How The Senate Made Tout A Minister
Post election seasons in Nigeria have always been periods that tend to elevate the mundane to the realm of eminent importance in public discourse, thus nearly all the media networks right from the print, cyber and even the electronic types, have been filling the air with the stories of individuals that have landed or likely to land the plum job of a minister. In some instances, speculative gossips and unconfirmed hearsays are elevated to the status of factual reports that are dished to the unsuspecting public for consumption as a hard core news items, the grand irony though is that it is the Nigerian people that wants these stories of misogynic escapades of their sons and daughters in the corridors of power, thus the ability to be a double dealing sycophant in order to be chosen as a representative of your people is celebrated as an admirable quality. Perhaps it is this non-exemplary trait of behavior that has made the quarterly exercise of ministerial nominee's confirmation to be a comic relief, because of the quantum of drama that the participants in the constitutionally sanctioned session perform.
It was in one of this confirmation sessions last week that a scene worth celebration in the grand stages of a theatre occurred, when a nominee to the office of a minister while relaying his life history of meteoric rise from grass to grace, blurted his early challenges in life of having had to drop out of school because of pecuniary reasons and had to live in a motor park as a tout to earn a living to enable him to start his educational pursuit by correspondence. This winding exercise in life history elicited a special response from the distinguished senators, who while acknowledging his triumphant achievement in educational self help, they simply asked him to simple bow and go as he is a representation of the indefatigable survival spirit of an under privileged Nigerian. While I can never seek to belittle the inspiring history of Dr. Samuel Ioraer Ortom as an admirable success story despite challenging odds, the way and manner his biography was performed and executed at floors of the red chamber, certainly exhibits of a modicum of un-seriousness totally not required in such a hallowed chamber of the National Assembly, more so as the activity being undertaken fell within the providence and honorable reality of a constitutional sacred task of nominee authentication, to act and perform in the rigorous duty of a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The mystifying aspect of the whole ministerial nomination exercise, was that there was no set criteria on the particular question a nominee is supposed to be asked, thus a being a director general of the campaign organization of the senate president, could easily earn you the qualified eminence and privilege of having the right to simply bow and go, while at the same time having served the World Bank in the capacity of a managing director, would still earn you the need to be grilled in terms of your capacity to be perform upon assuming such office, despite the fact that the candidate nominee might have once served the office a minister meritoriously in a not long period that have passed. Apart from the fact that most often the questions were repetitious in nature, thus after having a nominee reeled out his expansive curriculum vitae, nearly all other inquisitive enquiries were simply on the educational sector, thus presuming the likely hood for a nominee to be posted to that ministry, despite the fact that the substantive ministerial portfolio have already been filled, which left only an opening for the position of the minister of state in the ministry, that is surely not adequate for the retinue of personnel asked similar educational question.
The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under section 147(2) empowered the senate to confirm a presidential nominee to the office of a minister, however the expansive width of the supreme document is very silent on whether the president should portfolios to the person of ministerial nominee, perhaps as a protection to the commander in chief from the blackmail and harassment of the legislative confirmation season, where the members of the National Assembly as a precedent usually held executive presidents to ransom, by demanding for gratuitous favors in exchange of their granting the confirmation of the request. The problem though is that the lawgiver while protecting the privileges of the president forgot that by virtue of the express dictates of the Nigerian constitution, our president was endowed with empyreal and enormous powers of authority to govern the nation, thus not deserving such protection at the expense of instituting a culture of good governance, which the act of lack of attaching the portfolio of a nominee to their personality entails, the irony however is that these senate that had taken turns to amend the constitution twice, never felt the need to correct the evident lacuna in the meaningless task of assessing a nominee on the premise of speculative guessing.
The biggest challenge facing our democracy is neither the endemic corruption in the system, nor is it the corrupting acts of election rigging and the deliberate subversion of the people's will, rather it is the convenient confusion on sticking to the latter of the constitutional provisions, thus traditional norms of democracy such as conventional democratic wisdoms and rational democratic practices are ignored at the alter of the dictates of law. A simply question that suffices is that if the National Assembly could initiate amendment for electoral purposes, what stops it from amending a situation that is threatening the efficient performance of its duties, also an assembly that could concoct a Doctrine of Necessity to transmit power through a foreign radio's transcript, should never be shy of demanding as a necessity the portfolio of a ministerial nominee from the president.