Our lawmakers’ sponsored trip to Ghana

By Casmir Igbokwe
Recently, two friends confided in me their inability to perform their conjugal duties. One of them wanted some pieces of advice. The other wanted some money to buy libido-enhancing drugs. I am not a doctor. But I guess that the problem with these men is psychological. The global financial meltdown is dealing with them. I only hope that their wives won‘t get to read this and start imagining that I‘m referring to their husbands.

Many more couples will likely be going through harsher situations. It‘s not that Nigeria is not richly blessed. It is. But the insensitive display of opulence by some of our rulers and the perennial allegations of sleaze against them, call for some reflection on why we are where we are today.

Last week, our lawmakers were in the news again mainly for the wrong reasons. The major one was the allegation by the Special Adviser on Petroleum to the President, Dr. Emmanuel Egboga. The man was quoted to have said that oil companies took some senators to Ghana to feed and bribe them to oppose the oil and gas reforms being initiated by the Federal Government.

No sooner was this allegation made than the senators began to fight back. Senator George Sekibo moved a motion that the allegation be probed. Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba said some people were looking for scapegoats to rationalise their inability to perform their duties. Senator Lee Maeba said he couldn‘t attend the Ghana assignment, but that even those who went regretted going there. In other words, there was “no show”, as Nigerians are wont to say. Senate President, David Mark, could not hide his anger not just on the issue but on the fact that the lawmakers had consistently received bad publicity in the past few weeks.

He thundered, “There is going to be a serious public hearing…because when people begin to beckon at their whims and caprices to label us in the way they want, we should take it seriously. They cannot just blackmail us and get away with it the way they want to do things.”

My first reaction to the Senate President‘s ruling was to shout ”another public hearing?” Of what purpose will that be. What is the fate of other public hearings we have had in Nigeria? Just look at the probe into the power sector reforms, for instance. The Ndudi Elumelu-led committee of the House of Representatives that probed the rot in the power sector spent millions of naira in the course of conducting their investigations. They turned in many volumes of the report of the probe. At the end, the House set up an ad hoc committee to review the report.

Last Thursday, the Aminu Tambuwal review committee dropped the probe report. The review committee reportedly accused the Elumelu panel of lacking understanding of the nature of power sector contracts. Hence, it exonerated the Olusegun Obasanjo-led government of mismanaging funds for power projects.

Ironically, the tide has turned against Elumelu himself. Last Thursday at the Federal High Court, Abuja, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission arraigned him alongside the Senate Committee Chairman on Power, Senator Nicholas Ugbane; the House Committee Chairman on Rural Development, Mr. Paulinus Igwe and others over N5bn contract scam committed in December 2008. Part of the 157 criminal charges was that the contracts were awarded to 51 different fictitious firms, some allegedly benefiting up to 10 times each. The companies allegedly got the money upfront for non-existing rural electrification projects.

Nigeria is an interesting and exciting country. No week passes without some dramatic events occurring. The more one tries to understand these events, the more befuddled one becomes. I will be pleasantly surprised if anything concrete and revealing comes out of this latest presumed war against corruption.

I will also be pleasantly surprised if the latest public hearing of the Senate bears any fruitful result. But come to think of it, what is it that is attracting our lawmakers to Ghana? Why can‘t they hold their capacity-building workshops in Port Harcourt, Calabar or even Birnin Kebbi?

Remember that members of Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello‘s committee on health were in Ghana last year on a capacity-building trip. That trip drew some flak from many Nigerians, especially with regard to the allegation that the senators sponsored themselves with the N10m said to be part of the N300m unspent budget of the Ministry of Health. Now, 10 senators will be answering questions over a recent capacity-building workshop in Ghana.

My guess is that Ghana is becoming very attractive to our lawmakers because Ghanaians have laboured to put their house in order. In their recent Presidential elections, Ghanaians voted the opposition candidate, John Atta-Mills as their President. Nobody upturned the popular will of the people. I‘m sure your mind is flashing back at our own rerun elections in Ekiti State. Worry no more as we may be forced to come to our senses if Ghanaians ever decide to pursue us out of their country like some South Africans did to foreigners a few months ago.

We have no shame. Just for what they considered an abuse of expenses claim, Britons are harassing the hell out of their Members of Parliament and cabinet ministers. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has just suspended Labour MP, Elliot Morley, for collecting £16, 000 for a mortgage that does not exist. Some MPs were accused of claiming as low as £119 dubiously.

In Nigeria, nothing shocks us anymore. Our public officers can steal billions but nothing will happen. They keep getting richer while the majority of Nigerians keep getting poorer. People are dying of hunger and other diseases. Fuel scarcity continues to bite harder.

Why won’t men lose their libido! The way the war in the Niger Delta is going, Nigerians may wake up one day to discover that there is even no oil money to fight over anymore.


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