It was simply a showdown between the Nigeria police and the members of the House of Representatives at the National Assembly complex on Thursday over the refusal of the former to allow the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal access. Read accounts of what have become a show of shame for a nation.
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Even though some people had somewhat anticipated a showdown, it definitely wasn’t the one that would assume such a gargantuan, absolutely dishonorable dimension.
If at all it would, no one thought it would be fought outside the chambers where decorum and decency were all thrown to the winds, giving rise to a free for all.
To them, his “sins” were many and so, must not go unpunished. To them, he is a traitor, an ingrate who stabbed them in the back. He hit them where it hurts most by deserting them for another political party and still remained the Speaker. For them, any thinkable thing was extremely necessary to exert their own pound of flesh even if it means doing the unthinkable.
At first, they withdrew his security details and left him vulnerable. They cited a section of the constitution to back up their action.
But in response to their action, he headed for the courts and secured an order that quieted the situation. But yet, palpitations didn’t stop. Apparently, they went back to the drawing board. Luckily, a natural opportunity played out with the expiration of emergency rule in the three north eastern States of which needed utmost urgency and attention. They smiled and waited.
With a letter from the presidency, he reconvened the House shot -closed by way of parliamentary adjournment on October 28, 2014.
But that was where they waited for him. And upon sighting him make an entry into the road leading to the complex, they became agitated, acting like people who were taking orders from above.
One by one, they barricaded the entry gate, literally asking him to make a u-turn. But obviously, that couldn’t have been possible. And what followed suit can comfortably pass for one of the scenes in a drama. Indeed, that was the scenario that played out between the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal and a section of the Nigeria police at the National Assembly complex on Thursday.
How it all started
Here Tambuwal is the protagonist while the badge of the Nigerian police led Federal Capital Territory Commissioner, Mr. Wilson Inalegwu was the antagonist.
Apparently determined to bar the Tambuwal, Inalegwu woke up at the first cock crow and went to the National Assembly to mount an unusual sentry.
Inquiries revealed that he had earlier on arrival, asked for, got and confiscated the key to the House of Representatives chambers. On sighting the Speaker who made his entry into the assembly, the police blocked the main entrance, stopping the Speaker from accessing the complex. Apparently confused, Tambuwal alighted from his car and approached the gate to make inquiries.
But every one kept a straight face. Hear him: ‘’gentlemen, my name is Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, and I am the Speaker of this House. I am here as our constitution demands to go in and preside over the sitting of the House. Officers, I would like to know who the commanding officer here is. Can you identify me as the Speaker of this House?”, he asked. Receiving no response from them, Tambuwal retreated and resigned his fate on nothingness even as the scorching sun bathed his head. Apparently, he was waiting for a the ranking of the police team to come.
At that point, word spread and some other lawmakers, those coming and those already inside raced to the gate. For several minutes, they banged the gate, pleading for entry. Yet again, no one listened. This prompted a violent push. Some agile parliamentarians jumped over the gate. Some struggled to do that. Some were athletic and even flipped while jumping over. It was a sight. The Speaker had been whisked away through an opening.
More drama at National Assembly complex
One would think that it was over at the gate, but no, it wasn’t. On sighting Tambuwal into the premises guarded by most of his colleagues, the atmosphere changed. From here and there, canisters of tear gas started flying around, prompting everyone to take to his heels.
The Speaker was lucky to have avoided about two that flew at his direction. But at that point, they became unperturbed and marched on.
At the chambers
Hearing about crisis, the chairman and President of the Senate, Mr. David Mark raced into the green chambers and were it not for some providence, some angry and highly agitated lawmakers almost descended on him. And so, he left. Thereafter, he ordered for the closure of the assembly till Tuesday next week using his powers as the chairman of the assembly.
Despite the imbroglio, the lawmakers had a closed door session that lasted for about 2 hours. Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Zakari Mohammed flanked by his Deputy, Hon. Victor Ogene later briefed Journalists on the decision of the House on the proposed extension of the State of Emergency. But before the session, the Lawmakers had started gathering signatures which most people interpreted were to kick-start an impeachment process against President Goodluck Jonathan.
Mohammed: “At the executive session, we agreed that the president should rely on provisions of the 1999 constitution bordering on Sections 218, 217(2c) 33, 14, 42b to prosecute whatever situation in the country. “The House needs a maximum of ten days and a minimum of 2 days to seat on such a national matter but for now no extension of the military rule”.
“What transpired in NASS is sad and we condemn it in all ramifications because we are Nigerians who were elected”.
“We swore to an oath of allegiance and we must uphold the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. If things continue this way then one day we will meet armed policemen at the legislative temple trying to deliberate with us”.
Vexed by the incident, the All progressive Congress, APC warned impunity of the federal government. ‘’The plot was simple: The Presidency decided to use the reconvening of the House as an opportunity to remove the Speaker. While Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha was accorded a presidential ride into the premises of the National Assembly, House Speaker Tambuwal was barred from entry by the hordes of security agents who have been deployed solely for that purpose. ‘’Their plan was to ensure that, with Tambuwal locked out, Ihedioha would preside over the reconvened House and the Speaker will then be removed.
The consideration of the request to extend the State of Emergency was not important to the Presidency. The fate of the Nigerians who are suffering from the insurgency, which has displaced 1.5 million people, does not bother the Presidency. All it wanted is to remove Tambuwal. ‘’However, the plan failed as members of the House overpowered the security personnel and the Speaker was led on foot into the Chambers, even as a rain of tear gas fell on them. In the end, the President himself sabotaged his Administration’s tepid war on terror, and he got himself a birthday gift he didn’t bargain for: A humiliating political defeat that played out on national television. This is a clear reminder that there is always a limit to impunity!
On a similar note, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar asked the federal government to retrace its move against opposition.
“What is happening at the National Assembly taken together with what unfolded today (Thursday) at the Ekiti House of Assembly is totally strange. It is not the democracy we fought for; for which many of our compatriots paid for with their lives. These free-riders should not be allowed to destroy what others built with their sweat and blood. “It is not too late, however, for President Jonathan to pull the plug on these assaults to our democracy because it is inconceivable that the show of shame at the National Assembly is what he wanted as a birthday present”
Deputy Majority Leader, Leo Ogor, apologizes
What actually happened today was quite unexpected. It was not an incident that anybody was looking onto. Sincerely, I want to take this opportunity to apologise to the people of Nigeria. It is a very bad experience. And I want to also use this opportunity to apologise to the Senate president who also came in to try as much as he can to make sure that there is peace in the house.
But it is unfortunate that the altercation that happened was totally uncalled for. And on behalf of the House of Reps, my sincere apologies go to him. I do hope and pray that this will be the last of this experience, because I believe that the House as parliamentarians, we should be able to address our issues internally. And I believe that this issue will be put to rest as soon as possible. I want to appeal to everybody to give us the opportunity, because I’m convinced beyond reasonable doubt that our capacity to address this issue is not limited. We at the House should be able to handle this using the instrumentality of the House as contained in our rules.
Though the police later left, the saddest thing according to analysts of the event on Thursday, however was that the police never disclosed who ordered their mission and action. This left one wondering what could happen when the House formerly resumes on December 3, 2014 even as it is obvious that the State of Emergency was not literally approved by the lawmakers.