“We are representatives of the people, elected by the people. She is a government appointee and cannot pretend to love Nigerians more than us. We are representing the interests of Nigerians; we do not know about her. If she is representing other interests, let her tell Nigerians.” This quote belongs to Zakari Mohammed, a member of the House of Representatives. The target of his attack here is no other than Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who doubles as minister of finance and coordinating minister for the economy. It was at the height of the recent face-off between the executive and the legislators on the level of budget implementation. For now, tension has cooled down.
Any way the legislators are on vacation. Aren’t they lucky? Several issues catch the fancy in that short quote. The first is the matter of love. Mohammed says Okonjo-Iweala does not love Nigerians more than the legislators. Many Nigerians will disagree with Mohammed though. Since 1999, when the country returned to civil rule, the conduct and carriage of the nation’s legislators do not in the least show a bunch of people who are in love with either the country or the people. Rather, what we have witnessed so far is a continuation of the Locust Invasion of the military era. Today, in spite of the hue and cry from Nigerians on the scandalous salaries and allowances of legislators, they have done nothing to correct the aberration. Nigerian legislators are believed to be the highest paid in the world. And that has not stopped them from arm-twisting ministers and heads of parastatals into awarding mouth-watering contracts to companies fronting for many of them. If the legislators have their ears enough to the ground, they must by now know Nigerians do not believe in the oversight functions they carry out. It is believed to be another avenue to further loot the nation. Many examples abound, such as the Herman Hembe Committee on the Capital Market and Farouk Lawan Ad Hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy. These two recent probes by the House ended up in scandal. They are not the first to so do; neither will they be the last. Many Nigerians believe that the manner in which the present crop of legislators and their predecessors and a wide spectrum of politicians in the three tiers of government, conduct the nation’s business does not in the least show any patriotism. Rather, they come across as lotus eaters, who want to corner as much as they can of the common wealth before disaster strikes again, God forbid though.
Mohammed equally talked about being elected representatives of the people. Elections my foot! Although we have come a long way from 1999, there are many legislators in the House, who are there courtesy of selections and mindless rigging of elections. Thus, it is not surprising when they get into office and lord it over us. How many legislators and by extension elected public officers can visit their neglected constituencies today without a large retinue of security men? Yet, those are the places from which they got their “mandate”. Those constituencies have become the proverbial church congregation that is getting leaner [poorer], while the pastors [legislators] are getting fatter. So Mohammed and his ilk should go on with what they know how to do best, feeding fat on the nation, and spare our eardrums of sanctimonious talks about love and of being the elected representatives of the people.