By Emmanuel Aziken
Last Wednesday’s mace snatching incident is the first recorded event of such in either of the two chambers of the National Assembly. However, similar incidents of mace snatching are not strange to State Houses of Assembly where political theatrics sometimes turn to physical exchange of blows by legislators.
Since Mr. Ebubedike representing Badagry East put his name in history when he snatched the mace of the Western House of Assembly in 1965, aggrieved legislators have seen it as a last resort to disrupt legislative proceedings when they are on the losing side.
Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, secretary of the Parliamentary Support Group for Buhari was surely on the loser’s side among his colleagues as at last Wednesday when thugs accompanied him into the Senate chambers to rain mayhem on the institution of the legislative house.
If emerging details is anything to go by, what happened in the Senate chambers last Wednesday may have been the first decisive plan to uproot the Senator Bukola Saraki leadership. It was just by happenstance that the three senators: Dino Melaye, Enyinnanya Abaribe and Obinna Ogba who the dissenters expected to fight back and provoke the expected pandemonium were not available at the time of the incident.
By going for the mace, the invaders aimed to delegitimise further proceedings of the Senate given the fact that the mace is the symbol of authority of the legislative house. However, they perhaps did not bargain for the fact that the Senate had a spare mace.
This revelation that the Senate has a spare mace is eliciting questions from some folks who question why the Senate should have two symbols of authority. Even if a spare mace was procured for such a circumstance as this, does it not by that fact undermine the authority of the mace?
As the senators get ready to sit, the Serjeant-at-Arms leads the procession which commences from the office of the Senate President into the chamber. The Senate President, his deputy and other principal officers of the Senate follow in a single procession. There is a measured distance between the Serjeant-at-Arms bearing the mace on his shoulder and the Senate President or whosever is going to preside. As he goes in measured steps, the Serjeant-at-Arms shouts Mr. President and every one on the way is expected to give way. In the House where the practise is essentially the same, the Serjeant-at-Arms shouts Mr. Speaker!
As he arrives the chamber, the Serjeant-at-Arms places the mace on a special hook that is attached to the table. It must be raised up.
When the Senate goes into a committee of the whole or temporarily stands down from plenary, the mace is brought down from its raised platform indicating that the Senate is not in plenary session. When it is brought down, the Senate President or whosever is standing in for him is no longer addressed as Mr. President, but rather, as Mr. Chairman.
At the end of the session and when the Senate adjourns to another legislative day, the Serjeant-at-Arms again picks up the mace and leads the procession with the presiding officer in front back to the office of the Senate President.
There is now a controversy over the custody of the mace. It had been suggested that the Serjeant-at-Arms being the chief security officer should bear custody of the mace. However, Senator Chuba Okadigbo apparently changed that narrative when he personally took custody of the mace at the height of the insurrection against him in July 2000. His opponents in the Senate had to fabricate another mace with which they aimed to summon the Senate in the face of Okadigbo’s refusal to do so. Whether it was that mace that the Senate resorted to after the invaders went away with the one on the table last Wednesday or not is no longer an issue for many. What would have been an issue was if they sat without a mace, the instrument of authority of the legislative house.