Now that Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speaker Nigerian House of Representatives has accepted the petition from Tiv in America, a petition that the Deputy Speaker rejected, is it not time for Wase to come off his high horse and apologise?
It was unbelievable to read on the 14th March 2021, the statement credited to Ahmed Wase, the Deputy Speaker of the the Nigerian House of Representatives rejecting a legitimate petition from Mutual Union of the Tiv in America on a flimsy excuse that Nigerians in diaspora do not “really know” the situation of things in Nigeria, as such are not eligible to file petitions. I then located the video to try and understand more about the subject matter – I was left bewildered at the display of ignorance and demonstration of bias unbecoming of someone who occupies an important office as that of the Deputy Speaker. For Mr. Wase to even entertain the idea that someone has to be living in Nigeria to know what is going on shows lack of understanding. It is unreasonable and I do not think the Nigerian constitution or the standing rules of the House of Representatives would have contemplated a situation where any Nigerian is denied the right to make a complaint because they no longer reside in the country. Moreover, It was disheartening to read the Deputy Speaker’s lame woolly defence – it was clear to the discerning that his team were making panic-stricken efforts to defend the indefensible rather than a simple sentence of apology. Obviously in an effort to justify their pay, they went overboard fishing for non-existent evidence to prove their principal’s unwarranted outburst – the vagueness of their response says it all.
In the Deputy Speaker’s eyes, the content or merit of the petition is immaterial- all he is interested in is those sponsoring the complaint. The issue at stake has to do with a group of Nigerians who have been denied rights to their ancestral land, they have been displaced through incessant attacks and are wasting away as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in camps. These attacks have become commonplace especially in the Middle Belt of Nigeria due to ineptitude and paucity of leadership in the country – this is the same region that Wase owes his exalted Deputy speakership position to. The petition was to call attention of the federal government to come to the rescue of this group of Nigerians – yet Wase thinks he has the power to shut it down.
Wase sarcastically asked “Honourable Gbillah, did you say Tivs in America? If they are in America, could they really be an interested party here? Could they really know exactly what is going on?” Really? What powers does the Deputy Speaker have to decide the categories of Nigerians that present a petition regarding issues that affect them. The Deputy Speaker should be reminded that Nigerian diaspora are interested parties in the Nigerian project – as a matter of fact they have contributed so much to the country than those currently residing in it – available data supports this position. The naivety displayed by the Deputy speaker as to the constitutional rights of Nigerians wherever they may live in the world is shocking and therefore condemnable.
For the benefit of doubt, according to official figures from United Nations, there were about 1.24million migrant Nigerians in the diaspora as at 2017. Also, figures from PwC reveals that Nigeria diaspora officially remitted a huge amount of money to the tune of US$23.63billion in 2017 and this is estimated to grow to US$25.5billion in 2023. The figure of US$22billion remitted back home by Nigerians in diaspora constituted 83% of the Federal Government budget in 2018 and account to 11 times the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into Nigeria during the same period. Surely, this should not be a group of Nigerians that the Deputy Speaker would want to take to task.
Unfortunately, the posture and lame argument from Wase during that debate betrays the arrogant and ignorant disposition of most leaders who occupy sensitive positions in Nigeria. It is sad that some public office holders in Nigeria lack a basic understanding of what it takes to build decent societies and are so insensitive to the yearnings of the citizenry. I read a comment from some social media post that “It’s unfortunate that the worst of us lead the best of us” – that is apt and cannot be further from the truth. Regrettably, people like Wase represents the worst of us in which the universal principles of public life such as selflessness, objectivity, integrity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership lacks expression. The display of mediocrity from some so-called leaders in Nigeria has assumed terrible dimensions. For being in politics or civil service, some of these leaders have gathered stupendous wealth without commensurate value and most importantly may not be able to explain how they accumulated their affluence – needless to repeat that leaders in this country take more than they put in, its a cliche.
It is imperative for leaders to look beyond their noses and ingrained biases to ensure justice, fairness and equity in the system. It is trite that no meaningful development and progress will come to fruition in an atmosphere characterised by mistrust. A multicultural, multi-background and multi-religious society can only be realised when those in privileged positions eschew partisanship and submit to ethos that further the course of unity. Leaders owe it a duty to lead from the front and devise creativity in handling issues that they may not agree with.
Assuming Wase acted in ignorance, now that he has been educated on the constitutional right of Nigerians irrespective of where they chose to live and work, and the immense economic contributions of Nigerian diaspora to the country, should he not apologise if he has any shred of conscience? More so that he has now been overruled by Femi Gbajabiamila (Speaker, House of Representatives of Nigeria).
Writes from United Kingdom