The once revered chamber is now becoming a house of commotion. Each day comes with its own drama in the Red Chamber.
“The Nigerian government is mismanaging the issue of MASSOB and IPOB. We are Igbo and we know what we want in this country, which is inclusion and accommodation in all matters concerning the country. We want equitable attention so that anything that is available should go round to every geopolitical zones. We don’t want our people to be alienated from government programmes,”
–Senator Victor Umeh
I am back with a bang. I have been away for at least four months. Someday and if life permits me, I will tell my own story. My loud silence wasn’t self-inflicted. But I’m glad to be back, notwithstanding. I’m returning at a time when Nigeria is at crossroads. Unlike Emperor Nero, I can’t sleep anymore while Nigeria burns.
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For a start, let’s kick off with everything going wrong in the Nigerian Senate. Gradually, the once revered chamber is now becoming a house of commotion. Each day comes with its own drama in the Red Chamber. If you love soap opera, tune in to the Senate channel everyday. Rest assured that you won’t be disappointed.
Do you remember that popular soap opera Fuji House of Commotion? The story follows Kunle Bamtefa’s Chief Fuji’s many troubles to keep his polygamous home intact, having married three wives from the three major ethnic groups – Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. His Yoruba mother was always at his neck and at the helm of many troubles in the home.
In the absence of the popular opera, the National Assembly, specifically the Senate, has assumed that entertainment role. If you’re not worried, I am perturbed. Unfortunately and sadly too, we will be here with this Assembly till June next year. So, relax, sit back and enjoy the bumpy ride.
For me, the Eight Senate started on a right footing when it came on stream in 2015. For the first time, it asserted itself and elected its own presiding officers, despite the suffocating pressure from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The Senate, which elected Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu as President and Deputy respectively, gave Nigerians high hopes that ‘something good will come out of Nazareth’. Were they wrong to have trusted the Senate? Are Nigerians better off? How relevant are resolutions, motions or bills of the Senate to the ordinary Nigerian?
You can provide the answers. At least, you know the truth. When I was deployed to
the Senate in 2015, my expectations were high. During the first few months, the Senate didn’t disappoint me. Though there were some minor misgivings, the Senate doled out people-oriented resolutions and for once, I was proud of our lawmakers.
In the past, it didn’t matter if you were elected on the platform of APC or the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). For them, they were first senators. Bipartisan resolutions were reached. At some point, the Senate became the fiercest opposition to President Muhammadu Buhari’s presidency, when the PDP was in a coma.
Ministers and other heads of agencies were summoned to give accounts. Those who were stubborn, were openly disgraced and indicted. When the Senate coughed, Buhari’s appointees shivered. The upper chamber was always in the news for the right reasons.
Today, the Red Chamber is now battling to stay afloat. The sanctity of the chamber was rubbished in April, when Senator, Ovie Omo-Agege, allegedly led thugs into the chamber and snatched the mace. As I pen this piece, no one has been charged to court or indicted.
Omo-Agege is still walking tall and heavens have not fallen. The ad hoc committee set up to investigate the invasion, is in a coma and may never survive until the end of the Eight Senate. In fact, the chairman of the committee, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, is now a new convert, defending the presidency and APC, which he once derided.
Unless I am wrong, the Senate, vis-a-vis, the National Assembly, may end the session in June, without any signature bill to its credit. The so-called Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), which it once touted as its signature legislation, is cooling off in a bookshelf in Buhari’s office.
At least, previous assemblies can boldly allude to one thing they achieved. The last Assembly passed the Same Sex Prohibition Bill. The Assembly before it came up with the Doctrine of Necessity. Not so for this Assembly. Instead, it daily engages heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies in unnecessary fisticuffs. Ordinary Directors-General now flout their resolutions and shun their summons. That is how low the Senate has been reduced to.
When this Assembly fizzles out next year, Nigerians may remember it as one of the worst in our recent history. Maybe when scholars recall what happened, they will dwell on how Saraki was tainted as a common criminal and Ekweremadu as a corrupt official. Maybe I am wrong, but time shall tell. We will see.
Senators and their sympathizers, have new excuses to offer whenever you remind them of how low they have sunk. They blame it on the forthcoming general elections or the feud between the executive and the legislature. They also forget quickly that history books still have records of what previous Assemblies did.
With lawmakers schemed out by their governors and big shots in their parties, the Senate has become the fertile ground to breed their anger and vent their frustrations. At the slightest provocation, they
take President Buhari to the cleaners and remind everyone how the government has failed. ‘Comrade’ Shehu Sani is the author and the finisher of this brand of politics on the floor of the Senate. Since his biggest nemesis, Governor Nasir El-Rufai, chased him out of APC, Sani has become a crying baby, who is scouting for who to console him.
On the other side of the divide, some senators are maintaining a loud silence. They see no evil and will never speak ill of President Buhari. It is believed that this class of lawmakers got their tickets through the back door. They are scared that their headmaster, Adams Oshiomhole, may whip them if they speak ill of the President. They have assumed the roles of perpetual bench warmers. Not even a grenade can move them anymore. For them, winning the 2019 election is the ‘koko’.
Suddenly, some patriots have suddenly found their groove in the Senate. This class of lawmakers, until recently, only marked the attendance register. They didn’t sponsor or second any motion. They either chewed kolanuts or just nodded their heads while the serious ones debated.
Today, they sponsor motions, bills and raise points of order. They are the first to arrive at the chamber and the last to leave. They position themselves in
strategic areas to get a close shot. When no one notices them, they hurry to the Senate President’s seat so that cameras can capture them. These are the current realities in Nigeria’s highest lawmaking body, the Senate.
The most troubling development is the absence of an official spokesman for the Senate. Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi is missing. The senator, who still enjoys the pecks of his office as chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, has abandoned his responsibilities. Curiously, Saraki, who recently announced a minor shake up in the headship of the committees, has refused to unleash the big stick.
If you have been following the developments in the country, especially in Niger State, you would have sympathised with Senator Abdullahi. He used to be a scribe of Saraki. He signed and released statements that were critical of the executive. When he saw the glaring handwriting that he was going to be cut to size, he immediately jumped ship. Since then, the Senate has been without an official spokesman.
The absence of the missing Senate spokesman became glaring in early August, when armed officials of the Department of State Services (DSS), barricaded the National Assembly. The timid Senator Abdullahi was missing. Instead, his name featured prominently as one of those who plotted to sack Saraki as Senate President.
While the face-off between the two arms lasted, the Senate spokesman didn’t sign any press statement. He didn’t appear on any television or radio programme to defend the Senate. The most disturbing part was that the Senate spokesman didn’t respond to phone calls from journalists. Ironically, he has not resigned as an honourable man.
Some senators who are naturally too timid to address a press conference, now dish out press releases on behalf of the Senate. I don’t know how long this misnomer will hold sway, but I call on the Senate President, Saraki, to act fast. This is shameful and unheard of. Do something sir.
I so submit!
To Tony Anenih, Salute!
The death of a proud son of Esanland, Tony Anenih, is no news. Although I never met him, not even once, I can’t but appreciate the number of folks from my small ethnic group of Esan he empowered. Some people may have their misgivings, but like everyone else, he wasn’t perfect.
To also buttress the importance of his uncommon contribution to national development, the Senate, recently urged the Federal Government to accord him “all the official burial rights due to a national figure, with such honour and diligence.”
The Senate also urged the Federal Government to name the National Institute of Construction Technology and Management in Uromi, Edo State, after the late Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader.
The resolutions of the Senate, followed the adoption of a motion sponsored by Senator Clifford Ordia and tagged ‘Demise of Tony Okhakon Anenih: The Iyasele of Esanland’. Ordia represents Edo Central Senatorial District, where Anenih hailed from.
Ordia in the motion, said “Anenih served in different challenging capacity as one of the foremost leader in the party, PDP. He deployed his compelling intelligence, strategies and uncommon tacking to ensure several victories for the party in presidential, governorship, National Assembly, State Houses of Assembly, local government chairmen and councilors across Nigeria so much so that he was refers to as, “Mr Fix it”.
“He indeed fixed political and socio-economic problems. He served as the chairman of Board of Trustees twice and was acknowledged and referred to as the national leader of the party.”