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Atsar Terver

Public Commentator
Port Harcourt

more articles by Terver

Meanwhile the EFCC must ensure the accused persons in the House are fully investigated and those who have cases to answer should be made to face the law. Enough is enough. 

This House Has Fallen.
by Atsar Terver

Almost three years after Hon. Aminu Safana was ‘killed’ right inside the chambers of the lower house of the Nigerian Legislature, a repeat of the ugly incident was nearly witnessed in the House Tuesday when attempts were made to forcefully remove some members purportedly suspended from the House because they attempted to commence impeachment proceedings against the Speaker. Luckily no one died this time but one is reported to have left with a broken arm.

It is not surprising that this near-miss is also connected with attempts to change the leadership of the House. The crisis that killed Safana was also a direct fall out of agitations against the then Speaker, Patricia Etteh who was indicted for profligate spending of public funds on private vanities. What is rather intriguing is the fact that the two Speakers come from the same geopolitical Zone.

Recall that when Salisu Buhari, the first Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Fourth Republic fell, he did it gracefully. He resigned honourably and even apologized to the nation with tears. In the Senate, Anyim, Okadigbo, and Wabara all fell gracefully without bloodletting; yes there was some throwing of chairs here and there but it never degenerated into the orgy of violence we have been seeing lately. What did Etteh introduce in the crisis management procedure of the House (and which Bankole has now copied), that keeps throwing the House into boxing sessions?

Could it be that it is impossible to change a leader from this Zone of the country without violence? It is on record that Late Pa. Adedibu popularised the use of thugs as a tool for power conservation and Obasanjo once declared that elections are a do-or-die affair. These coupled with the relatively higher number of high-profile political assassinations in this part of the country, in recent times, may lead one to the conclusion that violence has become a political culture in these parts. Take a look at the roll call of recent political killings: Chief Bola Ige (SAN), Funsho Williams, Dr Ayodele Daramola, Chief Dipo Dina, and this conclusion would not appear hasty anymore.

In the early stages of what Nigerians have come to regard as ‘our nascent democracy’, such shameful display of bestiality in the House could have been conveniently explained away with the excuse that it was a learning process. But ten years down the line, such argument won’t just sell. It is appalling and unacceptable that members of our legislature are, by the day, becoming more and more infantile both in words and deeds.

On his part, Speaker Dimeji Bankole has lost the last strand of respect through this singular dictatorial resort to intimidation to keep a hold on power. Not long after his assumption of office as speaker, a Car-scam in the House was blown open by Festus Keyamo. Bankole mustered all the energy and resources at his disposal to halt the probe. At the end the House ordered  the arrest of Keyamo instead. That was when Bankole lost the first strand of respect. The second was lost when he began a petty ego-war with David Mark over who is the greatest; and there were just three strands at the beginning! One strand was for his democratic credentials, the second was for integrity and transparency while the third stood for maturity. Now he’s lost all.

Bankole has forgotten so soon that his emergence as Speaker was direct fallout of investigations conducted into allegations against his predecessor. Why should Bankole believe, he should not be investigated when allegations are leveled against him?  Why should what was good for Etteh not be deemed to be good for him?

As inglorious as Etteh’s conduct was then, she may have proved more democratic in disposition than Bankole, for having allowed the Idoko panel then to do its work and submit a report that indicted her, without attempting to suspend anybody. What is Bankole shying away from, if indeed he has nothing to hide?

Like I said in the case of Etteh, I would also say in this case, that in decent societies people don’t resign from their positions only if they are found guilty, sometimes they do so to protect their integrity. If Bankole is unwilling to resign, he should in the minimum be willing to allow the investigative process to go on unhindered even if for no other reason than to prove his innocence. That Bankole now exhibits despotic temerity to hound his opponents instead of facing the allegations and clearing them, is a clear manifestation of disrespect for the rule of law on his part.  Even if Bankole claims innocence of the allegations against him, his desperation and unwillingness to face a probe would put great doubts on such claim.

Hon.Aminu Safana may indeed have died in vain after all since the House does not appear to have learnt any lesson from his death. How many more Safana’s must Nigeria sacrifice on this evil alter at the House of Representatives before Nigerians say Enough Is Enough. Where are Wole Soyinka and Tunde Bakare with their placards now?

Without elimination of the potential for another death in the House, my question in a previous article titled ‘who Killed Safana?’ remains very relevant today.  Who actually pushed Aminu to the ground during the scuffle? We need to know this. Whoever did the pushing is culpable for manslaughter and should be charged to court. Pushing and shoving people aside is not the normal procedure in the business rules of the House.  I remember that late President Yar’Adua had promised to investigate this death but one is not sure how that promise was fulfilled. When a weighty issue like this is swept under the carpet, its reoccurrence is guaranteed and this is what the near-miss of Tuesday indicates.

Opinions are rife that the evil hands of Obasanjo are manipulating the Progressives to revenge the sack of Etteh. While this could be true, one must remember that if Bankole had no skeletons in his cupboard, OBJ and his cohorts would not have gotten something to use against him. You only come to equity with clean hands. Corrupt acts are like a time bomb which can erupt any time, so the argument that Dino's group is only seeking vengeance over House committee leadership changes is untenable. Recall that the same argument was dismissed in the case of Etteh.

I must also have a word for the ‘Progressives’. They had a good cause but adopted the wrong approach to defend it. Hon. Dino Meleye simply went too far by physically engaging Hon. Igbawua who was only moving a motion in line with the House rules. If Dino believed that his group had a good case, he should have waited for the motion to be put to vote. Their quest for probity is commendable but going gaga was simply barbaric and uncalled for. It is not permitted for them to take the laws in their hands. Another minus for the Dino camp is that they waited for so long to act, maybe because something was in for them for keeping quiet. It casts an inescapable slur on their intentions.

Coming at a time that Nigerians are under cavernous consternation over the revelation of the stupendous salaries and allowances which the lawmakers have allocated to themselves, this latest brawl rubs more salt to the injury of the suffering masses. Very soon the House may review their allowances to include ‘Hazard Allowance’ in case they suffer bodily harm in the course of their legislative debates which must now include physical combat.

Members of the House of Representatives and their counterparts in the Senate through their conduct have consistently demonstrated their insensitivity to the needs of the people they pretend to represent. Without seeing the positive impacts of their expensive legislative activities, Nigerians are beginning to question the need for this House of rapes; a House which has fallen into the abyss of ignominy. It should be scrapped.  

The Federal Legislators have completely failed to justify their existence in our government structure. They demonstrate a rather casual understanding of their statutory responsibilities to the people; working to exacerbate rather than reduce the devastating poverty in the land and have converted the House into a cult of greed and thievery through voodoo appropriation. We need to do what Jesus did when he went to the Temple to worship only to discover that the hallowed place had become a den of thieves.

Meanwhile the EFCC must ensure the accused persons in the House are fully investigated and those who have cases to answer should be made to face the law. Enough is enough. 



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