By Tonnie Iredia
The condemnable attempt a few days ago by just 5 Kogi State legislators to remove their Speaker, Momoh Jimoh Lawal, ought not to be referred to as news. This is not to suggest that negative issues don’t make news because everyone knows that bad news is the most popular news. But considering that the newer and fresher an event is, the easier it is for it to make news, hooliganism which has since become a hobby of our legislators and which is no longer new, ought not to make news in the ordinary sense; rather it should make condemnable news. In other words, it shouldn’t even be described as news but as a story which the teller presents in a negative sense. Unfortunately, we the narrators hardly remember to sensitize the people that it is the story of shameless actors.
Well, if the every-ready maker of bad news does not know how to be ashamed once a while, the audience particularly their kith and kin must learn to do so, on their behalf. As people in our part of Nigeria would say, the relations of a thief are usually more stigmatized than the criminal.
It is certainly time for Nigerians to become intensely worried over the behaviour of their representatives who seem to suggest that once what they are engaged in, has a potential to produce some material gains for them, nothing else matters. The situation becomes more worrisome when it is realized that legislators are the only Nigerians with unjustifiably huge salaries that are officially shrouded in secrecy. Whereas, there is nothing wrong if legislators remove a speaker they no longer have confidence in, must they always carry it out without due process and in a violent manner?
On national television, it is always easy to see the leaders of the ‘coupists’ in a posture of intoxicated fellows as if alcohol allowance is part of their high salaries. Each time a speaker or deputy governor is removed by legislators; there is usually the story that they are instigated to so act according to their governors’ temperament. Painfully, their alleged inducement often runs into millions of naira from the public treasury- a recklessness which is part of what has brought our economy to its current poor state. Although the governors are quick at distancing themselves from the subject, as Governor Yahaya Belo has already done in the case of Kogi, the flagrant break down of law and order that the legislators engage in must have been backed by the authority. Here, history is our guide.
In February 2010, when members of the Edo House of Assembly violently ousted Speaker Zakawanu Garuba, media reports reflected not just the presence of law enforcement officials within the Assembly complex but also ambulances and medical doctors who had been arranged there to administer first aid. Who called them in? Some seven months later, 9 legislators suspended 15 of their colleagues in the Ogun State House of Assembly. The legislators were reportedly escorted by 10 policemen.
That there were more policemen than the legislators being escorted looks like the fulfillment of a promise to provide security for the event. It also explains why the legislators are ever ready to reverse themselves daily the way the ones in the Niger State House of Assembly ridiculed themselves in 2012 when they had to elect 2 Speakers in a week as though they were drunk for half of the week. They sacked Speaker, Mohammad Gamunu on May 15, for alleged incompetence and unanimously elected Isah Kawu representing Bida 1 constituency as the new Speaker. Before the latter had time to assume duties, they sacked him again for incompetence and elected another legislator, Adamu Usman, to take his place. The offence of the less than one week old speaker was not disclosed. The Assembly merely said it acted on a motion which was moved under matter of urgent public importance.
What was the rational for moving a motion of vote of no confidence on a speaker who was yet to perform any specific role in his few days in office-in other words, how was the level of his competence determined? It was difficult to ascertain the role of the Executive if any in the matter as a rumour that the state government provided over N200 million to induce the lawmakers to terminate the less than one week old leadership of their House was denied by the executive. But no one denied the other story that before the removal of Kawu, civil servants in the state had been mobilized to march on the Assembly Complex, to demand his removal. Also not disputed was the story that military and armed policemen were similarly drafted to the premises of the Assembly on the day of the planned removal which suggests that the law enforcement agencies were privy to the plan
While the pattern of removal of speakers seems to suggest executive manipulation, greed on the part of the legislators is more discernible as they always put forward irrational reasons for their actions. The December 2009 classical case of Speaker Ahmed Hassan Jumare of the Kaduna Assembly is instructive here. His colleagues who sought to remove him from office suddenly declared him as an illiterate and discountenanced his claim that he obtained his qualification from the State Polytechnic located in the same city as the House of Assembly. Also to be noted is the fact that every legislator that is due for removal is usually described by his peers as incompetent. When Ibrahim Sadiq, Speaker of the Adamawa State House of Assembly and his deputy were removed from office in 2011, incompetence and lack of administrative acumen were the reasons given by their colleagues. A few days later, Kano lawmakers removed their speaker-Yusuf Abdullahi Falgore for gross incompetence. In the case of Ebonyi State, the situation was exactly the same with the removal of Speaker Ikechukwu Nwankwo.
Against this backdrop, is there any legislator in any State Assembly in Nigeria that is not incompetent? Are they all under the influence of huge alcohol allowance or are they competing for visibility with the National Road Transport Workers?