Our silly season
Our silly season is here, the season that we show to the world how truly silly we are in conducting our affairs. In years of yore Nigerians were used to saying to people on New Year’s Day, “Happy New Year.” Now we have picked up the habit with consummate verve of saying to people “Happy New Week, Happy New Month” as if we have just stumbled on some virtuous act of serendipity. This new social menace couched as a form of greeting is in truth a supplication for alms, for gifts, for a favour, for anything, different from what we used to know as a normal exchange of pleasantries and courtesies between persons. Since this menace has taken root, shall we in faithful conformity with this new abnormality which has grown to become the new normal say to everyone out there, “Happy Silly Season.”
We have actually been having our silly season in tranches. When a Minister orders a State House of Assembly that lawfully makes laws for a State which he is not in control of to suspend a law, that is a fragment of a silly season. When a government official tells people to either give their own land to private persons doing their own private business or receive death for non-compliance that is another fragment of our silly season because the choices are grim, as grim as the choice between the rock and the hard place or between the devil and the deep blue sea. When a politician says he does not want to do business with political prostitutes, that is people who are hopping from one party to another shopping for food, office, nomination, position or other forms of stomach infrastructure, he is simply just being sensational. Those who know the history of cross carpeting in Nigeria will greet him with a guffaw because even at his elbow there is a man, the President of Nigeria, who has contested for Nigeria’s high office four times, three of them on the platform of three different parties. So is he a political mercenary or a politician of integrity? The bald truth is that in Nigeria people hardly worry about carpet crossing but it may change the composition of the parties.
Those who lose the carpet crossers may try to wear a bold face and say to the marines that the defection will not affect them one jot. On the other hand, the receiving party will break into song and dance as well as mock the party from which the rebels have fled. In Nigeria’s politics that is the way the ball bounces. In the First Republic, it was always done in a real dramatic manner. The rebel would simply walk majestically from his seat across the carpet to the other side and he would be booed by his former partymen and hailed by members of his new party. That singular action would have at one and the same time people who are appalled and people who are enthralled by the action of the carpet crosser. Things have changed drastically today. As you saw some days ago when some senators and Representatives pulled out of the parties that got them into parliament, there was no drama to it. The leader of each of the two Houses simply read out the names of the fleeing legislators at the plenary and then an uproar took over.
When you x-ray this graceless burst of bad politics you will notice that the only reason that they ditched their parties was as usual, the paucity of opportunities for “chopping.”
But the real ingredients of our silly season can be truly found in the comicality of the impeachments/ attempted impeachments in three states; Imo, Kano and Benue. When the framers of the 1999 Constitution made elaborate, step by step provisions for impeachment of some public officers they thought impeachment would be the punishment of last resort because of its seriousness. In the last 18 years it has been vulgarized and bastardised. Each time it has happened we always have a lesson on how to do things the wrong way. In the last few days, the gladiators have upped the vulgarity of their game. In Imo State, the Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere, was thrown out of office in defiance of a court order because the Governor, Mr Rochas Okorocha, wants to clear the deck quickly and usher in his son in law, Mr Uche Nwosu, instalmentally as the heir apparent. The battle ground will shift to the courts in the next few weeks.
The Kano State House of Assembly’s impeachment of the Speaker, Mr Abdullahi Atta, is bizarre not necessarily for the act but largely for his replacement’s absence of merit. The new Speaker, Mr Kabiru Rurum, is actually an old Speaker who was thrown out on allegations of corruption. He was neither prosecuted nor absolved by any court nor pardoned by any competent authority but he was just brought back in a bizarre game of revolving doors.
However, the attempted impeachment of Mr Samuel Ortom, Governor of Benue State, who jumped ship from APC to PDP a little over a week ago is crudity personified. In terms of barefaced crudity and grotesqueness, the Benue impeachment saga deserves full honours. Eight lawmakers out of 30 were the ones gunning for Mr. Ortom’s neck barely one week after he moved from his party, APC to PDP. This defection obviously angered the gods of the APC who felt that with the delicate security situation in Benue, if Ortom who had been lion fighting for his people in the face of oppression by the Fulani cattle rearers left, Benue would fall into the waiting hands of the PDP. The eight APC legislators had the audacity aided by the Police and the DSS, to attempt to impeach the Governor without the authority of the House, the mace, without the Clerk of the Assembly and without two thirds of the legislators as prescribed in the Constitution. This is obviously a weird way of doing legislature business. The leader of the Gang of Eight, Mr Terkimbi Ikyange is a former Speaker of the House who came under a six month impeachment hammer on July 27, 2018. On the day he tried his hands on staging a coup the plot fell apart because it was built on a foundation of fraud. But this silly operation would never have been contemplated if there was no complicity by the security agencies especially the Police. Security agencies have been the enforcers and procurers of bizarre impeachments in Anambra, Bayelsa and Enugu States in the past and now this would have been accomplished if the public had not raised its voice against this macabre dance of our silly season.
For more than 10 years now the Police has been campaigning for the National Assembly to pass the Police Trust Fund Bill into law but this has not happened. If passed, that law would facilitate the smooth functioning of the police force since more money would be raised from the public. But I suspect that the reluctance of about three sessions of the National Assembly to give its nod to the bill might be the Police’s outstanding partisanship in the performance of its function. With its more recent exhibition of cross partisanship and partiality it is doubtful whether the legislators will be inclined to put its stamp of approval on the bill. In all three cases, Imo, Kano and Benue, the police did not come out smelling like roses because its partisanship was sticking out from a long distance like a sore thumb. Each time the police exhibits this high level of unprofessionalism it shoots itself on the foot. The Police depends largely on the public for the efficient performance of its functions. Without the support and cooperation of the public the Police cannot function effectively. The question is how does the Police hope to gain and retain public confidence if it continues to perform its functions in a partisan manner. Its partisanship also indirectly makes a strong case for the establishment of State Police. State Police is an antidote to the partiality of the Federal Police especially in States where the opposition parties are in power.
Mr. Smith, the new Chairman of the Police Service Commission has to take this issue of professionalism very seriously because senior police officers especially those manning states are behaving like loose canons. All policemen and women except the Inspector General of Police are subject to the disciplinary control of and promotion by the Police Service Commission. The Commission should be able to use its powers to discipline the police and whip them into line for the good of the country even if the Inspector General chooses to act as a partisan politician. If the weird happenings of the last few days are not checked then 2019 will be a tough year for the country because the desperation of politicians will know no bounds then.
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