One Billion Dollars For A Victory Party. By Zainab Suleiman Okino.

Oh, I do understand now: we need the money to mobilise for a street party ala carnival, for merriment and an owambe party and even to celebrate Nigeria’s liberation from the grip of insurgency, and to the lesser evil of kidnapping. Yes, we need the money to rejoice over a symbolic gesture of the release of some of the Chibok girls and for the impending success of sending PDP to permanent political oblivion in 2019…

At the last National Economic Council meeting, Nigerian governors approved the withdrawal of one billion naira from the highly depleted Excess Crude Account for the purpose of fighting the Boko Haram insurgency. Having been told in the last one year that Boko Haram has been degraded or defeated, it is rather preposterous that we now have to still spend this much on tackling the menace, making people to question the motives behind the latest withdrawal.

The legality or otherwise of the withdrawal may not be tenable, because under the infallible President Buhari, the federal government is so sacrosanct, it can do no wrong. The people or group of people and institutions that should seek the legal interpretation of the federal government’s actions are rather accomplices in a matter that has serious political, security and national interest implications, and since the ECA itself is a subject of legal controversy, the question of testing the president’s prerogative does not even arise. Yet, I do agree that in tackling terrorism and insecurity generally, all the fine details cannot be subjected to a public scrutiny, but the governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki who revealed that the money was for the procurement of logistics, equuiptment and intelligence should have indulged us with further explanation of “logistics and intelligence”, in a supposed change era and when civil societies are scrutinising defence budgets all over the world. Nigerians deserve to be told, as a matter of right, how the money will be spent. So what Governor Obaseki reeled out was defective and faulty. The governors have no right to appropriate and combine executive and legislative functions. That responsibility belongs to the legislative arm of government.

Notwithstanding the fact that the lawmakers do not discharge their responsibility creditably, the National Assembly is still the only institution representing the people which is closest to them and if the executive does not deem it fit to make recourse to the body, then the government is not only undermining our democratic ethos but also asphyxiating the institution that is the bastion of our democracy. Without the due process of appropriation through legislation, illegality and suspicion take the centre stage, and any form of illegality detracts from our current progress in democratic governance.

And the politics of it all is even more interesting. Governor Fayose of Ekiti State has faulted the decision, saying it did not represent him, and that the money is being mobilised for the 2019 election. Well, his query did not resonate with the people; in fact he was shut up. No one believes Fayose anyway; definitely not after his death-wish-for-Buhari fiasco.

Governor Wike of Rivers State also questioned the rationale for the billion dollar insurgency fight while accusing the federal government of insincerity about plans for development in the Niger Delta region.

As expected, the faltering PDP also added its voice in condemning the approval. How ironic, the party has forgotten so soon how it set the stage for the impunity that has continued to bedevil the nation. Although it was routed through the National Assembly, the Jonathan government once got approval to spend the same amount on counter-insurgency and what we got in the end was Dasuki-gate, the abduction of Chibok girls and the Boko Haram siege on our major cities. However, that the PDP government, under Jonathan did it, cannot and should not be a justification for Buhari to toe the same line.

Nigerians embraced the APC change mantra and kicked out the Jonathan government and his PDP co-travellers because of their excesses, corruption and lack of accountability. There are fears that the roads to Dasukigate, Diezanigate and other damning gates are already being paved by the APC government of Buhari, where the voices of the people and the electorate are insignificant and count for less. This unholy alliance between the Presidency and most of the governors of the 36 states of the federation can at best expose us to ridicule and leave all of us with bloody noses. President Buhari is preparing to give governors the third bailout fund despite the outcries and controversies that trailed the first two disbursements over the lack of transparency and accountability and the fact that the money never got to the workers whose suffering it was meant to alleviate. In return, the governors have approved the president’s billion dollar request with fiat. If the president rubs the governors’ back and vice versa, where does that leave the ordinary Nigerian people?

With due respect to the Nigerian military, whose rank and file put their lives on the line, and to this government with regard to its efforts in curtailing the menace of Boko Haram, is it not disingenuous to spend a whooping N1 billion dollars in fighting insurgents who had long been degraded, wiped out, receded, neutralised, defeated and whose “remnants are on the run”?

And here is the big issue. The danger in telling a lie is that you will need at least 10 more lies to cover up the first one told. With due respect to the Nigerian military, whose rank and file put their lives on the line, and to this government with regard to its efforts in curtailing the menace of Boko Haram, is it not disingenuous to spend a whooping N1 billion dollars in fighting insurgents who had long been degraded, wiped out, receded, neutralised, defeated and whose “remnants are on the run”?

The fact that the government said all these while now seeking to spend one billion dollars to fight the same insurgency is to take propaganda to an embarrassing level.

Oh, I do understand now: we need the money to mobilise for a street party ala carnival, for merriment and an owambe party and even to celebrate Nigeria’s liberation from the grip of insurgency, and to the lesser evil of kidnapping. Yes, we need the money to rejoice over a symbolic gesture of the release of some of the Chibok girls and for the impending success of sending PDP to permanent political oblivion in 2019, if you get my drift. Surely, a victory celebration is no hen party, and one billion naira ‘is a small sometin’ after all.

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