By Josef Omorotionmwan
LATELY, the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, has been invited three times to the chambers of the Senate and three times, the IGP failed to honour the invitations. This portends danger to our polity.
The Senate now seems to have rested its case by resolving that the IGP is unfit to hold any position anywhere. Should that be all? We shall look at that. Meanwhile this supposedly unfit man is your Inspector General!
There used to be checks and balances against power drunkenness. The power of Advice and Consent, which requires that certain categories of officials nominated by the President must be confirmed by the Senate, was a potent instrument in the hands of the Senate against any form of arbitrariness.
But one ugly trend is gradually developing. The President now picks and chooses which categories of nominees should be subjected to Senate confirmation. Until recently, the IGP was in the category requiring Senate confirmation before it was gradually removed, thus turning the IGP to the personal staff of the President. There is, therefore, no argument as to where the IGP’s loyalty lies.
We have today, an EFCC Chairman who has been in power, in acting capacity, for years and he may as well remain so till the end of his tenure. This has provided a win-win situation on either side – Even without confirmation, the President has foisted Ibrahim Magu on the nation. On the other hand, the Senate has successfully browbeaten Magu to total impotence. For instance, who is still hearing about the highbrow cases of corruption involving ex-Governors and their spouses, who stole their States blind before finally taking refuge in the Senate? Those are now no-go areas and our nation is the worse for it.
In the past, there were apparently more civilised ways of addressing perceived aggression instead of the crudity we have today. In the early days of the Second Republic, Prince Tony Momoh was the Editor of the Daily Times Group. One small cartoon in an obscure corner in the Grapevine column of the Sunday Times proved repugnant to the Senate.
Tony Momoh and the Reporter responsible for the cartoon were summoned to appear before the Senate at 12 noon on Thursday of that week. Momoh decided otherwise. He wanted to meet the Senate leadership in court.
Very early on Tuesday of that week, the Court Bailiff was at the National Assembly, NASS, premises to serve on the Senate leadership, summons to appear in court on Wednesday to answer to charges of infringement on the rights of Momoh.
We watched the Senate leadership scamper for survival before it quipped rather glibly that the invitation to Momoh was not a punishment but a rare honour to appear in the Chambers of the highest legislative body in the land.
In dissolving the Senate invitation, the Court ruled that the invitation was not an honour but a Greek gift. That was then.
The power of summons, like any other power, must be used sparingly, lest it could loose its lustre. The case of Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, the immediate-past Minister of Petroleum Resources, readily comes to mind. In the Second Republic, the Senate had a total of 22 Standing Committees; with a single Committee on Petroleum Resources.
But in the current dispensation of All Chiefs and no Indians, where every Senator emerges chairman of at least one Committee, the number of Committees in the Senate is approaching the 150 mark; with Petroleum Resources balkanised into close to 10 Committees – Upstream, Midstream, Downstream, Petrol, Gas Kerosene, Lubricants, etc. Each Senate committee has a parallel in the House of Representatives.
At the Executive end, there is only one Minister in-charge of Petroleum Resources. In times of appropriation, every NASS Committee demands the personal attention of that single Minister.
At a point, Mrs. Allison-Madueke was simply overwhelmed. She literarily needed to divide herself into 20 to be able to cope with the NASS requirements. She cried out. That was how she began to rebuff every invitation from the NASS.
The case of the IGP does not fit into any of the foregoing categories. The situation in the country today is such that could easily warrant his being summoned to the Senate possibly five times a day. It is a familiar strategy that in war times, such as Nigeria is facing today, Commanders and Security Chiefs must remain glued to the power base.
There is also the innocuous argument that the Senate might have played into the hands of the IGP by including Senator Dino Melaye’s travails on the menu. In the IGP’s estimation, if a candidate for suicide, in his suicide bid, decides to jump down from a moving vehicle, and he is being tried for attempted suicide, why should the IGP be required to appear, not in court, but in the Senate Chambers?
Nothing in the foregoing justifies Idris’ rebuff of the Senate summons. After all, other Security Chiefs are being invited and they are respectfully honouring the invitations. Idris could just be a stubborn cop. The only option now open to the Senate is not to stop at just declaring Idris unfit but to issue a warrant of arrest on him. It should not be their headache whether the warrant can be executed or not. Like in the case of Maina in the pensions fraud saga, the warrant will lie elegantly in the annals of our political history, while dangling perilously over Idris’ head for the rest of his life and thereafter.
President Muhammadu Buhari cannot remain too silent for too long while Nigeria burns. Having converted Idris to his personal staff, he owes us a duty to discipline him as at when necessary, bearing in mind that the cane reserved for “Iyale” (the first wife) will one day be applied on “Iyawo” (the new wife). Indeed, the push has started as exemplified by the raw impunity with which this same Idris disobeyed the President’s order to relocate to Benue State when it was absolutely necessary to do so.