Editors’ note: The writer, Buchi Obichie, points out the various ways in which the Senate has been humiliated in recent times. She notes that public officials now refuse to attend summons, disregarding the red chamber with impunity; and that senators have found themselves facing various criminal charges. However, she opines that the lawmakers are the cause of their problems; but expresses hope that the situation can be rectified.
Did you ever see the movie, ‘Olympus has fallen’? I did; and its one of my favorites. Apart from the fact that the lead character is played by the very pleasant Gerald Butler, I love the movie’s story-line and execution.
Olympus has fallen depicts how one of the most fortified buildings in the world - the White House - was invaded by terrorists, in a brazen act.
I know its fiction; I mean, in the real world, with all the technology and manpower deployed to guard the residence of the most powerful man in the world – the president of the United States – it would be virtually impossible for a rag-tag band of terrorists to penetrate the building in less than 15 minutes right? In any case, the movie shows the somewhat fragile nature of institutions and structures, and how they can also crumble…just like our Senate is crumbling before our eyes!
The Senate’s problems have been compiling for a long while now; and the dwindling stature of the upper legislative chamber has been front and center of national discourse.
The matter was again complicated when the inspector general of police blatantly disregarded summons from the Senate, 3 good times. Three times, Ibrahim Idris was summoned to appear before lawmakers and give explanations on the Dino Melaye issue and the security situation in the country; and all three times, he sent someone else in his stead.
Now, I would not dabble into the argument about if the Senate had a right to summon the IGP or not; however, it is not without notice, the way and manner in which Idris shunned the lawmakers, and his stance afterwards. He even went was far as taking the Senate to court, after the lawmakers labeled him as an ‘enemy of democracy’. A fourth summon has just been issued, following the abduction of 87 people along the Birnin-Gwari-Kaduna Highway. It is left to be seen, if he would honour this invitation.
But Idris is not the first public official to disregard the summons of a chamber of the 8th National Assembly.
In May, the House of Representatives passed a vote of no confidence on Kayode Fayemi, minister of mines and steel development, and Abubakar Bawa-Bwari, after both men failed to show up at a sectoral debate on the steel sector scheduled by the House primarily to find solutions to the troubled Ajaokuta Steel Plant.
In March 2017, the comptroller general of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali (rtd.), failed to appear before the Senate over the contentious ultimatum issued to car owners and dealers nationwide to pay duties on their vehicles or risk having their cars impounded.
The lawmakers had insisted that Ali appear before them in his uniform; however, the Customs boss was a no-show, citing bereavement as the reason for his absence.
The angry senators subsequently declared the Customs boss unfit to occupy public office, and called for his resignation.
And then, beyond the spate of humiliations from public officials, the Senate has also been humiliated from within its own ranks.
Nigerians will never be able to forget how hoodlums, allegedly sponsored by Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, invaded the hallowed red chamber and made away with the mace.
Then, what of the humiliation personally meted out on a particular senator – Dino Melaye - who was forced to jump out of a moving police van conveying him to Kogi after being allegedly tear-gassed? He was subsequently arraigned in court on a stretcher!
Also, Senate President Saraki has now alleged a plot to link him to a murder case via an arrested suspect who was taken to Abuja instead of being made to face justice in Kwara.
But in all these, one can argue that the Senate is the cause of its own downward spiral.
When senators portray themselves as greedy individuals loyal to their own pockets alone, they can’t really boast about having any higher moral standing in relation to others.
They do not do much for their constituents; and appear to spend the bulk of their time attending wedding parties and court sessions of one another. Even when they manage to attend plenary, all they do is shout ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ on matters that do little to alleviate the suffering of Nigerians. Unlike what obtains elsewhere, plenaries here are usually devoid of intelligent and robust debate. At some point, some lawmakers even unashamedly fall asleep – in full glare of the watching public!
People know that the highest strategy employed in tackling a matter in the Senate is to refer it to a committee that eventually produces no substantive findings or conclusions. So, tell me, why would the nation’s legislative body not be humiliated?
Even though I realize that I may just be sitting in the Senate at some point in the future – and I hope to do better - at this moment, I must confess that I have little pity for the 8th National Assembly…the same way I have little pity for most Nigerian politicians who treat this nation’s wealth as their own cake, to be shared only among themselves.
However, as regards these issues with the Police, I would also say to IGP Idris: I hope you are not using federal might to hound your critics and opponents…I hope the rule of law is being followed…always remember, you won't be in that position forever!
Also, it may not be such a bad idea for him to at least appear before these senators, and explain what is actually going on. And he doesn’t have to divulge any classified information to the public. I mean, we all watch CNN and see the US Congress summon high ranking security officials when need be. If there is a question whose answer they are not supposed to divulge in public, they simply respond by saying: “I can’t answer that Sir; it’s a matter of national security”.
In any case, like Olympus, this Senate has fallen…but I hope that it can be rebuilt at some point soon; the same way the White House was put together again, in the movie!
This opinion piece was written by Buchi Obichie.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of NAIJ.com.
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