Title : Tenants of the House
Author: Wale Okediran
Publisher/ year: Nelson Publishers/ 2009
Number of pages: 306
University of Ibadan book shop
The book exposes the operations of the National Assembly
Name of Reviewer: Bright Sado Omo
Tenants of the house is a fictional representation of the happenings in the House of Representatives, the second highest legislative council in Nigeria. The events chronicled took place between the years 2004 and 2007. These include the aborted impeachment move of the then Speaker of the House and subsequent attempts at a bogus constitutional amendment in order to extend the tenure of the executive arm of government. Okediran develops several character portraits through which he establishes the strengths and weaknesses found in the legislative and executive arms of government in Nigeria.
For instance, Chief Ambrose Oneya, the president, presents the picture of a power-drunk, manipulative and greedy fellow who is temperamental and psychopathic. Through the characters, Honourable Yaya and the Deputy Speaker of the House, the ruthlessness in politicking and the viability of the phrase “no permanent friends in politics” is delineated. The possibility of hope and a sane future for Nigerian politics if there is an educated majority in the legislature is not sustained as even the seemingly upright Honourable Samuel Bakure is not consistent in his morals.
However, the de-prioritization of women in the African context is very well evident in the novel. Out of a total of three hundred and fifty members of the House of Representatives, only fifteen of the members are females. The only female legislator mentioned is Honorable Elizabeth, who represents Kaduna state, where the protagonist, Honorable Samuel is from. Women are considered as weaklings, unintelligent, docile, incapable, unreasonable, lazy, and so on. These have a direct influence on why African masses elect male representatives into the Legislature.
To prove these various perceptions about women wrong, Wale Okediran structures the character of Elizabeth as a Man in a female clothing. She is bold, smart, intelligent and knows the operations of the legislature. With her experience, she is well rooted in the house so much more than most of her male counterparts such as Hon. Samuel who she guides on how to operate in the house. She is so bold and fearless like a man that she acquires a gun for protection and knows how to guard it against the detective eyes of the security machines in the “Hallowed Chambers. Even though all of these manly qualities of hers are negative, they still prove to a reasonable extent that the sayings; “What a man can do, a woman can do better”, is true. She introduces Hon Sam to influential honorable such as Honourable Yaya Suleiman, the speaker and however enlightens honorable Sam on some of the necessities of a politician.
Women, through the character of Hon. Elizabeth is portrayed in the novel as vibrant. In the impeachment plot against the speaker, she is saddled with a significant role as one of the front-runners in the facilitation of the impeachment. She even as an eye for Hon. who are capable of doing the job, which makes her introduce Hon. Sam to Hon. Wineke Linus, member representing Bayelsa state, the middle-man between the cabal who planned (write the impeachment script) the impeachment and the honorable who are to act the impeachment script. Her recommendation of sam as a potential for the facilitation of the planned impeachment makes Honorable Linus confirm Hon. Sam as the man for the job.
Hon. Elizabeth’s Vibrancy is also proven on the Impeachment day as she moves around the hallowed chamber “mobilizing members against what she considered a sinister attempt to remove the speaker” (15). Lizzy even gets into a rift with Hon. Ajayi who is against the evil plot. “She’s very conscious of her feminity and willowy elegance” (15), so much that she warns Hon. Ajayi “don’t dare touch me again”, after she had brushed away his hand when he touched the nape of her neck. Lizzy, even though vibrant, is portrayed as active in the dirty and corrupt politics in the house of Representative (legislature) and the presidency (executive). She is portrayed as a betrayal, corrupt and one who was ready to engage her femininity in order to get whatever she wants from her male folks (using what one has to get what one wants). Despite that Lizzy introduced speaker Yaya Suleiman to Sam as her “close friend”, one she had had close relations with, she still bore in mind that “there are no permanent interests” (10). She, however, plays the role of a decoy and the part of a mole in the speakers camp, in the impeachment plot. Lizzy betrays the speaker all because of money and power against her claim that “money is the fertilizer of politics” (6).
During the impeachment, she is like a chameleon, who pretends to be on the Speaker’s side but frankly functions as a spy by extracting details from the speaker’s group to honorable Wenike’s group. On one occasion, during a meeting of the speaker’s group, she places a recorder in her handbag so as to record details of the meeting. However, after the speaker’s visit to Honorable Sam, which affects his consideration and retreating on take sides with pitching his tent with the Wenike’s group, which Lizzy too was in. Lizzy is ready to have sexual relations with Hon. Sam just to make him change his decision to jettison the Wenike’s group. After making him understand how dangerous is for him to leave the group, considering his acceptance of the bribe of ten thousand dollars which he had taken and the sensitive information of the group which he had accessed, all which failed to override his conviction, she say to him: “I am ready to co-operate with you… Over your former request (66). This acts, however, proves Lizzy craze to get whatever she wants at all cost, using her “feminine power”. This, Sam does not accede to as the sound of Lizzy’s doorbell interjects and nullifies the drama.
Furthermore, the saying that goes “that there are no permanent friends in politics advances its cause. Lizzy and Sam who ended up opposing themselves during the impeachment saga soon found themselves on the same side, on the basis of interest. The president who was opposed to the speaker Yaya soon found the speaker on his side during the proposed Constitutional amendment which will effect a tenure elongation for the speaker. As the heat of the Constitutional amendment rises, the house is again split into two groups. That the speaker and that of Hon. Kalkulus, a member from Oyo state. Here, the filthiness of politics is further exposed.
The President, chief Oneya, as a result of his craze for money and power seeks to push for his tenure’s elongation using the National Assembly, despite his nonperformance, corruptness, embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds, docility and deafness to the plight of the citizens who he classifies as “hungry passive constituents, who will go for anything”. His ambition sought vehemently to negate the fact which stood that ”it is the turn of the North to produce president”. He finds justification for his action when during a breakfast meeting in Aso Rock, with caucus men, legislators, and other citizens, he asserts: All over Africa, our leaders are very much aware of the urgent need for continuity.
This is why, in Uganda and Algeria, presidents Yoweri Museveni and Abdelaziz Bouteflica respectively were able to get their third-term tenure. In nearby Niger, the President is currently organizing mass rallies in all the provinces of the country of the country to support the Constitutional change which will give him his third term in office (79).
Speaker Yahya, however, gives assent to the president’s request on the basis that the proposed tenure elongation will, in turn, benefit the legislators. This he states when he says to Hon. Sam;
The president means well. Now, as the Tenure prolongation Bill sails through, it is honey for all of us. We shall smile. Who does not know it costs a fortune to run around campaigning these days? Now, you won’t have to run around. Imagine, Sam, you just sit in your armchair with an automatic ticket falling into your lap (166).
This exposes the considerations of public office holders and political leaders of the personal interest over the interest of the masses, undertaking whatever unreasonable tasks just for their greedy ambitions to see the light of the day. As things, play-out, the feminine figure, Lizzy, is again a major player, being an influential member of Hon. Kalkulus’ group to which Sam too belongs, as the group motive is to disrupt and finally stop the Tenure Prolongation Bill. While Hon. Kalkukus’ doles out responsibilities during his group’s meeting, he saddles her and Hon. Samuel the responsibility of visiting the Labour Congress in their quest to stop the proposed bill. As it happens, with determination and consistency, Lizzy and other honorable in Hon. Kalkulus’ group are able to stop the bill, despite the discouragement of some members who could not contain the temptation of a whopping one hundred thousand bribe to legislators from the presidency in order to gain their support. The legislators are also faced with serious threats, surveillance and harassment by security agents, coupled with numerous kidnap attempts on their families. Notwithstanding all of these, one can see that with the unifying effort of males and a paltry number of female legislators in the group, they are able their aim.
This, however, proves that women are hand working, smart, intelligent, reasonable, determined, agile, active, and possess other positive qualities. This is reasons why they should be given far more considerations to function in political, social, economic, financial, health, technological, religious and other institutions which make up the country, as they will be well positioned to engage all of the above-mentioned qualities contributive, in the development and advancement of the nation.
About Bright Sado
Bright Sado Omo was born on the 17th day of October, 1991 in Benin City, Edo state. He graduated from Ambrose Ali University. In the struggle his first published work. He’s currently working on his first novel, and second book titled: The Disillusioned Ones. It is to be published by Britoman Prints, an imprint of The Britoman Group. He won the short spam award for literature in 2012 and Edo State Pen Awards for Plays.