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‘Tigers’ in the legislative chamber

THE recent sack of the entire Committee on Communications in the Upper Chamber of our legislative house came as no surprise to many Nigerians.

What came as a surprise however is the ludicrous nature of the recent infraction in the house which leaves a very sour taste in the mouth. One can therefore understand why the leadership of the upper house is bent on cleansing the stable to forge a new pro-active indentity for the upper chamber.

According to the Senate President, David Mark, the upper house dissolved the Communications Committee over its attempt to “ridicule the chamber”. But how?

The Communications Committee, headed by Senator Sylvester Anyanwu, had submitted a report of the screening of members of the Governing Board of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to the Senate for consideration.

The Senate which was eager to treat the report expeditiously had then asked the chairman of the committee to proceed with his presentation. However, midway into the process, a member of the committee, Senator Umar Argungu, threw spanners in the works.

According to Argungu: “The committee did not seat to screen anyone; the report being presented is fake. Therefore, it should  not be accepted!”  The entire Chamber was quiet. It was like a bolt from the blues.

This development is definitely a dangerous legislative precedent that must be confronted head-long to prevent its spread to other senate committees.

A situation where legislators falsify reports to deceive not just the Upper Chamber, but also the entire nation, calls to question the integrity of the entire membership of the Communications Committee.

There is no doubt that the Senate President, Senator David Mark did well by refusing to entertain every entreaty seeking to “paper” over the lie. This is the kind of high credibility quotient that the nation expects from leaders at all levels, not just at the Senate or the House of Representatives, but generally across the board.

In dissolving the committee, the Senate President demonstrated a willingness to lead the vanguard against corruption in the Upper Chamber. But can we say the same for the House of Representatives, under its current leadership?

The answer is no! When confronted with a recent car  purchase scandal, rather than open the house to a proper investigation, the Speaker, emboldened by the confidence of some co-travellers in the house, sacked the arrow-heads of the struggle against this legislative perfidy to silence opposition.

Again, instead of engaging himself in a sober introspection on issues affecting the credibility of  the House, the Speaker, Hon Dimeji Bankole, still went about elbowing and bullying others, like a school janitor who has just lost his keys. We are in big trouble in this country.

We are faced here with the dilemma of a leadership in the lower house that does not know what constitutes good leadership. When small-minded people get jobs that are bigger than their shoulders can carry, they often carry themselves shoulder-high to show every one that they can cope with the task instead of humbling themselves as part of the learning process required to become better leaders.

For instance, the kind of high integrity displayed by Senator David Mark on the recent committee scandal, shows that he is not ready to associate with erring colleagues who are not willing to serve as good examples on matters of probity to the general public.

This is the challenge that currently faces the house of representatives today. Last week, the Speaker goofed again, this time at Otta.

At the ceremony slated for the commissioning of the long abandoned Otta bridge, the Speaker blew his top in a reported verbal exchange between him and the Minister of Works, Senator Musa Daggash.

Having arrived late to the event by some hours, instead of cooling his anger, he reportedly engaged the Minister in a verbal judo and tongue-lashed him thoroughly, while taking a side-swipe at the Governor of Ogun State for not waiting for him to commission the project.

This is ridiculous. He was neither the Special Guest of Honour, nor the person billed to cut the tape; so why put himself under intense heat with so much fuss over a matter that is very simple in nature? He actually mismanaged his public image by the way he handled the crisis.

By descending heavily on Daggash with rage, lambasting him like a school boy, the Speaker overshot his runway. Don’t forget that Daggash himself was once a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and a brilliant one at that, with a first class honour’s degree in his pocket; yet the Speaker took him to the cleaners, promising to get him sacked, to the bargain.

This is an unnecessary show of naked power. It is not just a bad legislative attitude, it is a matter of regret that the Speaker should allow such mundane issue to blow into the open because as a late comer to an important land mark event, he has no moral right to push a case against the organizers who started the ceremony two hours behind the  scheduled time, after waiting for him for a long time.

By Tunde Ajayi, a commentator on  national issues, writes from Ibadan, Oyo State.


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