By Rotimi Fasan
THE hide and seek between the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, if not the National Assembly in its entirety, and the Inspector General of Police, Idris Ibrahim, is not about to end despite the call by the Senate to President Muhammadu Buhari to call his enforcer in chief to order. The IG has in the last few weeks called the bluff of our ‘distinguished’ law makers by his refusal to appear before the law-making body to address some matters of national concern for which the IG’s attention is needed.
Somehow Mr. Ibrahim who appears to have the ears of the president and knows his mind more than Nigerians care to imagine has succeeded in shutting the senators up and practically put them in their place with regards to who actually calls the shot in a polity where public office holders choose which of the laws of the land to obey. At least twice now the senators have invited the IG to appear before them. Twice the IG has refused to appear.
This is not the first time a thing like this would happen between our legislators and appointees of President Buhari including the IG. When it happened in the past, those involved found a way to paper the whole issue over, giving one lame reason or another, as to why they could not make it to the National Assembly. It was either they never received an invitation, received it late or they were away on some national assignment. Even then it was clear that they were just being mealy-mouthed.
Everyone including those who had invited them knew the public officers involved merely wanted to provide a soft landing for themselves. Otherwise, they would rather not appear before members of the National Assembly but for the hue and cry generated by their initial failure to respond to a national institution. To save their own face and appear to respect law makers they know lack the power to execute their own decisions, they would grudgingly stage an appearance and offer fake apologies before going on their willful way.
But this time around, the IG decided to dispense with all niceties and took on the law makers in a bare knuckle match. So far, he has had his way and the senators with whom he has his latest spat have been left with no better option than to report him to the president and declare him a persona non grata after he still refused to show up in spite of the report to Buhari. Whatever effect that report would have on the truculent cop is yet to be seen. But there is hardly any doubt now that the legislators have been disgraced.
In an increasingly lawless polity where, as I earlier observed, public office holders choose which laws to respect- perhaps in such context the law makers could have resorted to very unorthodox ways to press home their point by insisting that the president move against the IG. But the National Assembly has already overplayed its hand by the way it delayed the passage of the 2018 Appropriation Bill. Otherwise, it could very well have chosen to refuse to entertain any bill from the executive arm as it once did when it refused to confirm the president’s appointees over the issue of another Ibrahim- the Acting Chair of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC,- Ibrahim Magu.
One wonders what our legislators hope to do to an IG who did not think much of a presidential order- an IG who refused to go to Benue to oversee the security situation there as the president had ordered and nothing happened. Who can stop such an IG- legislators whose secrets are probably in his hands? We are certainly in new territories of lawlessness when an appointee of a president can simply ignore legitimate orders of constitutional bodies. There is hardly anything other than personal allegiance to the president that recommends this present IG. He is one if not the most venal of the IGs that have presided over the affairs of the police. His appointment over an above several more senior officers could only have come from considerations other than competence; otherwise he could not have become the basket case that he is now.
His first act upon being appointed IG was to stir a controversy over his entitlements with his predecessor. He complained of being left with jalopies for official vehicles and wondered how he was expected to accept vehicles that do not befit his status as IG. He supported his position by citing President Buhari as having asked him why he was saddled with an old vehicle as his predecessor allegedly left him with. Perhaps his comments then should have alerted us all to the apparently special relationship between him and President Buhari. Yes, Idris Ibrahim is the president’s man. It explains why nothing came out of his failure to execute the president’s order by going to Benue. He knew the true mind of the president.
But that personal relationship should not translate into disrespect to elected public office holders like legislators. Except that the legislators have themselves abused their own position for too long and have brought themselves into the situation in which they can now be treated with disdain. They have themselves been anything but distinguished in their ways. They have turned the legislative chambers into something of a national circus where they randomly entertain Nigerians before the television cameras which it appears they cannot do without. Every one who does not agree with them even on matters of principle is routinely invited to appear before the National Assembly during which legislators with inflated egos stand up to rant about their importance as an arm of government as if anyone needed to be told.
The self-absorption of the legislators has blinded them to grace issues of national importance. Their invitation to the IG initially followed the unrest in the Senate chamber during which the mace was forcefully removed by thugs allegedly allied to one of them. It was while still on that they brought in the matter of the herdsmen killings across the country. So their quarrel with the IG was prompted by his handling of the invasion of the Senate, an act triggered by the highhandedness of the senate leadership.
While the senators have perfected the act of protecting their members, the executive arm under Buhari has equally found a way to cover up for their kind. Thus, while the Senate would do anything to protect the likes of Dino Melaye, Buhari shields his IG from attack to the point that his Attorney General and Minister for Justice would go to court in a bid to protect the IG against corruption accusation by Senator Isa Misau.