THE recent outrageous conduct of the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ahmed Wase, while entertaining a petition from a constituent group within the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation, NIDO, is a blatant example of how low the conduct of public and governmental affairs has sunk in Nigeria in recent years.
The member of the House representing Gwer East/Gwer West Federal Constituency, Mark Gbillah, had tabled a petition from the Mutual Union of Tivs in America, MUTA, expressing their concerns over the plight of their people displaced from their ancestral lands by armed, marauding herdsmen and languishing in refugee camps for years.
Wase, who presided in the absence of the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, stood down the petition on the flimsy ground that MUTA did not satisfy the House rules for their petition to be heard.
The subsequent public outrage questioned Wase’s qualification to sit in the exalted seat of Deputy Speaker since he did not appear to know that Nigerians living abroad still possess their full constitutional rights to hold government to account.
Besides, Wase appeared unconcerned about the plight of the Nigerians attacked by armed hoodlums masquerading as herdsmen and living as refugees in their own country with the government openly uninterested in giving them the protection of the law.
It is unfortunate that a principal officer of the nation’s legislature could not rise to the full commitment of his oath of office to uphold the Constitution without fear, favour or ill-will. MUTA’s petition submitted by Gbillah was a test of Wase’s capacity as a presiding Deputy Speaker which he failed woefully, obviously because of ethnic sentiment. Wase is unfit as Nigeria’s Deputy Speaker.
We call on Gbillah to re-present that petition under a more enabling atmosphere because the issues raised in the document are germane. How could one live happily in a foreign country when terrorists are allowed to freely attack and chase one’s people from their lands to live in displaced persons’ camps? What sort of country or government permits this when the Constitution makes the security of the people the first duty of government?
Wase’s action is an open demonstration of blind bigotry which refuses to recognise the growing importance of our Diasporans, especially in recent years. The remittances from these Nigerians have now become a cornerstone of our national economy, contributing $23bn in 2018 and $25bn in 2019 in remittances, according to the World Bank. The Nigerian Diaspora elements are still expected to play a front-line role in driving Nigeria’s development to restore normalcy in our public life.
It is the height of mischief, ignorance or lack of patriotism to ignore or block the legitimate concerns of such a group. MUTA’s petition must be entertained and their grievances addressed.