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Saraki’s sacrifice of atonement

Bukola Saraki

In his valedictory remarks, outgoing 8th Senate President Bukola Saraki waxed very philanthropic, among many other virtues. Saraki asked the National Assembly management to distribute his severance allowance to the families of three victims of the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East geopolitical zone, as well as the children of late senators in need of financial assistance.

The details of the package was given as 20% to the family of Leah Sharibu, the lone Dapchi school girl still in custody of Boko Haram, 20% each to the families of two humanitarian workers abducted and subsequently executed by the insurgents, namely Hussaini Ahmed Khoisan and Hauwa Liman, and 40% to the children of late members of the Eighth Senate in financial assistance towards furtherance of their education through a trust fund. For good measure, Senate President Bukola Saraki invited his colleagues to donate to the trust fund in support of the cause of more Senators dying and leaving their children in need of philanthropic support. Reading the development, I lost a few tear drops.

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In the whole sordid challenge of the Boko Haram insurgency, the abducted Chibok school girls, the Dapchi school girls, the murder by execution of aid workers, Hauwa Liman, Hussainai Ahmed Khoisan represent the most humiliating happenstance to the Nigerian polity. Thus I imagine as a parent of these victims that out of the blues, I hear that the Number 3 man in a political set up that did not help to prevent this personal tragedy, is seeking popularity by donating mere droppings from the augean stable of that cesspool of sleaze that we call our National Assembly, was worse than added salt to my injury. Is there anyway, the amounts being displayed by Saraki could replace the wholesome presence of loved ones that have fallen victim to this shameful national tragedy?

My first grouse is the public spectacle that Saraki made of what should best have been a discrete well organised commitment. It serves to remind one of the dereliction that has been the reason, the 8th Senate was unable to first develop a narrative of the Nigerian insurgency, with which a global perspective towards effectively dealing with it would have been possible.

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If Saraki is the prime beneficiary of a reported N1.3bn largesse that non returning lawmakers are offered to receive as severance pay, can the meanness in his offer to victims of our tragedies be seen in their true light? This is for a period spent in the National Assembly that saw the two chambers more in recess than in session, spending more time to debate their self allocated benefits than to discuss the bigger issues of our national wellbeing. In more descent societies, serving as a lawmaker is voluntary and selfless, attracting only sitting allowance. Not so in Nigeria where it is considered a full time engagement with a severance pillage that is an existential need for the bulk of our civil servants.  The reported monthly package due a Senator is placed at averagely N13.5 million according to Senator Shehu Sani, being one of them. As much as this is severally disputed, not one Senator has convincingly set the records straight as to how much each Senator earns. Thus globally, this figure stands. Although basic remuneration per Senator is N2.3m each legislator is paid accruals of vehicle maintenance, domestic stall, entertainment, utilities, personal staff, wardrobe, and newspapers. Add to that, every 4 years, accommodation, vehicle, furniture, and severance gratuity.  It costs Nigeria N13.5m to maintain one Senator of the Federal Republic per month! The same can be adduced proportionately to the House of Representatives.

For me, this show of “magnanimity” from outgoing Senate President brings to focus, the burden that the National Assembly is on the economy and forces us to ask the question, is the institution well worth it? That they earn this much is not as decreed by the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission, the body in charge of determining those benefits. Time and again, we have said that the remunerations were set by a corrupt National Assembly which in turn blackmailed an equally corrupt Executive to accept the fixtures. It is an open secret that the main reason President Buhari has been hamstrung through his first term is that he refused to accept the corrupt dictates of the Legislature. With this in mind, Saraki can not gloat over the crumbs he has just scattered to our traumatised victims of tragic history. It is not enough sacrifice for any atonement.

So Senator Ahmed Lawan is Senate President.

At the point of concluding my piece, Senator Ahmed Lawan has emerged the Senate President. While I congratulate him, it is more important to draw President Buhari’s attention to the efficacy of being passionate over more causes than corruption. His decision to lend his passionate weight behind the choice, saw to the emergence of a team player and hence a more friendly Senate President. Evidently on all our national challenges, President Buhari needs broaden his scope to utilise fixers like Kaduna Governor Nasiru el Rufa’i.

But that Deputy Senate President is Senator Ovie Omo Agege “leaves the smile not quite in the face”. That Senator Omo Agege could emerge from the saga of the abducted mace and become Deputy Senate President is a 9th wonder of the world for the 9th Senate. We will hear a lot on this. And alas, poor South East! Who did this to that region? One had hoped that all considered, with prime offices of President, Vice President, Party Chairman being elusive, even for poetic justice, South East should have clinched Deputy Senate President, but Omo Agege! The lawmaker representing Delta central, Ovie Omo-Agege, secured 67 of the 107 votes to beat Senator Ike Ekweremadu and has been duly sworn in as deputy president of the Senate. This is politics.

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