Femi Ajayi's Outlook

Nigerians are aware of the Senate President nemesis, the former Governor of Benue State, Senator George Akume, and the 'IBB Boys'. Senator Mark might be another 'smooth operator' at the helms of Nigerian affairs at the Senate.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dr. Femi Ajayi


n the community where everybody engaged in an uncoordinated personal race, anything goes. Whatever individuals could grab during the race would be for them to keep until someone takes the lead to set the guidelines for the chase.


Everyone has a past some of which some individuals could not be proud of. We have had some individuals who have some gloomy past and when the light was turned on them for the whole world to see, they turned around to be good leaders. If I may repeat, there are no Saints under the shining Stars of the Sky, anywhere in the World.

Senator David Mark, when he became the Senate President, was welcomed to his position with some rancor about his past records. The man quietly and diplomatically quenched the fire. During the Senate break, while the former Speaker of the House of Representatives was busy with her birthday bash in Maryland, USA, Senator Mark kept his cool, quenching the fire upon which he found himself. He searched into the 'Ocean Front', to get the best sand to spread on the banana spill he found himself treading on.

One of the challenges of the new Democracy in Nigeria is the election modality. Senator Mark told-off the European Union on its Nigeria April 2007 election reports. At another point he reminded Nigerians that they are the architects and promoters of corruption. In a short wave, he took his Senate colleagues to another hot spot, the Niger Delta, on the pretence of the Senate Retreat. Senator Mark is ready to set an agenda for the Constitutional Review and amendment. Nigerians are waiting.

His latest hot pick is the sale of some Nigerians to the Cameroun Republic, the Bakassi. Hopefully 'Mama Bakassi', Senator Ita-Giwa, would be smiling from her mouth to her ears for this new development. The Senate has passed a resolution that the sale of Bakkassi to Cameron is unconstitutional. My readers might refer to my opinion expressed on this subject; "Excision of Bakassi from Nigeria…," published Wednesday, June 21, 2006. We might revisit the subject later.

In another spectrum, the Senate President was accused of renovating his residence for N400 million of which he denied. Watching the allegation on NTA, the man said very calmly, "…since the allegation is against me, it won't be appropriate for me to preside over the matter; I could step aside for an investigation". The response from the majority of the Senators was very loud and clear with an emphatic NO. Senator Mark has some charismatic personality to the admiration of most of his colleagues.

In another allegation, since his nemesis would never let him off the popper, the Senate approved N500 million for the screening of ministerial nominees in July 2007, on LIVE television. Eventhough the Senate agreed to have spent that whooping sum of money, Senate President Mark said, "you know it didn't happen…" but went ahead to blame the journalists that, "…there are too many quacks in the industry {media industry}. The journalist who is also writing it is also ignorant". All he did was to deny the allegation and continued to ask the 'rumor monger' to come out open. Nonetheless he refused to disclose how much was spent on LIVE television coverage.

Senate President David Mark

The Senate Committee report said,

"It is true that the Senate engaged two television houses to broadcast the ministerial screening live. Payment for these services has not yet been made due to lack of funds and the bills are in accordance with the standard charges of the media houses. Since the live coverage was approved by the whole Senate sitting in closed session, due process was observed in taking the decision and the committee finds this expenditure legitimate and transparent."
No one is challenging the Senate "Closed Session, Due Process" to approve the N500 million for ONLY LIVE coverage for screening Ministerial appointees.

According to the Senate President, "Those who came for the live broadcast are NTA, AIT and FRCN". Since the approval for the live broadcast was done in camera, and the Director, Estate and Works, National Assembly, whose name was not stated in the report, told the committee that the allegations were untrue. Disappointingly, Nigerians might not know the truth, since the Senate President base is solid. He said, "Nobody spent N500m;" but would not disclose how much was spent.

You know what; I do believe that Nigerian public officials would get it right one of these days, especially their responsibilities to the Nigerian Public. Sometimes we think that the Nigerians Leaders are to blame, and we seldom forget that most of the blames should go to Nigerians for misdirecting the Nigeria leadership in their public services.

In most cases Nigerians misled their public officials. Added to that, we found out that some of them got 'power drunk' as soon as they got to the power house. Some of them made themselves untouchables in the society. Some of them found out that they have to maintain their dignity and their calling and REFUSED to succumb to the pressure from some ingrate Nigerians that surround them, who would turn round to blame them when things go wrong.

Eventhough the Senate President might have offered to step aside for the probing of the contract, nonetheless, to have spent N500 million on screening of Ministerial nominees was ill advised. That was not good for the country. Senate President might be innocent in this episode, but how far can he claim his innocence in the flocks of fowls that he found himself. As a leader, if that was not what he wanted, he ought to have made the correction.

The Senate spent this whooping some of money for what I would call CHEEP PUBLICITY. If that money was given to Bukola Saraki, possibly he could have repaired Osi-Obbo Road that has been abandoned for, God knows when. Possibly my friends would have joyfully followed me to Obbo-Aiyegunle, for the celebration of the Owa L'Obbo of Obboland's annual new yam festival in July of every year as one of the high ranking Obas in Ekitiland, and the question of sidetracking history could have been over with.

Our Distinguished Senators, that cheap publicity is a waste of taxpayers' money to say the least. As mentioned in one of my pieces, the LIVE soap opera coverage of the screening exercises was a colossal waste.

NTA, like any other TV stations in Nigeria or anywhere in the world would have to find ways and means of raising revenue to sustain its programs. We understand that the media competition is alive in Nigeria today (2007). Hey, if the Price is Right, come on down, we would match whatever anyone could afford to pay for their businesses. No problem about that. I hope NTA collects its money before the Senate goes bankrupt. I understand that the House of Representatives could be broke. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

I knew that something was fishy that day I watched the Senate President at the premises of NTA on a familiarization LIVE coverage tour, for cheap publicity. The outcome of his LIVE visit was the LIVE coverage of the screening of the Minister nominees. What did we get from the Senate LIVE coverage screening of the Ministers; ABSOLUTELY nothing; with apologies to some Senators, except to see the faces of the Ministers and the gestures that came with the screening exercise?

I woke up as early as possible, to watch the 'soap opera' of LIVE coverage of Ministerial screening exercise. It does not worth it. There were no logical questions asked about their principles, some salient challenges facing Nigeria, some key issues in the domestic and foreign affairs. Senators that have some intelligent questions were refused answers from most of the nominees, they were just asked to take a bow and leave the Senate Chamber. Some Senators really wanted to screen the candidates, exposing them to the public as to what they have to offer the country. Ironically the cheap publicity was not going to allow that to happen.

In the foreign arena, where Nigeria image publicity is nothing to write home about, Chief Ojo Maduekwe was never questioned about his knowledge of foreign affairs, as to where he stands on the Nigeria Image, for him to have come out later to tell us of "Citizenship Diplomacy" whatever it is called.

To my readers, Ojo Maduekwe is one of the individuals I admire in Nigeria. I am very fond of him; he is the "only Ojo in the house". That notwithstanding, Nigerians would have loved to know his foreign policy principles, and like to know more where he stands on so many issues: Nigerians Abroad, Middle East, America, Europe, Asia, fake Drugs at the International level, Brain Drain, Brain Gain, among others. Nothing of such was asked him except for him to take a bow and exit. Ridiculous!

A friend of mine Felix Abdullah from Kaduna State went through the same exercise. We know, from my knowledge of him since 1993 as a member of the Kaduna State House of Assembly, that, he is a good man. But how many Nigerians know him as such. That is the purpose of the LIVE television screening.

The same thing applied to the DPP, for the "Servant Leader" Government of National Unity, for him to take a bow and exit as well. The purpose of screening candidates was defeated by the make-belief Senate screening exercise. The N500 million spent on LIVE coverage of the Ministerial nominees is outrightly uncalled for, in the midst of the suffering masses.

Ironically, the screening of the three Ambassadorial nominees by the Senate Committee on International Affairs, Chaired by Professor Jubril Aminu, a one time Nigerian Ambassador to the United States of America, asked the nominees to take a bow and exit. Professor Jubril Aminu who should know that the screening process is to communicate the Nigerian Foreign Policy direction with the nominees, where Nigeria should go with other International bodies, the shaping of the President's vision of his new policy on Foreign Policy, Citizenship Diplomacy, is the essence of the screening. Professor Aminu as an Ambassador to the United States ought to be familiar with how the American Senate screens the President's nominees to some sensitive positions, even by their Senator friends. It is an educative process to the Senators, to the public and to get the nominee on their toes as to the challenges ahead of them as Government representatives in whichever area of their assignments.

Take for instance, because of the knowledge of some anointed Ministers, the Senate asked them to take a bow and exit. That is absolutely bizarre. The Senate members might know the nominees; however the generality of Nigerians do not know them. Taking a bow and exit is a slight on an average Nigerian who wanted to know more about who is representing them at the Finance, Justice Ministries for instance. It is very unfortunate the brain purchase of the Senate thinking that they are doing a good job. The screening exercise for the expenses of N500million was a waste of the Tax Payers money.

They prevented Nigerians from knowing the nominees who are on the verge of getting Nigeria from borrowing or begging appetite instead of using what are available in the country to turn the economy around. The mental laziness has led them to only think that the best way to improve upon Nigerian economy is to start borrowing again.

The Senate committee, headed by Senator Omar Hambagda investigated the allegations, of the controversial N500m vote on live broadcast; the N400m renovation contract of the official residence of the President of the Senate; the smuggled N2.5billion into the 2007 supplementary budget, and the slashing of the Senators' salaries by 60%, which Committee report was silent about, has passed a vote of confidence on the Senate leadership. Nigerian may never know the truth of these allegations.

Nigerians are aware of the Senate President nemesis, the former Governor of Benue State, Senator George Akume, and the 'IBB Boys'. Senator Mark might be another 'smooth operator' at the helms of Nigerian affairs at the Senate. Nigerians are watching how he tackles the major Nigerian problems of election, corruption, Niger Delta, Constitutional amendment, and his new invention, the Bakkassi issue.

'That Senate President' David Mark, might have survived another major leadership challenge, he is an emerging leader to watch.