Despicable politics – The Nation

•It is monumental that the House of Reps is torn along partisan lines on the $9.3 million gun-running scandal

The tragedy of contemporary Nigeria, especially under the Goodluck Jonathan Presidency, with its unfazed one-second, one-scandal image, is that nothing shocks anybody anymore; and Nigeria becomes progressively even more soulless.

That aptly describes the shame of the aborted plenary debate, in the House of Representatives, over the shocking $9.3 million gun-running scandal. South Africa has seized the money, which Nigeria claims belongs to it. But three private individuals – two Nigerians and an Israeli- were caught, fingers in cookie jar, trying to smuggle, into South Africa, this huge but undeclared sum.

Aside from the shame of Nigeria breaching its own policy of a cashless economy, not to mention brazenly undermining international protocols on how to legitimately move money to buy arms, the scandal also involves Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) president, and an ally of President Jonathan.

In a high season of unreason and crass sentimentality, CAN has gone ahead to defend the indefensible of its president’s involvement, instead of distancing CAN from the sordid affair. Clearly, the high shrine of Nigerian Christendom appears quite happy and willing to stake and squander its essence on this crass politicking! Still CAN, even as a religious body, is entitled to run its affairs its own way, even if it must brace itself for the negative fallout of its action — Nigeria, after all, is a secular state.

But this is one luxury the Nigerian parliament does not enjoy — and that is what brings its aborted plenary debate out in bold relief.  The Nigerian parliament ought to be ultra-sensitive to any attack on the national psyche and honour. This gun-running scandal qualifies for such, if there is any.

Yet, the best the House of Representatives could manage was a disgraceful partisan response. The opposition pushed for a plenary debate.  The government side, led by Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, presiding on the day, stone-walled the plenary, insisting on relegating the discourse to a committee.  It is clear that, in the build-up to 2015, politics trumps everything: no ethics, no common national ethos, no code of conduct — just brazen manoeuvre to corner power!

Yet, pressing questions remain unanswered, as rightly asked by the opposition legislators, who walked out of the aborted session, and promptly addressed a press conference: Which one is faster — wire transfer or ferrying cash? Why was the South African government not alerted  if it was a legitimate security transaction?  Why didn’t the adventurers declare the amount on them, knowing every traveller must declare any amount in excess of $2, 500?

Why was the huge government money moved by a private jet, when no less than six presidential jets lay fallow? Why were officials from the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) and Department of State Security (DSS) operatives not on the trip? Why did the Jonathan government break its own cashless policy?  Why was the Nigerian High Commission in South Africa not in the know? Why was the legitimate government of Nigeria involved in the illegitimate attempt to smuggle $9.3 million into another country? And lastly: is it just happenstance that one of the aircraft involved belongs to a clergy who is Jonathan’s personal friend, and an unrepentant pusher of the president’s cause?

It is a monumental national shame that even these questions could not galvanise a bi-partisan outrage to attack and defeat a clear national morass.  But the opposition in the House of Representatives has done well by putting these questions on the national front burner.  They, and every right-thinking Nigerian, must continue to push for answers, even as the government bench tries hard to stonewall.

If Nigeria must be saved from a wilful descent into the abyss, this is no time to sit on the fence. Anything short of that is despicable politics. It can only push Nigeria into the unenviable rank of banana republics, where just about anything goes, no matter how absurd.

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