By Tonnie Iredia
It is not irrational to imagine that the current efforts of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) at redressing the on-going heating-up of the polity by its officials in government can hardly work. To start with, although the people involved purport to belong to the same political party, they are not people of like minds. That has been the fate of Nigeria’s political parties since 1999 which all in all are groupings that are neither premised on any ideology/philosophy nor inspired by the same manifesto. In fact, Nigerian politicians have individual agenda to which they subordinate not only the goals of their parties but also the well-being of the nation. The end result is that the nation is hurt leaving everyone to convey his frustrations in different ways. For the Catholic Bishop of Maiduguri Diocese, Most Rev. Oliver Dashe, it was probably enough just to put it mildly as he did a few days back when he said “President Muhammadu Buhari was a lone ranger in his anti-corruption crusade.”
Bishop Dashe’s diction was simple but he spoke the minds of many who greatly feel their unending exploitation by the ruling class. When any privileged Nigerian such as Prof Itse Sagay, Chairman of the Presidential Committee on anti-corruption is provoked to lose his temper and flare up on national issues, some analysts overlook the gravity of the subject only to castigate the way the point was made. As a media professional, I am not likely to use Sagay’s diction but to think that I and many other Nigerians are not on the same page with him is to underrate our feelings about our nation’s present state of anomie. To underscore the point, let’s recall a recent speech by another popular Nigerian – Charly boy- the frontline multitalented artiste who described the refusal of the Senate to clear the newly nominated Resident Electoral Commissioners as “the drama, the blackmail, the clowning around of most of the riffraffs called senators, whose sole aim of representing us is to loot us into oblivion.”
If the Senate feels defamed by Charley boy or any other Nigerian including Sagay, the way out is to sue for defamation. After all, Nigeria has a draconian defamation law which covers Libel and Slander and which has been in existence since its promulgation in 1961. Thus, the trend whereby the legislature summons its critics to appear before it to explain their actions/speeches does not fall in line with the spirit of our constitution. Worse still is when the legislature makes pronouncements on such hearings and seeks to transform them to immutable conclusions. We submit that it is only the judiciary that can make final and binding decisions because under the rule of law, any aggrieved person can approach the judiciary to contest the decisions of other bodies including those of the legislature. Indeed, in 2010 an Abuja High Court nullified the suspension of 11 members of the House of Representatives during the speakership of Dimeji Bankole. If so, to investigate an allegation in the senate and find a person guilty and then proceed to punish the accused and to insist as was done in the case of Babachir Lawal the Secretary to the Government of the Federation that he should be made to vacate his office amounts to usurpation of judicial functions.
Thus, the increasing refusal of appointees of the executive to give full respect to the legislature must be appropriately situated if we must call a spade by its name. It is also on this premise that a number of decisions of the Senate are being scrutinized; the case of Ibrahim Magu, the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), being a good example. We have no problem with those who feel that Magu’s performance at the second screening was below expectation but it is patently simplistic to stop there. President Buhari is not known to be in the habit of re-nominating rejected nominees. The President represented Magu because he was never screened before as the Senate decided not to on a particular ground. Interestingly, the re-nomination which was a wakeup call on the Senate to do a thorough job saw the use of the same security report which informed its earlier inchoate screening to corroborate the previous report. Besides, Nigerians can remember that David Mark’s Senate cleared Minister Obanikoro despite weighty allegations against him at the time. The argument then was that the Senate not being a court of law could not reject Obanikoro on grounds of allegations. The present Senate similarly and persuasively brushed aside allegations against Ministers Rotimi Amaechi and Raji Fashola. Why then should Magu be rejected on grounds of allegations?
The implication of this is that the Senate is inadvertently opening up credibility problems for itself making every of its actions suspect. Hence, some people may not see the suspension of Senator Ali Ndume as rational because the allegation that he falsely accused his colleagues of any impropriety is incorrect. The Senator merely drew attention to scandalous reports in the media which on the basis of precedence ought to be investigated. Fortunately, the resultant probe restored the image of the affected Senators; so why punish Ndume? Besides, did our constitution envisage that Senators would make rules to deprive a particular constituency from being represented? The APC peace panel must have these issues in its sub consciousness just as it must in earnest gather data on a number of things. First, why did the Chief Law Officer of the Federation and learned Attorney General argue publicly early in 2016, that the Senate lacked the powers to summon him? Second and more importantly, concerning today’s issues, what does Sagay, the learned professor of law know that provoked him into what is seen as inflammatory statement that the rest of us don’t know?
Whereas the nation can clearly see the APC battling to halt overblown tension between its members in the legislature and executive, Senator Ita Enang who is mandated to smoothen the relations sought to sweep it under the carpet last Thursday at a news conference. Well, the party is free to use the current peace efforts to merely dissuade the washing of APC’s several dirty pieces of linen in the public but these won’t put the party up for 2019.