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Trojan horse versus working horse

By   /  April 11, 2016  /  No Comments

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Osinb-AmboSometimes in this republic, some well-meaning folks have questioned the essence of a legislature. They see the National Assembly as merely a chamber of opportunists, of jobbers, of men and women of claptrap vanity. They offer little but milk the nation to the bone.

They are like the Polish parliament after the middle ages that was part cantankerous but wholly fruitless. A historian described it as a “divinely ordained confusion.”

But the National Assembly is theoretically a necessity, a robust counterweight to the despotic impulses of power at the centre. In Nigeria, though, our legislature hardly adheres to the principles that inspired Montesquieu to dream up this delicacy of balancing for modern democracy. We need them as we need two gangs instead of one in a neighbourhood. So, if one menaces, the other can save us. It is a cynical necessity.

The sense of the worthless lawmaker came up last week when the National Assembly decided to strike out some cardinal gems of the 2016 budget. They turned a baleful eye to major railway projects in spite of counterpart funding and brought their knife down on major road projects.

It is a tale of contradictory impulses: greed versus progress. They sinned against major road projects and gave their nods to road projects where no studies have begun. The executive was thinking about the constituencies. The lawmakers were fantasising about their constituency projects.

For irony, just last week, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), rolled out for the first time a comprehensive vision of the PMB administration’s economic plan. It was the First National Forum on the Economy organised by The Nation. Presented with rigour and coherence, it answered lingering questions in the light of a cascading Naira, fuel woes, infrastructure decay, power paralysis and a rising army of the jobless.

The two-day conference featured not only the vice president but also governors and members. Other than the vice president, the first day featured the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode and the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha. The main fixture of the second day was Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima.

The governors of Oyo and Ogun states sent representatives. But the point was made clear that as far as Nigeria’s progress is concerned, a coherent plan is required.

The vice president’s speech is what we should have heard since. It explained the interconnect between power and development, infrastructure and job, the power of social initiatives as palliatives in a harsh environment.

Yet the lawmakers have thrown into it a Trojan Horse. They are saying they want to return to business as usual. They want to stem progress.

If to generate power we need gas, we must start now. If there are no pipelines to transmit gas from East to West where the plants are domiciled, we cannot afford to wait. In the same sense, we need to get the trains from Lagos all the way to Calabar, and it entails connecting all the states in the Niger Delta and East in one line. In the Jonathan era, China was ready, Jonathan was busy wasting dollars on politics and vanity.

Now that PMB is ready, the law makers are saying no. This is what can be called the Trojan horse of Nigerian governance. The law makers must guard against that image. With one of its leaders under the gun of moral impropriety, this is not the time for the law makers to obstruct things.

The executive must learn not to be held hostage by the lawmakers. With Osinbajo’s coherence, the government should have moved forward with its programme. It does not need to wait for the budget approval in order to attack the heres and nows of development.

Governor Ambode, who has started what may be the boldest initiative of these times, called for “political will.” He said it in the context of his agricultural MOU with Kebbi State, with a potential to open up the greatest agrarian push in our history. The PMB administration can roll out work on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, power projects, and work on the rail lines without the Trojan horse of lawmakers.

The term Trojan Horse dates back to the Trojan War, when the Greeks sought to take Troy. The Greeks built a wooden Horse and left it near Troy and sailed away. The Trojans saw it as a gift, but inside Greeks soldiers hid. Once the Trojans took in the horse, the soldiers crept out and defeated Troy. Both Homer and Virgil wrote fascinating accounts about this epic battle. Virgil wrote, in his account in the Aeneid, “whatever it is, I fear Greeks, even those bearing gifts.” Hence the phrase Greek gift has come to represent an undesirable present from an enemy. Trojan horse has been appropriated in computer language as a sneaky and dangerous virus.

If the lawmakers are now the Trojan horse bearing Greek gifts, we must wage our war for progress creatively. With the PMB almost a year in office, it ought to have mined its creative gifts to source funds in lieu of the budget. It can be done. It could be in the form of loans or grants. The Nigerian government is too big and the country too needy for huge work of development to remain in the abeyance for so long.

Governor Okorocha made a salient point. He noted that we have big agriculture budget at the centre but no land. Spicing his speech with humour and anecdotes, he talked up the economy by emphasising practical approaches.

Backing his presentation with slides about his state, Borno State was ravaged by Boko Haram, lost its sense of being and was even about to become a de facto theocracy in defiance of the centre. He was there come fire and bomb and suicides and Chibok, working up the civilian JTF. He spoke about his school feeding initiatives, his emphasis on agriculture, several housing projects for the dispossessed and the need for the nation to rally round the state to bring the people back from the brink. Shettima became a metaphor for hope among ruins.

From the story of the conference, it is clear that Governor Ambode hit the bull’s eye with his call for political will. It is what will make the difference between paralysis and progress. It will make the difference between Trojan horse and work horse.

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