PARLIAMENTS all over the world are known for their penchant for dramatic episodes. Here in Nigeria, we have seen bags of dirty naira notes upturned in the “hallowed chamber” (which is anything but hallowed judging from the way its “distinguished” and “honourable” members misbehave there). The money was allegedly meant to be a “bribe” for the legislators to do former President Obasanjo’s bidding.
We also saw Hon. Aminu Safana, a medical doctor, die in a fight in October 2007 during the Ettehgate crisis in the House of Reps. We have seen clothes torn to shreds and an arm of a House of Reps member, Hon. Chinyere Igwe, broken. In the Second Republic, a House of Reps member, Hon. Sidi H. Ali, was reported to have pulled out a gun and threatened to go on a shooting spree if the call for the recognition of full sharia law was not passed into law.
At the Senate, we have also seen a Senate President, the late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, take the Mace to the Oyi River in his village where a python was asked to keep watch over it to prevent it from being used to impeach Okadigbo! Okadigbo reported this to the media himself, though some took it as a mere humour. It did not stop him from being impeached through the manipulation of former President Obasanjo. Hmmm, Obasanjo really poured a lot of sand in the eyes of our democracy!
Talk about pouring sand in the eyes of our democracy. What took place in the Senate on Wednesday, 18th April 2018, confounded every common-sense and logic. A suspended Senator, Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta Central) brought hoodlums to the heart of the Red Chamber while it was in session. How they were able to storm through a fortress of multiple security posts, invade the plenary, beat up everyone who dared to stand in their way, snatch the Mace, abduct (and later dumped off) Senator Solomon Adeola representing Lagos West and escaped scot-free, is something difficult to rationalise.
We should be deeply worried at the frequency which, under this Muhammadu Buhari regime, our army, police, DSS and the gamut of security apparatus, appear to fail when they are needed most. In spite of the deployments of the army, police and security agencies on “operations this and that” all over the country, armed Fulani bandits continue to massacre our people while their bosses and top Federal Government officials appear unconcerned. Boko Haram strolled unhindered into Dapchi to abduct 110 girls from the Government Girls Technical College. They also brought most of them back in broad daylight.
Senator Omo-Agege’s ability to successfully invade the Senate and abduct the Mace while the security agencies looked the other way seems to fall into line with the growing perception of naked partiality by these agencies paid to protect all Nigerians without fear or favour. If they could be so lousy and fail to prevent the Senate invasion just because the invaders were going to confront those “fighting” the President over the 2019 order of elections, what more would they do during the impending electoral process itself? Can they be trusted to be neutral and ensure that the expressed will of Nigerians prevail? Is there anything in their body language to assure us they can protect our vote?
Why was it that the police and other security agencies materialised from nowhere only after the Mace thieves had completed their treasonable assault on the most senior symbol of our democracy, the Nigerian Senate? Assuming those hoodlums came to kill, they would have done so and escaped. After this episode, how will members of the National Assembly feel safe while at work? If Omo-Agege and his cohort, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, were not (ostensibly) fighting for President Buhari’s political interest, would they succeed in railroading thugs in and out of the Senate? The police merely went through the motion of arresting Senator Omo-Agege but released him shortly after.
At the heart of this imbroglio is a fight for selfish political interests between the Presidency and the National Assembly. This fight had been there even before Day One. The National Assembly leadership emerged against the wishes of some All Progressives Congress, APC, leaders. The rivalry has gone through many phases, but the order of the 2019 general elections is the major trigger for this latest episode.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, which is run by people linked to Buhari at family level, unveiled an election sequence that would enable the President to enjoy a bandwagon effect if he wins the first set of elections. This will make it possible for his party to be so dominant in the event that he wins his re-election bid that he would be in a position to pocket the National Assembly, which will promote civilian dictatorship.
The National Assembly led by Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Reps, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, rather prefers a bottom-up approach which will give the electorate a level field to make genuine choices. It will also give the lawmakers a fair chance to win their re-election bids irrespective of their political relationship with the president. President Buhari vetoed the Electoral Bill containing this and other items, and the National Assembly was poised to override the veto. Suddenly, a group of Senators self-styled as Buhari Support Group, with Omo-Agege and Adamu as its most vocal, openly threw its weight behind INEC’s top-down arrangement which Buhari favours, thus pitching themselves against the core political interests of the Senate. A disciplinary committee set up to look into their activities found Omo-Agege guilty and he was suspended from the Senate for 90 legislative days. He went to court to stop this action but was ignored on the age-old rule that the courts cannot interfere in legislative affairs.
Omo-Agege and his cohort could have continued to fight their battles through lawful means, including protests and demonstrations to win public sympathy. The resort to the use of hoodlums to desecrate the same Senate he wishes to continue to be part of, is preposterous and treasonable. This action could easily ensure that he never participates in the activities of the Senate for the rest of the current session. Senator Ali Ndume and Hon. Abdulmumin Jibril were suspended for prolonged periods for acts capable of betraying the National Assembly to the Presidency by undermining the solidarity of its members.
People say that the NASS has no right to suspend any of its members from representing their constituencies. I take that with a pinch of salt because no organisation can survive if it cannot effectively discipline its members. The NASS has been empowered by the constitution and its byelaws to be able to discipline its members. Unless the Saraki-led NASS protects itself, it will fall prey to the Presidency’s predatory instincts. We saw it during the Obasanjo regime. I stand firmly for the independence of the Legislature because it is the biggest symbol of our democracy. If the NASS loses its battle of independence, the little that is left of Buharian Nigeria will be gone. Whatever it lawfully takes to assert that independence must be applied. Omo-Agege, Adamu and others were elected to represent their people and not to become lackeys of the Executive. They are the ones who betrayed their constituents by pursuing issues irrelevant to their mandates and should be sanctioned with recalls by their constituents.
Talking about coups; shortly after the invasion took place, Mr. Great Ogboru, an APC leader from Omo-Agege’s constituency, issued a statement supporting his action. Ogboru was the financier of the April 22, 1990 Major Gideon Orkar coup. He is accustomed to April and coups, so no one should be surprised.