Article written by Reno Omokri, Special Assistant on New Media to President Jonathan.
When I heard about the directive from the All Progressive Congress, APC, to its members in the National Assembly to block the passage of the 2014 budget, all Executive Bills and to abort the screening of the Service Chiefs as well as any Ministerial nominees, my first reaction was that the news couldn’t be true. And then it was confirmed on television by Lai Mohammed.
I thought, why would a political party that styles itself as a progressive party take such an anti people action? Block all Bills, even if they are in the interest of the masses! Imagine that! Well, there are progressives and then there are pro-aggressives!
The APC claim they are taking this route in order to protect the lives of the good people of Rivers State from alleged police brutality.
Really! Let’s fact check this assertion.
Since the administration of Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State started having a power tussle with their opposition, it is on record that not one life has been lost due to the activities of the Nigerian police. The only reported loss of life occurred when an ally of the governor, Honourable Chidi Lloyd, allegedly ran down a political rival, Kingsley Ejeuo, with his car, as well as a police sergeant, Urang Obadiah, who was performing his legitimate duties.
On the contrary, in the APC controlled state of Ogun, several people have been killed in the last month in intra party conflicts over who controls party structures in the state. In one of these incidents, eight people were killed as they met with members of the National Assembly from Ogun State including Senator Gbenga Kaka, Senator Akin Odunsi, Hon. Kunle Adeyemi, Hon. Olumide Osoba, Hon. Segun Williams and Hon. Ibrahim Ogunola . Now, the APC want these same Ogun legislators, whose lives were almost taken by alleged APC thugs working for the faction opposed to the Segun Osoba faction which they belong to to help them shut down the government because of a crisis in Rivers State where no life has been lost? What about their own lives that were almost lost and the lives of their supporters?
Now let us zero in on Ekiti state. Since Honourable Opeyemi Bamidele indicated interest in challenging Governor Kayode Fayemi in the upcoming gubernatorial election, he has not known peace. First, he was undemocratically ordered to pull out of the race, when he insisted on his constitutional right to contest. Then he was ostracized by the APC hierarchy. When this did not dampen his enthusiasm, he and his supporters suffered persecution and on the 4th of November 2013, one of his supporters, Mr. Foluso Ogundare, was shot to death during a meeting of Bamidele's support group, Ekiti Bibiire Coalition. Another member, Mrs. Beatrice Ige, was shot and almost lost her life.
As I write, Bamidele’s supporters continue to be hounded in Ekiti and the man himself has been forced to leave the party he helped build for the Labour Party after he was told unequivocally that the party was set on giving its ticket to Governor Kayode Fayemi even without a democratic primary.
Being addicted to propaganda, the APC has used the media to blow the situation in Rivers out of proportion while minimizing media coverage of the killing spree in Ogun and Ekiti States.
Now let us ask ourselves objectively, which state is more deserving of the scrutiny of the APC amongst Rivers, Ogun and Ekiti states?
But then you may argue and say that even if lives were not lost in Rivers State, there have been rallies called by Amaechi’s loyalists which have ended in violence.
But then, much of that violence was contrived by a media manipulating administration that carries out government business like a Nollywood script.
Nigerians witnessed firsthand a demonstration of this media manipulation when Hon. Chidi Lloyd and certain other legislators of the Rivers State House of Assembly claimed they had been beaten by their colleagues and the police in July of 2013. For a few days they dominated the media and gained public sympathy until a video of the incidence was released on the Internet and Nigerians saw that rather than being a victim as he claimed, Lloyd was the main aggressor who almost killed his colleagues by repeatedly pummelling him on the head with a mace! If not for the release of that video, Nigerians would have been none the wiser and would have been duped by the sleek and well oiled media team operating in that state whose job is to manipulate the minds of Nigerians by manipulating events in the media.
It was a matter for tears that the same governor for whom the APC want to shut down Nigeria was present at that event and that his ADC and Chief Security Officer were captured on tape actually beating up elected assembly men in their hallowed chamber.
But let’s even agree for the sake of argument that what they say of Rivers State is true, and that the citizens of the state, though not being killed, are under a siege from the police, I would like Nigerians to cast their minds back to December 17, 2011. On that day, thousands of Lagosians trooped out in a peaceful rally to protest against the tolling of the main road leading to Lekki. Instead of yearning to the cries of these innocent citizens, the Lagos State Government unleashed armed policemen on the unarmed peaceful citizens.
According to the Tribune of December 18, 2011, one person was killed while several of the peaceful protesters were beaten, brutalized, arrested and clamped into detention. Journalists were brutalized with their cameras seized and broken. Human rights lawyer, Bamidele Aturu, described the situation as “an orgy of maniacal violence”! Google is ever available and my readers can avail themselves of the search engine to verify if I have made this story up.
Is it not hypocrisy of the highest order for the APC to have unleashed this level of Gestapo like violence on unarmed civilians only to turn round and direct its legislators to shut down Nigeria because of a situation in Rivers that is nowhere near the ordeal Lagosians endured on December 17, 2011?
Moreover, the directive by the APC to its legislators, if obeyed, would amount to robbing the Nigerian tax payers, because legislators are paid to perform legislative duties and not to impede them.
In fact, it amounts to hypocrisy for the APC to order its legislators to take such an action and still collect their salaries and entitlements. With reports that our legislators are the highest paid in the world, is it morally justifiable for APC legislators to block legislative activities for partisan reasons and still draw on their princely salaries and emoluments?
Why do I say this? Twice in the recent history of Lagos State (while Bola Tinubu was governor and then again under the administration of the incumbent) lecturers at the Lagos State University and doctors under the Lagos State Ministry of Health have gone on strike. On both occasions, the governors (first Tinubu, then Fashola) threatened the striking workers with a policy of no work no pay. In fact, as recently as January 3rd, 2014, the Lagos State government issued a statement directed at its doctors, who are proposing to go on strike, saying “the state government would not hesitate to enforce "no-work-no- pay''.
And now, these same people who believe that people should not be paid if they refuse to do the work they were employed to do now advocate that legislators who are paid from the taxes paid by Nigerian workers should refuse to do the work they are employed to do. Apparently, for the APC, what is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander!
And even beyond these points, the question begging an answer in my view is this: Whose interest should a legislator pursue between his party’s interests and the interest of his constituents?
It is clear that the APC is power hungry and has stared into the political crystal ball and have seen clearly what awaits them in 2015 and like students who have refused to read, they would rather provoke a crisis so that the authorities can postpone the examinations they know they are going to fail.
Their failure is so obvious and imminent that in every state where they thought they had enticed People’s Democratic Party, PDP, governors to cross carpet, those who built the APC are now seeing that they have been used and tossed aside. All their work has gone unrewarded as the party has handed over the structures they suffered to build to new comers for no other reason than because the new comers control the treasury of their states.
Nigerians are watching, the displaced chieftains are watching, and those who are about to be displaced by the APC are also watching knowing full well that a slave that sees his fellow slave buried in a shallow grave knows that he will be buried likewise when his own time comes!
It is gradually becoming clear to Nigerians and certainly to the ousted APC chieftains that the APC’s ability to make friends is only superseded by their ability to lose them. As they make more powerful and wealthy friends, they dump those they perceive as being less powerful and wealthy. In fact, it has been speculated that in their desperation to garner membership and a huge war chest, the APC would not mind approaching the devil to help them in their quest to “save Nigeria” or maybe to ‘slave Nigeria’!
If what is going on in Ogun and Ekiti state is the type of salvation the APC is offering to Nigerians, I shudder to think of what awaits those states whose governors recently cross carpeted to their fold!
The APC can go the undemocratic route and instruct its legislators to shut down the government. They can go desperate as was seen when their party chief, conscious of the defeat that stares the party in the face says “the only alternative left to get power is to take it by force”. But the APC must know, like one of its own chieftains warned in a recent article, that “the Nigeria of 2014 is very different to the Nigeria of 1993″. In the new Nigeria of 2014 and beyond, power must flow from the ballot box, not through violence, blackmail or desperate political manoeuvres.
Many things have changed in Nigeria. Gone are the days of “do or die elections”. In the Nigeria of 2011 and beyond, Nigerians enjoy free and fair elections hailed by The Commonwealth of Nations, The European Union and The African Union as “the most credible elections since Nigeria returned to civil rule”.
Let us not forget that the Federal Government pays salaries and pensions to more than a million Nigerians. These salaries and pensions are tied to the free flow of the legislative process. If the budget is not passed, it is not politicians that would lose out. It is the market men and women who depend on them to buy their goods and services that will suffer. It is the banking sector which depends on them to make deposits that would suffer. It is their children who depend on them to pay their school fees that would suffer. It is their aged parents in the village who depend on them for a monthly allowance that would suffer.
The budget is not a Peoples Democratic Party budget. It is a budget for all Nigerians. If you have a grouse with the PDP, by all means punish them, but please leave the Nigerian masses alone.
These are the people that the APC want to throw into poverty because to them power is a zero sum game where the sufferings of huge swathes of the population is only a collateral damage as long as they get what they want. The end justifies the means to them.
If the APC were as concerned with what goes into their minds as they are with what goes into their mouths, they would not have dreamt up a directive whose effect would be to increase poverty in the land at a time when the World Bank has just commended the Jonathan Administration for significantly reducing poverty in Nigeria.
Who cuts their nose to spite their face? The APC apparently.