By Bidemi Adeniyi
The stealing of the mace by hoodlums who allegedly accompanied Senator Ovie Omo-Agege into the Senate on Wednesday has led many to ask if it was right for a lawmaker on suspension to be at the chambre or attend plenary.
A Fourth Republic Senator, Joseph Waku (Benue North West, 1999-2003), who suffered the same fate of being suspended from the Senate for one week, said: “He (suspended senator) could only stay in his office. He could go to his office but not the chamber.”
Waku spoke against the backdrop of the National Assembly rules which state that a suspended senator should not have access to the Senate chamber or attend committee meetings. Serving senators and political analysts have not stopped condemning the invasion of the chambre and the theft of the mace, with many describing it as an assault on Nigeria’s democratic process.
Senator Olamilekan Adeola (APC, Lagos West), who was said to have almost been taken away by the hoodlums after he mistakenly jumped into their waiting vehicle, thinking it was his as he scampered for safety, said: “These are people who want to truncate our democratic process”.
Senator Shehu Sani described the act as “morally and ethically wrong”, saying “the Senate is not a place for that kind of thing”.
Sani described the action as “an assault on democracy and democratic institution and equated it to an attempt to take over an arm of the government. If this is not condemned, it could also happen to the Presidency if it happens to the Senate, because the Senate is an arm of the government. If an action is not taken on this issue, it is going to set a very bad precedence and democracy will seriously be at risk”.
Although Omo-Agege has come out to say he had no hands in the melee that led to the disappearance of the mace, he has refused to address the question: Why was he (on suspension) at the Senate chamber that Wednesday?
A public affairs analyst, Soji Balogun, thinks Omo-Agege, by now, shouldn’t be a lawmaker again “for his alleged role in the embarrassing act”. He said: “If it were to be in the advanced society, the senator would have resigned before the Senate takes the bold step of expelling him.”
“For instance, in the United States of America, in 2002, when a member of the House of Representatives from Ohio, the late James Traficant, was convicted of corruption charges, his colleagues in the House wasted no time in expelling him. I strongly believe it’s high time we took our democracy to that level, in order to restore sanity and integrity in lawmaking business.”
What is Omo-Agege’s fate?
With the suspended senator denying any role in the theft of the mace, and accusing fingers continue to point at him as the man behind the incident, the Senate is yet to come out with a position on the issue, other than describing the action “as an act of treason, attempt to overthrow a branch of the Federal Government of Nigeria by force, and it must be treated as such.” Meanwhile, Nigerians have continued to call on the leadership of the Senate to wield the big stick on anyone who may be involved in the incident to serve as deterrent.
*Bidemi is resident in Lagos and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org