The one stands as though about to fall. The other seemed to have overcome the storm of its early days. But now, both are in the eye of a cyclone.
It began with the Oloye Bukola Saraki who played the comedian of the television series, Eleyinmi. To be fair to him, he did not think Eleyinmi when he hid his haughty hands in his voluminous agbada. His comic majesty thought it natural. A big man with royal hubris should not show his hands to mortals. To be fair again, this column cautioned him out of that hubris. He obeyed and freed the hands out of the suffocating clutches of his showy damask. He then felt free to wear a western suit. I had feared he would sew himself a suit with overlong sleeves. That would have been a fashion tour de force, a sartorial first for a lawmaker. Well, there is no telling what a royal impresario can do.
To everyone’s relief, we know his hands are mortal just like the ones writing these lines. So, cut the Oloye some slack.
He has some capacity for humility. He shows us his hands now. Pride, however, remains a granite part of his political being. For all the charges against him and his colleagues in the upper chamber, he acts the peacock part. Hence a moral weight hangs over the Senate today.
He carried a train of drooling senators with him to court, when he was not playing court to them at home as the oloye of Nigeria’s legislature.
Yakuba Dogara seemed to have transcended the low script. Once his triumph as speaker was complete, he draped himself with a sort of parliamentary dignity. He spoke the right things, had the right airs, sported the right suit. He sounded not only patriotic, but also pious. He revved up his homage to Oyedepo’s church. He gave the impression of a big tent leader.
He also shielded his chamber from the turbulence of the Senate. He did not have a spectacular first year, but a quiescent one. No brilliance, but silence. Compared to the puerile tempest of
Oloye’s ambience, Dogara was a good tenant of the lower chamber.
Until last week, it seems. First he fired Abdulmumin Jibrin, the Kano legislator who headed the Appropriation Committee. The charge? He padded his budget proposal with a princely N4 billion. The man had some pride. He pre-empted his firing by resigning. He was replaced, for fairness, with another Kano man. As Nigerians say, nothing spoil. But not for long. Jibrin boiled over later. He charged back. If he was ‘fired’ over N4 billion, we should go back to our math lessons in school. Four times 10? Yeah, that is his reply. Dogara and his team had padded their constituency projects 10 times over his puny proposal, if it was true.
Here we go. Where was the Dogara of the pious air? The Dogara of baby face. The Dogara of the calm waters, of impregnable dignity. The Dogara who took on the anti-corruption frock when he shocked us with the news of a man who domiciled over a billion Naira in the belly of a farm.
He has to face charges. He said he was innocent. He charged back that Jibrin had no moral fibre to attack him over attempts to introduce an immunity clause for lawmakers.
Suddenly, the Winners Chapel man looked sanctimonious. His press release was more insistent on defending the immunity clause than the impunity of N40 billion. We see here that the two-chamber legislature has become a burden on this democracy today.
The lawmakers who should be seeking ways out of the ennui of the day are fighting for their moral well-being. One has to show it is not involved in forgery. The Oloye has been mocked in public for stating in his assets declaration that he owned a mansion that did not exist. He knew he would own the house before he declared, a prophet of his own prosperity. By implication, he wrote a prophecy in his assets declaration.
The lawmakers turned into a stinking muck. The first story was the presidency’s stumbles. Buhari’s budget was flayed for inconsistencies of figures, for fabulous padding, for illiteracy. Like Shakespeare asked, when correction lies in the hands that committed wrong, to whom shall we complain?
What moral right will they latch on to when a minister of education has turned standards in our unity schools into a thoroughfare of mediocrity? Or why people now steal food just to survive, or why so much division is tearing apart our fragile being as a people, or whether we should tackle head-on the frailties of our constitution?
As many have called the Oloye to step down as his case plays out in court, Dogara has no moral right to retain his seat as speaker until a thorough investigation into Jibrin’s allegation is done. Jibrin also ought to step aside as a lawmaker until his matter is resolved. That is the proper thing to do. But Nigeria is not proper, and both men will continue to tug at each other’s sleeves in the course of their tour of duty that ends in three years.
Ironically, Jibrin and Dogara were in the same camp in the battle for speaker. They were apparently strange bedfellows. The N100 billion constituency project is not the job of lawmakers. They are not project executors. They are advocates of good work in their constituencies. But to execute belongs to ministers and directors-general. This drama exposes the corruption of the Tenants of the House, apologies to Wale Okediran whose searing novel unveiled the fetid lies and greed of our democracy from the lawmaker’s standpoint.
They are not good tenants. They have abused the landlord like the one mocked in Graham Greene’s A Heart of The Matter. The reason neither Oloye nor Dogara will step down reminds one of the novel of Nobel laureate Pearl S. Buck on pre-Mao feudal China where a man rises from a humble estate to be a great lord. The novel, The Good Earth, ends on a tearful note. In his hoary years, the lord hears his sons plot to sell the land. He faints. He knows only the land all his life. The difference with our lawmakers is that they have no investment in this house. The house belongs to the people.
We are the landlords and they are like “ghosts unlawfully tenanting a defunct carcass,” in the words of Melville.
But the landlords – we, the people – are impotent. We own the house. But we have no keys. If not, we would have yelled like the Poet Byron, “O man! Thou feeble tenant of an hour… corrupt by power. Who knows thee well must quit thee with disgust.” They won’t quit. By our impotence, we have made them tenants in chief.