By Yinka Odumakin
I DIDN’T know whether to cry or laugh as I listened to the tantrums thrown by the Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, as he threatened to report the service chiefs to President Buhari over their refusal to obey the summons of the green chambers.
The House of Representatives, taking itself too seriously, had summoned all security chiefs to a session over the prevailing insecurity in the country. But heads of the Navy, Air Force Army and the Chief of Defence Staff had ignored the summoned and stayed away. The speaker was angry and did not hide his anger but unwittingly ridiculed the House in the tantrums contained in his outburst: “Let me say, as a House, as an institution, I cannot understate my disappointment or our disappointment that the rest of the service chiefs are not here. Again, as I said, we called this meeting because it was inevitable. It was important. You can see members from Borno State here. There is a crisis in Borno State right now.
“We wanted to hear from the service chiefs to know what was going on, how the House can help and what the problems are as well as what are the challenges; to talk about strategy, to talk about what we need to do. I’m sure you really didn’t expect the House to fold its arms while people in Maiduguri and other parts are being killed. There’s a migration now from local governments in Borno State to Maiduguri.
“Here we are; we call the Armed Forces coordinated by the CDS, who’s not here, with service chiefs being represented. I’m actually at a loss. For me, I believe my colleagues are in tandem with this. In the absence of the service chiefs, the CDS, the COAS, the CNS and the CAS are not represented as far as we’re concerned.
“I can almost say it shows a disdain for this institution. The budget is on its way. Yes, we need to talk about that. What do you need? What is required? I’m almost embarrassed. To tell you the truth. I’m almost embarrassed,” an obviously angry Speaker Gbajabiamila said.
The Speaker added thus: “There was no call placed to my office to explain why. I’m just seeing accountants and representatives. So I’m not sure how to handle this, because I don’t think this is happening anywhere in any parliament that I know of in the world, where the head of parliament will call the service chiefs for a nagging problem, how to resolve it and you have what we have here as representations.
“So, I think it’s important that we might need to postpone this meeting to Monday morning. I will personally see the President myself. We’re supposed to work together as a body, but it shows lack of seriousness, apart from the disdain on Parliament. It shows that this is not as serious to the level that we believe it is. Unfortunately, this meeting can no longer hold.”
The Speaker should never have mentioned that the only recourse for the House was to go and report the service chiefs to the President like a child whose biscuit was snatched by a bully brother will run to the father.
If anyone doubted that we now have a rubber stamp parliament subservient to the executive, that statement must have cleared it all.
Writing under: “Will NASS become a State Assembly?” in this column a few days before the inauguration of the ninth Assembly, I concluded thus: “As the ninth session of our legislature comes aboard, the country waits patiently to see whether the members will vote in a leadership that would sustain the independence of the parliament without hurting governance process or a ‘meeeeen sir like goat’ (apology to Fela Kuti) leadership that would give us a rubber-stamp legislature and closing the democratic space.”
I took the position than against what happened between the executive and the legislature in the first term of this administration when every functionary of the executive arm shunned invitations from the legislature at will. Any perceptive observer would have noticed that the persistent trend was calculated to orchestrate the disdain with which those in charge at the executive held the legislature.
Twice, the president even voiced out that the judiciary was hindering his performance as it was troubling for him to be proving the guilt of a person he accuses when all he needed to do as a military ruler was to establish the guilt of an accused with a charge and he is then saddled with the responsibility of proving his innocence.
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It was that mood that led to the hounding of the leadership of the eighth NASS ceaselessly, the invasion of the Senate chambers by thugs and the DSS invasion of the National Assembly in mafia-style. It should not have been lost on the current leaders of the National Assembly that somebody mentioned in that invasion has now been given a prominent role in this dispensation. It was to continually remind them of the need to behave themselves at all times.
So, where did Gbajabiamila get the idea that he is ahead of an arm of an independent parliament that can summon service chiefs as if they are his mates in a game? Gbajabiamila has tested it and failed woefully. That they have now decided to come to his house can only be that the President has permitted them to do so. And that they shunned the invitation in the first place is a sign the rubber stamps are being told that it is the owner of the rubber who determines where it can stamp. No redemptive factor for Gbajabiamila’s House in either.
If it has not occurred to Gbajabiamila that all the eighth Assembly went through was not because of Saraki and Dogara, but the loathing of an independent and assertive legislature, he would have to go to Power Game 101 class! For now, I am on my knees praying Mr Speaker, Gbajabiamila, is not asked to go and see “Prime Minister” Abba Kyari when he gets to the Villa to report the service chiefs.
…A good Council
The opening lines of my last week piece entitled: “The misery in our market mystery” was: “The Economic Council under Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo may have been remarkable in the Ruga project (they say it is livestock whatever) but the government has yet to put together an economic team that can impactfully on the lives of all Nigerians outside the cow demography.
“Anytime such a team comes up, they should try and consult Dr Ola Brown whose The mystery of market size in Nigeria is clearly beyond the pay grade of mediocrity that is the character of leadership in Nigeria.”
I wrote the material in the early hours of Monday without any inkling that the President was going to announce an advisory committee on the same day. Presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina, announced that President Buhari has appointed the following dignitaries as members of the Economic Advisory Council:
- Prof. Doyin Salami – Chairman
- Dr. Mohammed Sagagi – Vice-Chairman
- Prof. Ode Ojowu – Member
- Dr. Shehu Yahaya – Member
- Dr. Iyabo Masha – Member
- Prof. Chukwuma Soludo – Member
- Mr. Bismark Rewane – Member
There is no reasonable person who will not agree that the President got this right as all members of the council have proved themselves in the areas of their endeavour. We can only enjoin them to know that they have been called upon for service at a time Nigeria is sliding dangerously to the edge of the precipice and give their best.
It is our prayer that those who will implement their decisions will cooperate with them or even understand what they are saying. Cooperate? Yes! The brilliant Prof. Doyin Salami was the Vice-Chairman of the Transition Committee of APC in 2015. I do not believe that they didn’t put good ideas on the table then. But four years after, our country is worse today on all indices pre-2015.
Understand? Yes! The choice of ministers after a five-month search was not impressive in any way. And it is really puzzling that those who searched for the ministers we now have could also fish out some of the best we have to advise some of the rest we have picked.
It is the tragedy of a country where the cream hardly makes it to the top. Why was it difficult to get the type of brains in the Economic Advisory Council? I can hazard a guess: our public service is still a “come-and-chop” exercise where you don’t need much gumption to see the food and locate your mouth!