By Oma Djebah
WHEN our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil.” These immortal, eternal words of Martin Luther King Jr. echoed 51 years ago and resonate with our times. By this, I’m referring to happenings in the Senate. In the Upper Legislative House, it’s been so much gigantic noise, so much horrible motions without progress. For example, the unsettling tremor occasioned by the recent hijack of the Mace in the Senate hasn’t only been terrific and most traumatic, but its consequences have also been most telling on Nigerians and indeed, constituents who bear the brunt of these fallacious and flawed approach to legislative duties.
This sad development, among others, has seriously divided the Senate along factional lines and attempts by its leadership to stem the growing tide of divisiveness and factitious disorder has been rather chaotic, feeble and less than salutary. Ironically, while some of our senators claim to be leaders but in reality, they are not!
First, how can the Senate justify the very embarrassing and most disgraceful situation whereby its President who is currently undergoing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal still presides over its proceedings when in actual fact, he ought to step aside, albeit briefly, until he is given a clean bill of health by the Presiding Judge? This explains why Nigeria’s iconic master of prose, Chinua Achebe once wrote in his famous epic, The Trouble With Nigeria: “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.’’
One cannot agree more with him. In the Senate, it’s been heartbreaking tales of leadership failure. When it’s not the hijacking of its Mace, its symbol of authority and power, it’s a crisis of troubling motions and unsettled night of the long knives as well as unexplained metaphors of lurching threats to our virile democracy! They tend to operate like rootless plants; like itinerant young school teens locked in a game of chess who suddenly run amok in an unexpected superior counter-move by a Magnus Carlsen, the Chess grandmaster of our time and Norway’s gift to the World of Chess!
Two, some of these legislators lack proper understanding of their role in a democracy. Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu demonstrated this much when he reacted in a rather misguided and most ill-conceived manner to President Muhammadu Buhari’s alleged executive excesses. “The problem in Nigeria is that our democracy is receding. Who says Army cannot take over, let us not joke with our democracy; that is the issue.” That was a short-sighted and unpatriotic declaration!. It’s akin to what the Poet, W.B. Yeats wrote in his The Second Coming ”the ceremony of innocence is drowned. The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
For, bristling with anger and drawing the wrong assault weapons, Ekweremadu made the wrong statements which cast a slur on his patriotism, leaving his reputation badly damaged. As somebody whose name never featured among NADECO patriots in the battle for democracy, his misguided utterances were considered not only sacrilegious but also a desecration of the compelling values of democracy and the Rule of Law! How could he utter such nihilistic and undemocratic statements? Though he later denied ever inferring possible Army intervention following the public outcry that ensued, the trail of disbelief and grave incredulity that greeted that poor remarks had already affected the credibility of the Senate very negatively. It left a gaping hole and a big question mark on not only the integrity of Ekweremadu but also the entire leadership of the Senate
Three, the hijack of the mace at the very floor of the Senate reeks of amateurish leadership at best and gross misconduct at worst. It’s a stab on democracy. How could some rag-tag bunch of locals purportedly acting on the encouragement of a Senator invade the hallowed Senate Chambers? Yet, we are talking about a Senate that once produced the inimitable, intellectually peerless Chuba Okadigbo! We are referring to a Senate that a fearless, valiant and bold Jonathan Odebiyi once bestrode? Better still, wasn’t it in our Parliament that Sir Tafawa Balewa, the golden voice of Africa once straddled with elegance and unmatched poise? Or is it not the same Senate that David Dafinone, that icon of Accountancy Profession, once left memorable, indelible imprints?
Four, the Senate has become badly divided along political lines. Consequently, it has become a huge embarrassment to Nigerians and a big disappointment to the international community. Ironically, the Senate has enough national issues begging for attention that ordinarily should unite its members. Two stand out; the parlous state of our national economy and our ill- defined National Security objectives. These are matters that a serious Senate should seek to address. I recall in 2000, I was part of a professional team whose report to the Federal Government on challenges facing the Nigeria Police in a period of transition as Nigeria was just emerging from long years of military rule, triggered some reforms and operational modernisation in the NPF. One of our striking findings was how prolonged years of military rule terribly weakened the NPF because the military was increasingly drawn into purely Police duties of internal security while neglecting its core constitutional duties of territorial defence. Sadly, over the years, our National Security concept has been narrowly and incorrectly defined as military-centred, thus neglecting its technological, economic, intelligence, international and diplomatic dimensions.
Let Saraki’s Senate change its negative narrative for good. But for now, public perception of the Senate is very low, clear and unambiguous: A House of Horror!
Oma Djebah, is a former Information Commissioner in Delta State.