The image itself is poignant, and says it all, of Mr. Ovie Omo-Agege kneeling on the floor to greet the President, Mr. Muhammadu Buhari. It’s a disgrace. It is conduct unbecoming of a senator. It is very clear that Omo-Agege, in spite of his training in Law in Benin, his public service as Commissioner in Delta State, and his election to the Senate by the good people of Delta Central, does not understand the meaning of his status as a senator of the Federal Republic.
How could such a man with such slavish predilection be elected a senator? Well, it gets worse. Ovie-Omo Agege is also now the Deputy President of the Senate. Frankly, that position is a wash. It was only given weight and significance by Ike Ekweremadu. In real fact, however, it is a sinecure position. Nothing is in it but huff. It is kind of job which is placatory, and whoever occupies it is really very busy doing nothing at all. That is why in spite of all the luster which Ekweremadu gave to that position, it meant more to him than to his constituents. Ekweremadu of course could leverage it because his party was in some kind of strategic partnership with Saraki as Senate President.
The former Senate President needed Ekweremadu, and so allowed him elbow room now and then. Otherwise, the office of the Deputy President of Senate does not even qualify as a “spare tyre.” I have said that it is a sinecure. It is worse. It is a distraction. A filler to complete the absurdities of Nigeria’s political theatre. Senator Ekweremadu gave it more significance than it is actually worth because Ekweremadu had the backings of a major alliance of power. That fact alone made the position less of sinecure under Ekweremadu. Ekweremadu is also a different character; a different kettle of fish. He is unlikely to kneel before the president, and dishonor his constituents in so doing. In doing his job, Ike Ekweremadu carried himself with dignity. Perhaps because he trained at Nsukka where he learned the Constitution under Ben Nwabueze. Lawyers trained at Nsukka are dignified. Ovie Omo-Agege trained at the University of Benin, where he learned his own constitution from Itsay Sagay. There is clearly a problem here. Perhaps there in the Law School at Benin, they did not instruct on conduct properly expected of a learned gentleman, and the necessity of being confident and dignified on all occasions requiring candour and public performance.
Perhaps Benin taught Omo-Agege to kneel before power, and bend over to men such as himself as a sign of what? Who knows? Piety? Respect? Over-enthusiasm? Then, again, I have seen many fine lawyers trained in Benin. They are dignified men and women too who are not feckless or taken by the mere aura of power. I’m thus led to conclude that Ovie Omo-Agege‘s slavish descent before the president is an individual flaw in character. It is also a profound misunderstanding of the weight of his own office as a senator of the republic. But, hey, that is where we are now.
The 9th Assembly is going to be a Chicken Assembly. Saraki and a good rump of the 8th senate contained president Buhari in his first term as president, and provided robust oversight as much as possible on executive power and held it from running roughshod over whatever is left of Nigeria. This Assembly with the current APC majority, under the current APC legislative leadership seems all set to be a chicken Assembly.
They will roll over like dead chicken, or even a fondled dog for the president. If anyone is in doubt, Ovie Omo-Agege’s very enthusiastic show of subservience is an indicator. The man representing the Niger Delta is already intimidated by executive power, and the aura of the presidency. There is another dimension to all this, and it is quite worrying. Much is the talk about how President Buhari and the APC, still smarting from the bruising opposition of the last Assembly, went all out, to choose and back folks that can be very easily brought literally to heel, to head the two chambers of the National Assembly.
Time is about to tell if they’ll get their money’s worth in political subservience. Senator Ibrahim Ahmed Lawan, from Yobe, just elected as the Senate president is a key Buhari ally and protégé from his days in the ANPP. At the face value, the new senate president wields a formidable profile with his solid legislative experience. He has been in the National Assembly at various times since its inception in 1999. And so he has seen all the drama; all the highs and lows of lawmaking in this Fourth Nigerian republic. He has seen not a few fall to the legendary “banana peels,” in his time, and so he knows where all the bodies are buried. What he brings to the Senate presidency is institutional memory.
First elected to the House of Representatives in 1999, Senator Lawan came to the senate in 2007, and has chaired the powerful senate committee on public accounts. He was also a member of the joint committee of the National Assembly on Constitutional review once chaired by Senator Ike Ekweremadu. There’s much to like about Senator Lawan just on its face value. There is a pattern of political consistency. He is a thoroughly educated man, who started out as an Education officer in the old Borno Ministry of Education after studying Geography at the University of Maiduguri, and a Master’s degree in Remote Sensing at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He ended up on the faculty of the University of Maiduguri where he lectured until he was elected into the House of Representatives in 1999. The senator earned a doctorate degree at Cranfield University, by the Milton Keyes, plum in the Oxford-Cambridge arc. Senator Lawan therefore appears to be the man for the job. But many fear that he may be too much of a camp follower. A malleable man, who will turn the senate into an extension of the presidency. Lawan’s image is that he had been very cozy with the president, and his positions on the Boko Haram insurgency over the years seems washy and tongue-in-cheek. He was Mr. Buhari’s original choice from 2015 before he was badly outplayed by the foxy Bukola Saraki, who entered into a productive alliance with the rump of the PDP senators to secure and maintain that office for four years. Why was Lawan, Buhari’s original choice four years ago? Well, we have since seen the playout of Buhari’s agenda, and it seems tied to radical Northernization of Nigeria.
Lawan and Ndume seem to be central to that agenda. Yet, many agree that between Lawan and his closest rival, Ali Ndume, Lawan was clearly the less controversial. Had he been elected as Senate president, Ali Ndume, brilliant and volatile, would have completed the irony of the moment and strengthened the image of the APC as a party led now in the legislature by lawbreakers. First, in 2011 Ndume was once held by the Department of State Securities for alleged links with Boko Haram. Ndume was later cleared of the charges and reelected to the senate where he was Majority leader for the APC. He was later suspended by the senate for misconduct. Both Lawan and Ndume come from the “Boko Haram axis.”
In a society of laws, Ovie Omo-Agege belongs in jail having led thugs to the Senate to violently steal the mace of the senate, even as a serving senator. There is also much talk that he is wanted allegedly by the State of California, in the United States where he practiced law briefly, but from which he allegedly skipped, on allegations of fraud and forgery. Omo-Agege is not alone in this: there had been moves to stop Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila from becoming the new speaker of the House of Representatives, on account of his unsavory past. According to the online Sahara Reporters, Mr. Gbajabiamila was convicted in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States on charges of fraud. He is alleged to have stolen his client’s settlement money, a reason for ethical investigations, and trial at the Supreme Court of the state of Georgia. Curiouser, and couriouser, eh? For a party that wears the garb of “anti-corruption,” it seems its innards is suppurating. And what sort of laws, or guarantees, can one expect of lawmakers with allegedly criminal pasts, leading the majority party in parliament, and in cahoots with a president who has no regard for parliamentary independence, the cornerstone of a democratic republic?
One clear fact though is that the opposition PDP, now led at the senate from the last report, by Mr. Enyinna Harcourt Abaribe should now have grounds to needle the APC and its “anti-corruption” hokum. The “anti-corruption” party has now assumed its full colours as it is now led by APC leadership at the National Legislative Assembly. I see a lot of fireworks in the future of this 9th Assembly, but I do not see a lot of good, solid, meaningful legislative work based on a solid legislative agenda.
It seems more likely to be a Chicken Assembly that will be at the summons and beckon of the Executive branch. Still, Nigerians should keep their fingers crossed. Miracles can happen. After all, was it not once asked, in the cynical words of Nathaniel in the Book of John, if any good thing could come out of Nazareth? Well, the Messiah did come. Although the prospects seem drearier in this 9th Assembly of the Fourth Republic.