Editor's note: The writer of this piece, Azu Ishiekwene, expresses dissatisfaction over what the Nigerian Senate has turned into in recent times. He uses the case between Senator Ovie Omo-Agege and the upper chamber as case study in buttressing his point.
Legislative rascality has a long, chequered history. Perhaps one of the most dramatic in the Senate in the last 18 years happened on the watch of Chuba Okadigbo, when former president Olusegun Obasanjo tried by means fair and foul to remove Okadigbo as president of the Senate.
After several attempts to remove him, including the executive offering bribes to senators, the Oyi of Oyi, as Okadigbo was fondly called, took matters into his own hands. He removed the mace, the symbol of authority, and took it to his residence in Abuja.
A large detachment of the police, led by senior officers, paid him an early morning visit at home – as early as 6.am, by some accounts. Okadigbo promptly called the BBC and reported the incident live.
He promised listeners that the police would only retrieve the mace from his residence “over his dead body,” a challenge that the police were obviously not keen to take up.
Yet Obasanjo did not relent. Since the executive child had said the mother legislature would not sleep, Okadigbo geared up for a long night of mutual wakefulness.
He took the mace all the way to his hometown in Ogbunike, Anambra state, and reportedly left it at the foot of a seven-foot python, for safekeeping.
Several weeks later, the “pythons of Abuja” struck. They swallowed up the python of Ogbunike, the mace and the shrine: Okadigbo was impeached and removed as Senate president; and the rest is history.
I’m not so sure where Senator Ovie Omo-Agege wanted to take the mace of the Senate that he allegedly removed with the help of thugs who invaded the Senate chambers last week. But the distinguished senator must be feeling like a fool now, especially after Femi Falana and other leading lawyers said it’s a quorum and not a mace that is required for legislative business.
Of course he has denied recruiting the invaders, the sort of denial that washes the hands clean but leaves the heart stained. Omo-Agege (pronounced Omo-Agheghe), whose name in Urhobo language means “the pampered child”, has apparently grown so used to a life of indulgence that he sees nothing wrong in making the country a spectacle to settle private scores in the Senate.
To be sure, his suspension by the Senate was unwarranted and unnecessary. If his “crime” was that he said the review of the sequence of voting by the Senate was targeted at President Muhammadu Buhari, then that is not a crime.
Not even if he apologised for the statement and later took it back. Inconsistency is a common currency in politics and not a vice. That’s why Senators Ali Ndume and Abdullahi Adamu who backed Bukola Saraki against Ahmed Lawan are now Buhari cheerleaders in the Senate.
Let any of the 109 senators, from Bukola Saraki to the last of them, who has not flipped-flopped be the first to cast a stone.
To suspend Omo-Agege, for even one minute, let alone for 90 days for flip-flopping and on top of that to announce a ban on the so-called Parliamentary Support Group, is going too far. Anyway, it’s not going to stop me from instigating the launch of #ShowYourWorks, a parliamentary support group in the Senate and House of Representatives aimed at enlisting the support of lawmakers who still have any conscience left. It’s a free country, right?
The leadership of the Senate under Saraki has grown so paranoid about its tenure and security that it tends to see every disagreement as proof of rebellion. But the lawmakers brought this situation upon themselves.
From Ndume’s suspension last year for suggesting that allegations against Saraki and Dino Melaye should be investigated to the current Omo-Agege case, the monster, which the senators defied all restraints to impose upon themselves, has come back to haunt them.
They cannot turn around and complain about the leadership of the Senate, which they freely installed.
Yet, that does not make Omo-Agege’s obvious resort to thugs justifiable. It’s not his fault. Where the police pretended to be interested in recovering the mace and upholding the law in Okadigbo’s time, on this occasion, the police – and the entire security apparatus – made it their singular duty to protect the thugs and to promote the breakdown of law and order in the Senate in the most brazen way.
Multiple reports in the press indicate there are at least 250 security personnel, mostly armed, deployed in and around the Senate chambers. This is not counting the policemen who carry the bags of the lawmakers or those who shine their shoes.
Yet the thugs breached half a dozen security checkpoints, stormed the Senate chambers, and carted the mace away without any security man wielding a baton – the same policemen who only a few days earlier teargassed Shiites who were protesting peacefully against the continued unlawful detention of their leader and his wife!
To compound the abnormality, Omo-Agege obtained a ridiculous injunction from the court against his arrest, an injunction that the learned judge may as well modify to provide the applicant immunity to overthrow Saraki at gunpoint. Are we all right?
The high-level of complicity is irresponsible and unacceptable. If the Senate mismanaged the Omo-Agege case by trampling on his freedom of speech and the rights of his constituents, his recourse to self-help was also barbaric and primitive.
It has almost become normal for the public to be told that a crime is being investigated, when, in fact, it is being covered up or buried. The Omo-Agege case shouldn’t be just another empty promise of action.
No law – including the jankara injunction obtained by Omo-Agege – prevents the police from its statutory duty of investigating crime: the invasion by Omo-Agege’s thugs was an affront on the law. It must not go unpunished.
The police should investigate that comedy of shame and, without delay, bring all those involved, including its own conniving men, to book.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Legit.ng.
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