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By: Chris Onyishi

 Published August  23rd, 2010

Sen. David Mark, the Nigeria’s Senate President, was quoted as saying that even though there were question marks about the value presented by Independent National Electoral Commission -INEC, the Senate still went ahead to authorize it. Is it not terrifying that the upper house that was saddled with the oversight function of moderating the activities of other arms of government or government institutions is saying this?

What does David Mark and his co Honorable colleagues imply? It is either the amount quoted by INEC is reasonable or it is not reasonable. And if it is not reasonable and the Senate goes ahead to approve of it, then there cannot be any reason to do so and that amounts to duplicity and grievous irresponsibility on the side of the honorable Senators. It would seem, from this “question-mark” approval for a “question mark” INEC budget that David Mark and his Senate, is (and has been) using our resources for some mundane and atrocious purposes. Some kind of, if you grease my palm, I grease yours.

It would have been more honorable on the side of our honorable senators to quietly approve the INEC budget as it is – pretending that they did not feel it is on the high side - rather than approve it with the plethora of excuses of not wanting to be held responsible if the election is warped. We should be working together to achieve success and not preparing an alibi with anticipation of failure. What the honorable men did was to keep a bowel of water which they will use to wash off their hands in case the election fails on Proj. Jega’s feet and at the same time trying to pacify Prof. Jega so that he will look the other way when they start manipulating the electoral process at their respective constituencies.

By approving what they call a budget with some question mark, our honorable senators have tactfully pushed Prof. Jega to a defensive side from day one. And Prof. Jega has primitively accepted guilt for not asking the senators to explain what they mean when they allege that his budget has some question mark.

We have a proverb which says that the fear of casualty never dissuades warriors from going to war. Its either our honorable senators did not know what they were saying by approving a budget with question mark or they want to use a question-marked budget to morally hold down the electoral body in order to have their way. There is no where in the world where approving expenses that have a question mark guarantees the success for which the expenses is incurred.

No wonder they are the world’s second highest paid assembly. In short, it would seem that David Mark and his Honorable Senate really represents the mark of diligence - in the national assembly - in an inverted manner. They take decisions without a thought about the common man’s feeling. Whatever they think is good for them should automatically be good for us.

I wonder how many of them ever recourse to their senatorial base to sound the feeling of their people before they take a stand on very topical national issues.

One Senator after another, there argument was that they do not want to be blamed for poor electioneering come 2011. After looking at such porous arguments for passing 87.721 billion naira, which they believed was in excess, I shuddered and told my self that - at 50 years of nationhood - we are still far from reality. I then wondered, if Prof. Jega had proposed something like 175.441 billion naira, what would these men have said? And if you remember that initially, Prof. Jega was making an estimate in the region of 50 to 70 billion, you now see what mess we have put our selves into again. If Prof. Jega was the CEO of shell BP and he was asked to make a proposition on the cost of paying claims to Gulf of Mexico indigenes on the recent oil gush in that region, would Prof. Jega be telling Shell BP share holder 10 to 30 billion dollars? Should he not have been relieved of his job instantly? In economic terms and – indeed -in any rationalization, a gap of 20 billion naira in budgeting is atrocious and shows that he does not have a good knowledge of what he was estimating.

This goes a long way to show us how our rulers appoint their functionaries. If Prof. Jega was informed of this appointment and was expected to take it and perform successfully, some basic questions would have been thrown at him and such questions would have exposed him to some fundamentals that would have restrained him from such incongruous estimate.

Prof. Jega may be a resounding Professor of political science, an amazing figure in academia and a powerful advocate of justice and equal rights, a fearless unionist; but definitely – by initially giving an estimate between 50 and 70 billion and finally presenting 87.721 billion shows that he is still far away from knowledge of administration of funds, albeit, not a sensitive institution such as Independent National Electoral Commission. Academic excellence is not administrative excellence. He may have gathered some measurable experience from his job as Bayero University Kano Vice Chancellor since 2005 but

Strong zeal to see that things work right, which Prof. Jega is know for, does not always translate to perspicacity or astuteness in making things work right. It is on this ground, that I am not carried away that miracle will happen in the 2011 elections, irrespective of the billions that will go down in the exercise. It is people that employ money to work and not money that employs people to work. Prof. Jega maybe a fearless unionist, an accomplished academic but he will be administering INEC with resident electoral commissioners - at state level - who would be getting patronage from state governors.

But if it does happen that Prof. Jega bequests Nigeria an enduring legacy by way of a free and fair election, then I am not in doubt that the Almighty God will see his generation’s generations in their rightful place.

But if, on the other hand, we witness another faulty election - just as we have witnessed previous elections, the ID card imbroglio, the NEPA trillions that failed, 486 billion naira roads repays that created more gullies on our road, etc - then we will once more resign to faith and say that our hope is in heaven.

Chris Onyishi

OWERRI, Nigeia

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