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Senate versus IGP: Stop this unnecessary show of shame, By Bernard Balogun

By News Express on 25/05/2018

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•Bernard Balogun (Benpino)
•Bernard Balogun (Benpino)

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 the 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 (MD), 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, given the superiority of the naira over the dollar.  What marked this man out? When he assumed duty, he introduced revolutionary changes in the accounts department that positively impacted not only on the staff but also enhanced productivity. He was impactful and had organisational 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 Hon.Yakubu Dogara as Speaker, House of Representatives, respectively, under controversial circumstances, opened 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 All Progressives Congress (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 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 flagrant 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 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, Hon Dogara emerged as the Speaker, from the fold of the ‘Like-minds group’, whereas  Hon 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 the 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:

“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 10  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 organisationThis is not done in bad taste. Your hotel is reputed and known for its world-class services).

Permit me to make this reference to Senator David Mark’s  period as 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 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  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 coming 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. Thanks to Senator David Mark, an astute administrator, disciplined, who had the interest of the country at heart; as 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, they introduced the “Doctrine of necessity” and with that, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan became President of the Federal Republic without electoral contest, without any godfather and, indeed, without spending a dime. The ascension of 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 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-fighting and display of egotistic tendencies. First, Dino Melaye versus Mrs Remi Tinubu, Ali Ndume and the Senate hierarchy, Abdullahi Adamu, (a quiet-natured man and 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 hallowed 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 explained 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 was 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, ‘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 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 characteristic 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?”

I can locate the place, Sir, I replied. 

I think that was the headquarters of the bank. I met Bukola, smart, handsome-looking guy, wearing long sleeve shirt and trousers. 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 Saraki, a worthy son of the state, to be the chairman of the organisation 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 28 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. It’s rather a genuine endeavour 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 recent 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 should represent 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 been any institutional backing to support his persistent crying about “non-payment of workers’ salaries across the country, especially in his (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 N13 million 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 30 days 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, Mr Senate President and the entire NASS, to support the current negotiations for an enhanced national wage increase as being spearheaded by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). 

That a legal luminary in class of Prof Itse Sagay could hold or treat the National Assembly, especially the Senate, with such disdain and flagrantly ignore its invitation, is a reflection of the Nigerian attitude and lack of trust in the NASS. As if that was not enough, take Ibrahim Magu of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (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 Customs (CGC), 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 to a top 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 the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris and three times he asked a DIG to represent him, but the senators felt 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-hunted” 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 coal-tar, 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 worth, 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!

Postscript

 

I like to commiserate with my friend and brother, Mr. Charles Ode of Kaftan TV Ltd and the Ode clan, on the transition of their beloved father, Pa Pascal Washima Ode on Wednesday, May 2, 2018 at the age of 74 years. Pa Pascal Ode has since been buried in his home town, Adamgbe of Vandelkya, Benue State, on Tuesday 15 May, 2018, after requiem mass. May he find peace and joy in the celestial realm! Charles, please take heart.

This is a good one. On Saturday, May 5, 2018 my friend and neighbour of over 15 years, Mr Oluyemi Agidi of Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, gave out his beautiful daughter, Bimbo Justina, to his heart-rob - Matthew Adesanya -  a PhD student in Canada. It was an occasion that was well attended and witnessed by friends and families of the two. The solemnisation took place at the Christ Apostolic Church (Oke Anu) at Ikotun, and reception proper took place at White House Event along Isolo Road. Guests were well treated and entertained. This is wishing the newly-wed a successful married life, and better appreciation of each other’s worth each passing day.

•Bernard Balogun (Benpino) writes from Abuja and could be reached on bernardbalogun1@yahoo.com; 08181812456.

Source News Express

Posted 25/05/2018 3:35:13 PM

 

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