Three honourable members of the House of Representatives are furious at a letter by the US Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, accusing them of sexual misconduct during a trip to the US where they had been invited on an International Visitors Leadership Programme in April.
The letter was not the sort of fussy namby-pamby that our honourable lawmakers are used to, the sort of rambling nonsense that calls inflating the budget a fancy name, like “padding” or the shenanigan that describes the criminal act of child rape common among lawmakers, as “early marriage”.
Entwistle dispensed with diplomatic niceties. In a letter he knew would go public, he told Speaker Yakubu Dogara in plain language that three members of the House – Mohammed Gololo, Samuel Ikon and Mark Gbillah – were scavenging for sex during their visit.
That was not what the visit was meant to achieve. The IVLP is a five-star programme of the State Department designed to expose carefully selected participants to the US system of government, to help them understand how the system works in the hope that they would use the experience when they return home.
Seven other lawmakers on the trip had no problems. It was, however, a matter of regret and disappointment for the US Government that for the one week when Gololo, Ikon and Gbillah were in Cleveland, they thought and fantasized about nothing but sex by any means.
“I request in the strongest possible terms,” the Ambassador said in his letter to Dogara, adding: “You share this message with the members of the National Assembly so they understand the seriousness of these issues and the potential consequences of their actions, not only for themselves as individuals, but also for the future of such programmes designed to benefit Nigerians.”
The three lawmakers concerned have cried fowl, claiming that the ambassador’s charge was a blow below the belt. One of them, Gololo, has even threatened to go to court if the US government fails to produce evidence – including, but not limited to videos!
I can only imagine how distressing this must been for all involved but I’ll advise Gololo and co to be careful what they ask for. As things stand today, their visas may only have been prudentially revoked. Under this process, a mere suspicion of ineligibility could be enough to warrant revocation. The decision, according to one source, does not require an actual conviction or the person’s admission of having committed a criminal act, much less notice to the visa holder or a hearing.
In other words, the protest by Gololo and co that they were not heard, is allowed under prudential revocation.
It seems, however, that in this particular case, the US mission had, in its own words, “taken pains to confirm the allegations”, to avoid ruffling diplomatic feathers. Yet, the fact that the other parties were not heard still leaves room for redress in future under this law.
If Gololo and co want to go the whole hog, however, if they insist on seeing the skits on YouTube, they must pause and take a long, hard look at themselves in the mirror. They must be careful what they wish for.
Why the tantrums? The matter will never get to court anyway. The US Embassy has finished its work. The rest is up to us – or more to the point – up to voters in their constituencies and to Dogara and the leadership of the House. Any suggestion that the public would believe the outcome of the investigations by the House is a huge joke. I’m sure Dogara knows that members of the public don’t think politicians are nice, believable dudes.
Most of us think that politicians are like their original father, the goblin – self-conceited, cold, calculating, grasping liars only interested in what they can make for themselves and nothing else. Who will believe them?
Until this scandal broke we didn’t know that Gololo, Ikon or Gbillah were in the House. But they have obviously been around, at least since last year, comfortable in their holes with hardly any significant opinion about anything until Cleveland happened.
I’m amused by the spin that Entwistle made up this scandal to “embarrass” our honourables because of where they’re from or because they’re black. Have Gololo and co heard of a French guy called Dominique Strauss-Khan – DSK, for short?
A former IMF boss, DSK was a solid candidate for the French presidency when a one-for-the-road with Nafissatou Diallo in a New York hotel forced the police to bundle him out of a nearly departing airplane.
It was only after one month in detention, a shattered presidential ambition and about $6 million in out-of-court settlement with Diallo that DSK began to gather the pieces of his broken life together again. If it was a set up, well, he delivered himself into the hands of his enemies, with his whistle hanging out!
When Gololo and co hear that the law is no respecter of persons, that is almost always what it means.
Sadly, they are used to a life of entitlement. They are among the highest paid legislators in the world and, from time to time, they get a chance to select the type of SUVs they want, on top of their car allowances. They are even currently having a shameless debate about how they can get more – not for Nigerians – but for their own leaders; how to grant them pension for life at 100 per cent of total package at the end of tenure, with immunity as icing on the cake.
That is what you get in a system where politicians think they’re entitled not just to their own extravagant lifestyles, but also to the pleasure of getting someone else to pay for their debauchery.
Now, they’re learning the hard way that it’s a different world out there.
. Ishiekwene is the Managing Director/Editor-In-Chief of The Interview magazine and a board member of the Paris-based Global Editors Network.