Friday, 5 November 2010

Nigeria: Is the Senate bribing the military?

Golden parachutes all round

Sometimes, it is just not clear whether the Nigerian legislature has any clue about their purpose and the function they are to serve in Nigerian democracy.

Recently, they approved a bumper state pension [1] for former military Heads of State and their families having previously resisted [2] the granting of that emolument to them some time ago.

Now, there might be probable cause for offering a stipend to those who have ruled the country either by the will of the people or by the sheer force of guns.

Reservations on rewards

However, it is important that having ruled Nigeria there should be standards of review that allow for a scrutiny in posterity of those tenures with some basis for considering if those regimes have served Nigeria well or not. For instance, whilst General Sani Abacha did run the country down as a despot, it would atrocious to reward his descendants with largesse for his maladministration.

At a time when it has been proven [3] that he and his family plundered the country to multiples of billions of dollars stashed away in foreign banks and most notable of which is the case that his son brought to retain stolen billions in Switzerland having pain the Nigerian treasury almost in a billion dollars in restitution, this is certainly the wrong message to send to every Nigerian with or without the means to seize power.

Whilst I am not aiming to create a report card of past military regimes, it goes without saying that the politicisation of the military has not served Nigeria well and such governments have not engendered development, peace or prosperity for the country.

A contradiction in terms

It smacks of incredulity that the chairman of the Senate Committee on Information and Media can aver that this is no invitation for a military takeover of government and it is laughable that he offers that the Senate would resist any would-be coup plotter.

I am left flummoxed by this statement, “We are not sending any wrong message, the message we are sending actually is rather a strong message that assumption of political power by force of arms is anachronistic, undemocratic, out-modelled. It is out of fashion and I think that it is something that will even make anybody attempting it to look stupid and out of place.

There are truths to the part about the assumption of power but contextually, the looking stupid and out of place calls for a clean mirror in front of that speaker.

Accountability confers legitimacy

There are democracies where the clout of the Senate might carry more than a warning to those who might be inclined to overthrow a representative democracy.

The sovereignty of Nigeria should and must belong to the people, but this only derives from the people not being disenfranchised when they exercise universal suffrage through free and fair elections and from their representatives being truly accountable to the people throughout their terms rather than just at times of electioneering.

It is debatable that Nigeria’s democracy is representative and accountable which infers the Senate may not have the underpinning and force of legitimacy to prevent a military takeover or become the engine for revolution or insurrection that leads to the people to deny prospective military rulers the usurpation of power.

Pensions already exist for legitimate service

Obviously, military personnel who have ended up leading the country have also risen to the top ranks of the military forces in which they have been commissioned and a pension is already accruing to them for that military role, it would be belabouring the point that many also had their hands in the till when they were in charge; there is absolutely no need for the extra pay for adding an unlawful political dimension to their military service.

If anything, this sends the wrong message to our democracy, to our people and to those who might think the military route to power could be a shortcut to ensuring a good retirement package when past ones professionally useful years.

The offer to the families simply fosters that class of louts and miscreants who as spouses and brood have shown little exemplary conduct in their hubris and hedonistic tendencies, projecting megalomania well beyond that which the principals in power ever dared to exercise.

Looks like bribery to me

In what can be seen as an abject waste of parliamentary time and priorities, if as the chairman says, “that the new law did not provide any new special benefits to all the intended beneficiaries, as they were already enjoying pension.

If the intended beneficiaries already have a pension and there are no new special benefits, why is a law being promulgated to give the same people the same thing?

Maybe the act of the Senate is to deepen the nation’s democracy but that cannot be achieved by paying off the military and bribing a rival politicised structure of the military into ineffectiveness – what deepens democracy is accountability, responsibility, leadership and a modicum of common-sense.

I dare say, with this announcement, all those four qualities appear to be lacking in the Nigerian Senate and that is quite unfortunate.

Source

[1] » Ex-Heads of State Pension: Senate warns coup plotters::Vanguard (Nigeria)

[2] allAfrica.com: Nigeria: Senators Kick Against Remuneration for Ex-Military Rulers

[3] BBC News | AFRICA | Banks freeze more Abacha millions

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