By Eddie Mbadiwe
IF you are a constant world-traveller, you would have come to the conclusion that Nigeria is very well known all over the world. Like Olabisi Ajalla who travelled all over the world with his bike, there is no country where you will not find hardworking and sometimes mischievous Nigerians.
For the last few weeks, our newspapers have been awash with articles (some well researched, others simply hog-wash) about the invasion and near capture of the National Assembly by masked operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS.
In 2014, a mirror-image of this operation occurred and the main gates of NASS were barricaded subjecting honourable members of the House of Representatives to indignity of scaling the assembly fence. It was captured on camera and beamed worldwide. It went viral as our advert in bad behaviour.
In 2014, there was neither investigation nor sanction not to think of punishment. It is not surprising therefore that four years later, there was encore supposedly at the behest of some member/members of the Senate.
This time however is different. Acting President Yemi Osinbajo acted fast and decisively and aborted what was tangentially moving to a collapse of our wobbly democracy. My take on the various criticisms and pronouncements is that people should keep their gun-powder dry and give the executive branch enough time to decode what happened and inform Nigerians on what has to be done to ensure that this never happens again.
The issues leading to this aborted invasion are much more convoluted than just failed attempt to take over NASS.
Unless we have an accurate diagnosis, it is impossible to prescribe a cure. Let us step back in time a little bit and remind ourselves that on April 19, 2018, a group of hoodlums allegedly at the instigation of some Senators barged into the Senate chambers, disrupted proceedings and stole the MACE-symbol of authority of parliament. This was another step down the infamy lane. Nigerians are still waiting to be told if these vagabonds have been arrested and prosecuted. Our national image continues to be battered worldwide.
Following in the foot-steps of that drama, we recently witnessed the Samba dance of our ‘’ Distinguished’’ Senators and ‘’ Honourable’’ members of the 8th Assembly who were flip-flopping between APC and PDP. It reminds one of the game of ROUNDERS played by secondary school students. This is another show of shame which continues to take our democracy several notches under.
The root cause in my view can be traced to a lacuna in section 68 subsection (g) of the 1999 constitution. People can ship in under the cover of darkness and cause mischief ridiculing our democracy. In the 7th Assembly, RT. Hon. Sam Sokwa who was Chairman House Committee on Rules and Business and I sponsored a joint bill to expunge that section g (for committed Nigerians please spare a few precious minutes and try to interpret section 68 subsection g).
The bill was defeated obviously for selfish reasons for as a member said during the debate, passing this bill is like shooting ourselves in the foot. People in public service must be courageous to make sacrifices for the nation above self interest.
I have recapped these scripts to show that members of our highest legislative houses have not shown adequate respect and decorum commensurate with what Nigerians and other well established democracies expect from people in such exalted positions. The cases in the state assemblies are so pathetic that their very existence should be subjected to intense scrutiny. It will be silly to wade into that filthy terrain.
Democracy is supposed to be based on the consent and will of the people. In Nigeria, this is not the case for on many occasions, the people have sold their power for a mess of porridge. Ekiti election is a good example of a well documented occasion where people openly bargained and sold their birth-right for as little as N4,000. Will Ekiti people have the moral ground to censor any erring governor? I doubt it.
Section 14(2c) of the 199 constitution reasserts the supreme power of the people when it states ‘’Supremacy belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through the constitution derives ALL its power and authority’’. (capitals mine).
Political accountability is a very essential ingredient of a successful democracy and if Nigerians abdicate or sell their rights, who is to blame? Six months to the 2019 general elections, the Nigerian public who are the custodians of power look tirelessly supine while the rut threatens to poison the entire body polity. There is an urgent need for total mobilisation of the citizenry and let people get out of sleep in their cocoons and rescue this nation. Only Nigerians can save Nigeria.
There is a saying in Nigeria that if a child washes his hands properly and is of good behaviour, he could be invited to dine at the Elders’ table. Our legislators already have seats at the exalted table. The task to themselves and us is the convincing that their seats are merited.