today reached a level where the nation is not only wobbly, but its image in the international community is fast nose-diving. Locally, the dangers of insecurity have driven the preponderant population in the country into despair.
A foreboding that the whole country may disintegrate is looming and the governing clique appears ill-prepared with solutions.
The deadly Boko Haram attacks, which were expected to subside during the Muslim period of fasting have instead increased due largely to the failure of the country’s leadership to respond appropriately to the new security challenge.
Thus, Boko Haram has not only sustained its deadly attacks in its traditional enclave of Borno, Yobe, Kano, Gombe, and to a lesser extent Kaduna, it has also opened new front lines – Sokoto and Kogi states. And while the lethal campaign of the Boko Haram sect is yet to peter out, the insecurity situation in the country is taking a much more frightening dimension with the high spate of kidnapping in Delta State as well as the gradual return of militants to the creeks in the Niger Delta region. Going by President Jonathan’s admission, crude oil theft has today reached an unprecedented and embarrassing level.
What is most surprising about the current developments in our country however, is the manner in which most keen observers have heaped the blame for the glaring failure to address the country’s numerous challenges only on President Jonathan.
The National Assembly in any society governed under democratic rules is the fortress of democracy, and is expected to light the way for the two other arms of government as well as the populace to follow. However, the current National Assembly in our country under the leadership of David Alechenu Bonaventure Mark is not leading by example in many respects.
On national security matters, the current Senate President has at best paid lip service to the desperate need for a lasting solution. Beyond the issue of insecurity there are other critical matters on which the current Senate under Mark has not lived up to expectations.
These include the concerns over poor implementation of the 2012 budget, the national pension crisis and the resultant scandal dogging the Senate leadership, the fuel subsidy saga, etc. The Senate leadership, perhaps in a spirited attempt to counter the popular belief today that the House of Representatives is the conscience of the nation, set up a probe into the poor implementation of the budget.
At the opening of that budget probe, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu made a heroic show of courage on the part of the Senate leadership to confront the executive over the obvious failure to faithfully implement the 2012 budget. But all of Ekweremadu’s show ended for what it was – a mere pretence – when Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala appeared at the hearing.
Similarly, the Senate probe of the huge fraud in the management of the nation’s pension funds lost steam shortly after a scandal broke about an alleged N2 billion bribery involving the leadership of the Senate. Today, it will appear, the entire probe of the pensions fraud has been swept under the carpet.
One would therefore be excused to conclude here that with the monumental fraud that has been going on in the petroleum sector, the rudderless state of our economy and the inefficient power supply in the country all under the supervision of the ministers that were confirmed by the Senate, the upper chamber did not do a good job of clearing the right people for the jobs.
The Senate President was also quick to take credit on behalf of his colleagues for the resolution of the dispute, at the beginning of the year, between the organised Labour and the presidency over the fuel price increase when it was clear the Senate only seized the initiative from the House of Representatives.
We all recall that it was members of the House who cut short their recess and convened an emergency session where they took sides with hapless Nigerians who took to the streets in protest by demanding the immediate reversal of the obnoxious increase.
But for the efforts of Labour, civil society groups and ordinary Nigerians with the support of the House of Reps, the Senate would have conveniently let the presidency have its way.
Again in tackling the security challenges facing the nation, the House of Representatives has taken the lead by going beyond the routine condemnations that the Senate leadership is known for and summoned President Jonathan to explain what actions he is taking to secure the lives of Nigerians and their property.
Like the presidency, the Senate has yet to articulate a workable plan of action to help surmount this challenge that seriously threatens our existence as a nation. Perhaps this sort of opportunism is not unexpected from a man who has over the years become adept at seizing such moments to ride to the top.
A closer look at how he has been piloting the affairs of the upper chamber puts this in proper perspective. The shrewd manner, for example, he constituted standing committees has not gone unnoticed to discerning Nigerians. It is not in doubt that the Senate President turned it into a political tool with which he rewarded his cronies and loyalists.
That Mark was willing to sacrifice merit to the detriment of good governance in pursuit of his self serving interests says a great deal about his capability to lead a complex and diverse nation as Nigeria. He may not be aware of it yet – being consumed in the enormous power he wields but surely his very poor quality of leadership is without doubt telling on not only the Senate but on Nigeria as a whole.
-Ajibade, a public affairs commentator wrote from Surulere, Lagos