Editor's note: The current controversy between the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris and the Senate has continued to generate mixed reactions among Nigerians.
In an article sent to Legit.ng, an Abuja based social commentator, Bernard Balogun (BenPino), writes about the composition of the current National Assembly and the pocket of controversies.
Permit me to share this personal experience. Many years ago, in Ibadan, there was an indigenous construction company. The company’s accountant, a woman, had resigned her employment to join her spouse in Lagos.
The company decided to fill this vacancy and placed advert. Qualified applicants applied and some were invited for interview. One of the applicants was outstanding.
A young man from Ile-Ife but based in Ibadan, who insisted that if he was going to be employed, his nomenclature should be senior accountant with an annual salary of N14,700.
This was between the late 70’s and early 80’s. Whereas, some of the applicants were ready to accept between N10,000 and N12,000 per annum respectively. Recommendations were made to the managing director, who directed that the young man should be invited for further interview.
Eventually, the man was employed as chief accountant on an annual salary of N17,400. Handsome salary by every definition at that time, bearing in mind the superiority of the Naira over the dollar.
What marked this man out? When he assumed duty, he introduced revolutionary changes in the accounts dept that positively impacted not only on the staff but also enhanced productivity.
He was impactful and had organizational sense. He had experience. He had maturity in his favour. What is the significance of this to the narrative on hand? Please, be patient, come along.
For any country to be described as practising democracy, this tripod of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary must be in place. During coup d’état, the first institution to suffer casualty is the legislature. The junta’s first target is to annihilate the legislature, the only institution that represents the voice of the people. The executive and the judiciary are never annihilated.
Since the inception of this 8th Senate, it has been one controversy to another. Let us go down memory lane, for a better understanding of this narrative. The ascension of both Senator Bukola Saraki as Senate president and Rt. Hon.Yakubu Dogara as speaker, federal House of Representatives, respectively, under controversial circumstances, open-up the National Assembly to serious public ridicule, humiliation, blackmail and the not-too-friendly disposition it currently experiences in the eyes of the public. How? I shall explain.
In the early part of this APC federal government, the president clearly made his stand known – he was not going to interfere with the election or running of the National Assembly or any institution for that matter.
He promised to stand aloof. Ab nitio, there has been a crack in the rank of the party, that crack gave birth to two opposing groups within the party. The groups are – the Unity group, which seems to enjoy the support of the party’s hierarchy and the “like-minds group”, which is made up of some elected senators and members of the federal House.
Before the convocation of the 8th Senate and House of Representatives, the party’s hierarchy called for a meeting at the International Conference Centre (ICC) by Radio House. While majority of the members of the Senate and House of Representatives, specifically those of the Unity group responded and headed to the venue on the agreed day, the so called “like minds” group, in fragrant disobedience and utter disdain to the party’s hierarchy headed to the National Assembly to elect their officers.
Consequently, the “like-minds” group, in order to successfully carry out their clandestine move, had to co-opt senators from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the opposition party, to elect Senator Bukola Saraki as Senate president, as against the popular wish of the party’s hierarchy to elect Senator Ahmed Lawani from Adamawa state.
To compensate the PDP senators, Senator Ike Ekweremadu of PDP was elected as deputy Senate president, a formula that was never known during the 16 years rule of the PDP. Call it an aberration, if you like and you are right.
In the case of the House of Representatives, against the popular wish of the party’s hierarchy, Rt. Hon Yakubu Dogara emerged as the speaker, from the fold of “like-minds group." Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila of the Unity fold was the choice of the party.
At this juncture, it is important to draw a comparison. During his life time, Chief Obafemi Awolowo was alleged to be a man of “unforgiving spirit.” A reporter from one of the television stations in Ibadan, this was before the advent of Galaxy television at Oke-Are, went to Chief to know “if true-true”, papa was a man of “unforgiving spirit”. Not only did Chief Awolowo debunk this assertion but went further to explain thus:
“If as a party, we collectively agreed to move from Ibadan to assemble at Airport Hotels in Ikeja, next day. It does not matter which route you take to get there and of course, there are three known routes.
"You either travel through Abeokuta, or through the old Lagos road, via Ijebu-Ode or the popular route, Ibadan to Lagos express. On getting to Lagos, one or two or even ten persons went to Ikeja Sheraton Hotels instead of the agreed venue.
"These persons can best be described as unfaithful and disloyal party members, by that singular action. They should therefore be treated with mutual suspicion and indeed considered as betrayals.
"If our creator, the Supreme Being, forgives when we err, who am I not to forgive? I am a faithful party member. I scrupulously adhere to party collective decision and I am easily offended when a member takes the party decision for granted. I am therefore often misunderstood”.
(Ikeja Sheraton Hotels Management, please permit my reference to your organization. This is not done in bad taste. Your hotels is reputed and known for its world-class services).
Permit me to make this reference to Senator David Mark period’s period as the Senate president. This will further enrich this narrative. After the demise of President Umar Yar’Adua, a section of the country thought “an outsider”, particularly a man from the section where the late President hailed should be sworn in as the president to complete the four year tenure.
This position runs counter to the spirit of the Nigerian constitution, which envisages the Vice President to be immediately sworn-in as a successor. No vacuum should be allowed. The other sections of the country supported and encouraged this constitutional provision to be applied in this circumstance.
Literally, the country became divided. And we all looked up at the direction of the Senate to do the needful in consonance with the constitution. In fact, at that time, the country was in a state of quandary and fast approaching the precipice and the wisdom of King Solomon was badly needed to avert the oncoming calamity.
At last, ego was relegated to the background, experience, maturity and national interest were brought to the front-burner and common-sense in consonance with the contemplation of the constitution prevailed.
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Thanks to Senator David Mark, an astute administrator, disciplined, who has the interest of the country at heart, as Senate President of the sixth Senate and indeed the entire Senate at that time, for aligning itself with the popular wish of the Nigerian people.
Consequently introduced the “doctrine of necessity” and with that, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan became the President of the federal republic without electoral contest, without any god-father and indeed without spending a dime.
The ascension of Dr Goodluck Jonathan, as I once wrote in one of my previous articles, could be likened to “a national team that won the World cup without appearing on the field of play” (italics – courtesy my spiritual father in the Lord, Bishop Matthew Kukah of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto). That is the hand, and favour, of God upon the life of GEJ. Anyway, this narrative is not about Dr Goodluck Jonathan, the man I admire so much for his simplicity and unassuming trait.
Now let us get back to the main issue. Since 1999 this is the only time the Senate suffered this kind of open disregard and treated with so much disdain. Even among themselves, Senators, there are in-fightings, display of egotistic tendencies.
First, Dino versus Mrs Remi Tinubu. Ali Ndume and the Senate hierarchy, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, (a quiet natured man and a two time Governor of Nasarawa State) who is not in “their good books” and some “underground” mutual disrespect and of course, the most controversial and recent one, Omo Agege and the Senate hierarchy, which in fact, led to the humiliation of the entire national assembly when some rascals from nowhere gained access into the hollow chambers of the Senate and in full public glare took away the mace, in a Roger Moore fashion. Bad too.
How did the present crop of the leadership at the National Assembly emerge? I have tried to explain that above. I am particularly troubled to put up this narrative because the person I have once interacted with is involved. I have that sentimental attachment to it.
Very painful to say and perhaps, the Senate president himself may have forgotten about this.
Around late 1990, one Alhaji Abdulrashidi Sanni and I went to Ilorin to meet Oloye, Dr Olusola Saraki, the biological father of the current Senate president, at his Ilorin country home by Radio Kwara.
It was a weekend and there were such a huge crowd. So the Oloye, as he was popularly called, advised us to meet in Lagos in his office at Investment House by Bookshop House on Broad Street, the following Tuesday.
For reasons I cannot remember now, Alhaji ‘Rashidi did not go with me to Lagos. I went alone. This was the period of the Chief Kotoye and Oloye Dr Saraki saga regarding the ownership of the defunct Societe Generale Bank.
Oloye was not in the office when I got there, so I waited. When he returned, he invited me into his office and said in his characteristics soft and low-tune “I am just coming back from the court. I will send you to my son, Bukola, at Sarah House on Breadfruit street.
“Do you know the place”? He asked. I can locate the place sir. I replied.
I think, that was the headquarters of the Bank. I met Bukola, light-skinned, smart, handsome looking guy wearing long sleeve shirt and trouser. He had his shirt folded half-way. Our discussion was lengthy and lively and he made me feel so comfortable.
At that time Kogi state had not been created from the present Kwara. Some friends and I were trying to set-up a Foundry/Machine Tools project to be located somewhere along Ganmo, in the Ilorin metropolis, and we considered Oloye Olusola Saraki, a worthy son of the state, to be the chairman of the organization known as Flabs Processing Industries Ltd. I left Sarah House with pleasant memory of Bukola and returned to give Oloye feedback.
It is therefore a pain, twenty-eight years down the lane, I would be writing about that aburo in a taste not so dignifying as a result of some unpalatable decisions taken by the institution he heads. I genuinely feel bad.
Very painful, so sad indeed but the truth must be told, emotion and sentiment must be far removed from national discourse, particularly on issues that affect our collective well-being as a people and a nation.
Distinguished Senate President please tolerate my impertinence. Whatever I say here does not mean I hate you that much. You may never see my heart, but you can see the palm of my hand. My heart towards you, Mr. Senate President, is as clean as my palm.
This is certainly not a narrative created to pull you down. Certainly not, but a genuine endeavor to encourage you to improve on your leadership style, which has brought about some discordant voices within.
As a result your exalted office, as the number three person, in order of protocol, you have been thoroughly rubbished. No senate president in recently memory has been this disdainfully treated. I feel genuinely bad for you as a person and the institution you represent.
Permit me to tell you this, my distinguished, Nigerians are utterly unhappy with the National Assembly under your leadership and their “state of mind” towards the NASS is understandable. NASS has so far alienated itself from the sufferings of the people, who in the first place elected each and every one of you.
Apart from Senator Dino Maleye, NASS as an institution has been so criminally quiet about the non-payment of workers’ salaries across the country, yet it is the institution that represents the voice of the voiceless.
It is therefore not too hard to conclude that your quiet disposition on this sensitive issue has brought upon Dino his present travails. There has not being institutional backing to support his persistent crying about “non-payment of workers’ salaries across the country, especially in his (or our state-Kogi).
In fact, it is not too much of a task, in the overall interest of the Nigerian workers, for the National Assembly to have a joint session on this sensitive issue and come up with a bill that discourages any State government to owe workers’ more than two consecutive months salaries.
Yet it is a well-known fact, that a senator earns as much as N13million per month. That is the story in the public domain, which has not been denied. Astonishingly, a senator who seats for less than 20-days in a month earns N13-million per month whereas the Nigerian worker who works for 30days earns paltry sum of N18,000 per month.
Where is the fairness? Let us tell ourselves some “home-truth” the Nigerian worker has not been fairly treated by NASS. Nigerians have asked me to tell you, Senate president, and the entire NASS to support to the current negotiations for an enhanced national wage increase as being spearheaded by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC).
That a legal luminary in class of Professor Itse Sagay could hold or treat the National Assembly, especially the Senate, with such disdain and fragrantly ignore its invitation is a reflection of the Nigerian attitude and lack of trust towards NASS.
As if that was not enough, Ibrahim Magu of EFCC, how many times was he invited? He ignored the Senate. Bad-belle then sets – in, they refused to confirm his appointment but he is still there, working in “acting” capacity.
There was also another invitation extended to Col Hamid Ali (Retd), the current Comptroller General of the Customs which generated so much heat as regards the infamous decision for “Customs papers.” The senate insisted that the CGC must appear before it in full customs uniform with its rank.
There was yet another invitation for top a government functionary that was treated with disdain. In fact, I had to write an article on this matter to support the Senate but unknown to me “the Senate and Customs” have an unresolved issue long before the Customs’ unpopular decision on “custom papers.”
Now the big and burning one, three times was invitation extended to Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris and three times he asked a DIG to represent him but the Senators feel insulted by that action and would not have any of it. The 'rofo-rofo' fight is getting messier. IGP Idris believes, he is being “witch-hunt” by the Senate, this much he told the press. Therefore he does
not feel comfortable to appear before them. However, the Senate wanted the IGP to come over to explain why the Police under his leadership would turn, and treat, a sitting Senator into an “area-boy” forcing him to seat on a bare hard coater, prompting the Senator, representing yours truly to threaten “I will kill myself and put you into problem.”
I think, it is wrong, absolutely wrong, for the IGP not to have appeared before the Senate, at least, for whatever it is worthy to clear himself of any misgiving associated to his office, for the despicable treatment mete to the distinguished senator.
Such treatment will go a long way to weaken the much needed cooperation between the executive and the legislature. The office of the IGP has a significant role to play in promoting a healthy and robust relationship between the two institutions.
In any case, why would an “investigator” be afraid to be “investigated”? Oro pari.
Bernard Balogun (benpino) writes from Wuse District of Abuja and could be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org. 0818.181.2456.
Bernard Balogun (BenPino) writes from Wuse District of Abuja and he could be reached via 0803.787.9275 or email@example.com.
He writes for Benpino-online firstname.lastname@example.org The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of Legit.ng.
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Meanwhile, Legit.ng had previously reported that President Muhammadu Buhari promised to take appropriate action in the rift between Senate president, Bukola Saraki, and inspector-general of police, Ibrahim Idris.
Buhari to Contest for Presidency in 2019! - on Legit.ng TV