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How 38 ministerial nominees scaled Senate’s screening

By Emmanuel Aziken
The screening of the thirty_eight ministerial nominees proposed by Acting President Goodluck Jonathan by the Senate may have been an improvement in the unmelodious praise singing ritual associated with past Senate screening exercises in the past.

True to the admonition of the President of the Senate Senator David Mark, several other Senators and concerned members of the public the three day confirmation hearing did not witness any serious act of undue adulation of the nominees.

At least not in the chambers. Rather what may remain etched in the memory of many Nigerians was the emotion that rocked the first day of the session as Prof. Dora Akunyili, the immediate past Minister of Information and Culture faced the unforgiving wrath of Senator Kanti Bello, the Chief Whip of the Senate.

Akunyili had stirred the emotion of many Nigerians and Senators in particular with her sharp rebuke of the close associates of President Umaru Yar‘Adua with her media campaign for the resolution of the impasse arising from the prolonged ailment of the President.

Besides a memo she channeled to fellow members of the just dissolved Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF), she followed up with media interviews where she accused a cabal around President Yar‘Adua of orchestrating a crisis for their personal benefit.

It was as such not surprising that when the Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu annulled the election of Senator Joy Emodi (PDP, Anambra North) many Senators out of sympathy, emotion or deliberate effort to hit at Akunyili inspired a whispering campaign to get the delectable Emodi to replace Akunyili who is from Anambra State in the list.

The campaign for one reason or the other did not reach an ascendancy but Senators waited on the wings for Akunyili.

Senator Bello like many other northern Senators had expressed dismay at the audacity of Mrs. Akunyili with many accusing her of betrayal on account of assertions that she was part of the cabal.

Before Akunyili was screened Mrs. Fidelia Njeze, the nominee from Enugu State and Mr. Adetokunbo Kayode from Ondo State had been screened and passed through, albeit unremarkably.

Following the duo, Senator Bello asked her to buttress her outbursts against the alleged cabal against constitutional provisions on public officers to seek the unity and the promotion of the culture of the country.

Senator Bello also challenged her on the viability of her nomination against the background of claims of the lopsidedness of appointments from Anambra Central Senatorial district against other senatorial zones in the State.

Replying, Mrs. Akunyili said:

“The distinguished Senator said that I was supposed to be part of the cabal. I was not in any way part of the cabal. I want to state here very clearly that President Umaru Yar`Adua my boss, my big brother, and he remains my brother and everybody knows that he is a fine gentleman and with beautiful spirit. When we started having problems,” Mrs. Akunyili replied.

Her response immediately raised commotion on the floor with many Senators rising on their feet and some walking away a situation that forced the President of the Senate, Senator Mark to stand up.

It was an unprecedented action in an open session.

Senator Mark took almost two minutes to bring Senators to order with a sharp rebuke to Senators to comport themselves well warning that he would not want to stand up again.

After quieting the rebellion, Akunyili was asked to continue her response to the questions raised by Bello.

“When he became ill, I organized a fast with my staff and my household and the DG of the FRCN was part of the fast. I also booked 90 days novena prayers for him at St. Leo Parish, Ikeja it can be cross checked when he went to the hospital and that shows you that I have nothing against our President.”

“I am loyal to him, I am loyal to the Constitution and I am very loyal to the country,” Mrs. Akunyili said amidst an uproar from several Senators.

Senator Mark was forced to intervene as he asked her to bow and go.

Akunyili was not the only eruption that Monday. Before her, Senator Garba Lado (PDP, Katsina South) raised a point of order with respect to the publication by a newspaper of the inducement of Senators to the tune of $100,000 each to frustrate the screening exercise.

Senator Lado who is well known for his insistence against the enthronement of Dr. Jonathan as Acting President said the news publication was an act of blackmail directed against him and other Katsina Senators who were fingered as the conduits for the distribution of the alleged bribe.

Senator Mark referred the issue to Senate Committee on Ethics and Public Petitions saying that neither he nor any other Senator received the reported amount, describing the report as an act of blackmail.

Senator Lado was to again erupt when Mr. Adetokunbo was being screened when he asked him to cite constitutional basis for the proclamation of the doctrine of necessity, the doctrine used by the Senate to empower Dr. Jonathan as Acting President.

Mr. Adetokunbo replying said:

”It speaks for itself it is when you must do something that is necessary for things to move on. This doctrine is not our creation it is an international convention. If there appears to be a vacuum within the law you can just jump over that breach to ensure that you do the right thing. Many of us who study the doctrine of necessity believe that it was  the right thing that was done and it was rightly applied and that many of us are grateful to this Senate for what it did.”

Mr. Adetokunbo also dismissed allegations to unnecessary delay in the trial of Major Hamza Mustapha and some others indicted in some unjudicial killings during the administration of erstwhile Head of State, late Gen. Sanni Abacha.

“There are two criminal jurisdictions, federal and State jurisdiction. The persons you have mentioned fall under the State jurisdiction. Many of the delays were caused by counsels,” Mr. Adetokunbo said yesterday.

Tuesday, the second day of the confirmation hearing was largely taken up with anticipation on Murtala Yar‘Adua, nephew of President Yar‘Adua, who was nominated to serve in the cabinet replacing the one originally constituted by his uncle.

The forty year old Murtala Yar‘Adua was nominated allegedly against the wishes of some elements close to President Yar‘Adua.

Reflecting the fracture within the extended Yar‘Adua political family, the younger Yar‘Adua was escorted to the Senate screening by an enthusiastic crowd including family members, friends and officials of the Katsina State government who were all about him hailing him with his traditional title, Tafidan, the traditional Katsina title he inherited from his father, the late Gen. Shehu Musa Yar‘Adua, the number two man in the military administration of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo.


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