Let me start out this piece by saying that even though I am of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), I voted for Senator Bukola Saraki of the All Progressive Congress (APC), and I did it for Nigeria.
I am of the firm belief that political parties are created to serve the interest of the masses and not individual or group interests. That is my ethic in politics.
Nigeria does not belong to a party. Both the PDP and the APC must allow President Muhammadu Buhari be his own man and the Senate be her own body.
Why should a party aspire to treat a president like a caged bird to be let out when they choose so it can sing to their guests and be put back in the cage until it is needed again?
In case anybody is in doubt, Nigerians voted for President Buhari, they did not vote for the APC. The same was also true in 2011 when Nigerians voted for President Goodluck Jonathan and not the PDP.
I admire the party chieftains of the APC but we need to face reality here.
On the 28th of October 2014, the then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, defected from the PDP to the APC and still kept his position as Speaker.
Try as it may, the PDP was unable to get the judiciary to depose Tambuwal for leaving his party as both Justice Ahmed Mohammed and Justice Justice Ibrahim Buba rejected such arguments.
Therefore there are political and legal precedents to state that any elected person can leave his party and still retain his seat.
That being the case, political parties have to be very careful because if they push too hard they could unwittingly or perhaps wittingly win the election and lose the government.
I have no doubt in my mind that the PDP will not be unwilling to open its arms wide to anybody and I mean anybody who wants to escape from internal dictatorship.
Again, let me sound a warning to parties that they are like in-laws who give out a woman in marriage. Once they have given out their daughter in marriage the expectation is that they allow her bear her husband’s name. Enough said on that score.
The second thing I want to say to Nigeria is that I am disappointed at the way we treated the late great Dora Akunyili.
Scarcely has Nigeria encountered a woman who gave so much and took so little from her.
Many Nigerians may not know that Dora served with President Muhammadu Buhari when he was Executive Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF).
While serving at PTF, she took ill and was given a frightening diagnosis in Nigeria which necessitated her going to the United Kingdom for treatment. She was given her medical expenses and when she got to the UK, she was told that she was misdiagnosed and that she would be all right.
And that is where Dora stood out from the crowd. She returned to Nigeria and refunded the medical expenses PTF paid her back to the agency! How many Nigerians would do that?
This story was the reason my boss, then President Olusegun Obasanjo, appointed her to head the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
In that position, Dora brought life to the fight against fake drugs which had taken an untold number of innocent human lives.
So successful was she that two assassination attempts were made on her life in August 2001 and in December 2003. The second one was almost successful as the bullet pierced her scarf!
Altogether Dora won over 400 local and international awards in recognition of her work as the Director General of NAFDAC.
It is no longer news that we lost Dora to cancer (that wicked disease that keeps taking my friends) on the 7th of June, 2014.
What is however news is that no governmental or non governmental body thought it wise to remember Dora and honour her on the first anniversary of her demise despite all she did for Nigeria.
June 7th 2015 came and went and it was as if nothing happened. In just one year Dora was purged from our institutional memory. What message are we sending out when we behave this way?
Does it mean that we only remember the living and the strong? Are we telling our youth that Nigeria is not worth sacrificing for because no one will remember your sacrifice?
People like Dora are put on stamps in other nations. She saved lives and she instituted a system that is still saving lives. Surely that maters.
Let me thank former President Jonathan who was the only person I know that publicly acknowledged her and her sacrifice on the first anniversary of her death.
On Sunday June 7th, President Jonathan released a Facebook update and said: “It was just a year ago that I was greeted with the shocking news of your passing. Hardly has Nigeria encountered an amazon such as you. A grateful nation remembers your services, which saved lives and advanced the cause of democracy. Continue to rest in peace Dora Akunyili. GEJ.”
Even out of office Jonathan continues to show that he is a man who believes in Nigeria.
May the soul of Dora Akunyili rest in peace and may God give her the reward that Nigeria failed to give her.
And finally, I feel deeply sad to read about workers that have not been paid for many months. It is so sad. Even sadder still is the headline I came across as I wrote this piece which revealed that over 200 pensioners had died while being owed for months in a particular state. This is very inhumane and something must be done very soon or corruption will increase.
Why do I say corruption will increase if something is not done soon? If civil servants are not getting paid and if they feel that the situation will get worse when they retire, then they have a higher incentive to steal government money and corrupt the system.
It is in the states own interest to ensure that salaries are paid to workers as and when due. If we push our state civil servants to the wall, governors may be in for a shocker as these workers may turn on them.
And I salute the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for raising donations for unpaid workers in some states. This is a noble gesture and will help save the lives of the most vulnerable amongst the unpaid workers.
I hereby call on other religious and humanitarian bodies to follow CAN’s lead and come to the aid of these particular set of less privileged persons who became less privileged through no fault of theirs.
•Senator Ben Bruce represents Bayelsa East in the Senate and is the Chairman of the Silverbird Entertainment Group.