OBUDU AWARD GATE: Shame of The Mountain Top – by Agba Jalingo
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OBUDU AWARD GATE: Shame of The Mountain Top – by Agba Jalingo

Agba Jalingo
Agba Jalingo
Agba Jalingo

by crossriverwatch admin

If education is what makes a man, Nero would not have been Seneca’s Pupil”- Anonymous

I will begin by telling a short history that tells a replica of our situation. Lucius Annaeus Seneca often known simply as Seneca; (4 BC – AD 65) was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, and dramatist of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to Emperor Nero.

In 49 AD, Claudius’ fourth wife Agrippina the Younger had Seneca recalled from Corsica where he had been banished, to Rome to tutor her son Nero, who was then 12 years old. On Claudius’ death in 54 AD, she secured recognition of Nero, rather than Claudius’ son Britannicus, as emperor.

From 54 AD to 62 AD, Seneca acted as Nero’s advisor, together with the praetorian prefect Sextus Afranius Burrus.

At the time Seneca could only be compared to our Harvard, Yale and Oxford University of today. Little wonder Agrippina the Younger recalled him from Corsica; to ensure that Nero got the best of education in the best of ‘institution’ – Seneca.

There were no universities then, so it was philosophers like Seneca that were institutions that people go to for study.

The contradiction however was, how could a Nero who got the tutelage of an illustrious ‘institution’ like Seneca turn out to be such a bestial king?

During his reign, Nero focused much of his attention on diplomacy, trade, and enhancing the cultural life of the Empire.

His general, Suetonius Paulinus crushed a revolt in Britain and also annexed the Bosporan Kingdom to the Empire, beginning the First Roman–Jewish War.

In 64 AD, most of Rome was destroyed in the Great Fire of Rome, which many Romans believed Nero himself had started in order to clear land for his planned palatial complex, the Domus Aurea.

Nero’s rule is often associated with tyranny and extravagance. He is known for many executions, including those of his mother and the probable murder by poison of his stepbrother, Britannicus.

He is infamously known as the Emperor who “fiddled while Rome burned” and as an early persecutor of Christians. He was known for having captured Christians to burn them in his garden at night for a source of light.

But In 68 AD, in the rebellion of Vindex in Gaul and later the acclamation of Galba in Hispania, Nero was driven from the throne. Facing assassination, he committed suicide on 9 June 68 AD, the first Roman emperor to do so. His death ended the Julio-Claudian Dynasty and proved indeed that if education were what makes a man, Nero could not have been Seneca’s pupil.

Obudu is known around the world not only for the splendor of its mountain heights and hospitality, it is unarguable that we are the most educated people in Cross River State.

It is therefore expected that our education which we take so much pride in should ordinarily distinguish us in the way we play our politics and prognosticate solutions to our problems.

But like Nero, we have only used our education to perfect the act of impunity in managing our affairs as facts are revealing from the ongoing face off between the Chairman of Obudu Local Government and the members of the Legislative Council.

Our local government Chairman, Mr. Emmanuel Ikwen undoubtedly had a very modest background. In fact, he taught me Geography in Bedia Secondary Commercial School before he moved on to other higher institutions in the state to continue his teaching.

Coming from an academic background, one would have expected that the Chairman will possess the competence and ability to cogitate on policy and formulate workable strategies that can impact tangible changes within a reasonable time.

The members of the Obudu Legislative Council are also the most educated amongst all their colleagues in the eighteen local governments of the State, with eight of the ten members parading university degrees.

But three years after their tenure, the tales are so complicated that the only thing Mr. Emmanuel Ikwen and the crop of Legislators populating the hallowed chambers of the legislative council are best known for is controversy.

Ask of any project that has been executed by this administration in the council and officials will start talking about the outside interference of the political godfathers in Obudu as the reason they have not performed.

Ask the lawmakers what laws they have made in three years and they will mention a by law prohibiting articulated vehicles from parking on Obudu roads and that is all.

The basic functions of lawmakers which are legislation, appropriation and oversight have been abandoned and all we are hearing is how money was to be shared and was not shared well. We are hearing that an entire legislature was going to abandon their work to accompany the Chairman to a frivolous award ceremony in Abuja.

The first quarter of 2013 is ending, what is the budget for the local government in 2013? Has it been sent to the Councillors for appropriation? What is the development plan for year 2013? No one is telling us about these.

If the Councillors were up to their oversight functions, the Chairman could not have gone to collect a loan without their consent and will still be sitting in that office by now.

Section 5, Sub-section 4 of the Cross River State Local Government Law No. 22 of 2007 says that ‘A local government shall be prohibited from any capital raising activity by way of loan, overdraft, capital market issue or any other method without the approval of the governor’.

The Chairman clearly breached this section of the law, by collecting N6m overdraft from First Bank Plc. in Obudu to procure a personal award of excellence without following due process, but rather than call him to order, the lawmakers decided to ask for N1.6m ‘bribe’ to the give retrospective approval.

All over the world, awards have monetary rewards attached. When you deserve and win any award, it is the award that brings you money. You don’t pay for an award you deserve or merit.

Would the Councillors say there are not aware of that? But rather than ask the pertinent questions, the lawmakers are saying that some other local government Chairmen have paid and collected those awards before and nothing happened so we must all keep quiet and let them run our lives the way they like and not according to what the law says.

This impunity must stop. Proud sons and daughters of Obudu must rise and call this crop of public officials to order and demand accountability and punishment for those who break the law.

The hallmark of democracy and constitutionalism is the pride we take in the rule of law. Why will people break the law and move on with impunity feeling they have not done anything wrong.

Is the Obudu local government Chairman and Councilors above the laws governing all of us in this country or is it not clear that they have done things that are in clear breach of existing laws?

Why are they not facing the real issues in the Award Gate but continue to distract us with the talk about second term or no second term?

This is a typical strategy of politicians across the country. They are adepts in distracting our attention from the kernel of the matter to the politics of the matter. When we get to the elections in August, we the voters will go to the pools and vote.

For now, we want to know whether it was right to use public money to pay for an award, whether due process was followed in collecting the N6m overdraft from First Bank Plc, whether it was proper for the Obudu lawmakers to ask for N1.6m bribe to give retrospective approval to the N6m overdraft, what was the source of the N1m that the Chairman gave to the Councillors for Christmas celebration? Was it captured in the budget?

What is even most shameful is the way and manner young, educated people from Obudu are squaring behind either Ali Baba or the Forty Thieves. Rather than asking questions about issues of public interest in the Award Gate, they are getting distracted by the political gimmicks thrown at us by the politicians.

But it is not surprising, considering the reality of a political environment where young graduates too are so bereft of ideas to sustain their existence other than living off the pockets of politicians.

We get excited; we copy and re-post from national dailies when politicians in Abuja are accused of misappropriation of funds. It is now happening in our door step and we are pretending that we are not seeing.

The Chairman of the Council and the Legislators must know that these issues cannot be swept under the carpet.

We will continue to ask these questions until relevant security agencies that are responsible for punishing law breakers bring them to book.

On whether the Chairman should go for a second term or not, there is no section of the Constitution of the Republic that presently disqualifies Emmanuel Ikwen from contesting a second term if he so wishes, but in going for it, he should bear in mind the ever cautious words of a former American President, Thomas Jefferson who said: “whenever a man has cast a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct”.

Agba Jalingo is an author, journalist and activist. He writes form Lagos. justicenownownow@yahoo.com

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