The messy missing mace matter
Last week the legislator representing my Senatorial District (Delta Central) was at the centre of an absurd tragic drama in the Red Chamber of the National Assembly. Chief Ovie Omo-Agege, a trained lawyer, former Commissioner, former SSG, one-time gubernatorial candidate in Delta State and son of a former Chief Judge of Delta State, was alleged to have employed thugs to spirit away the mace from the chamber. Understandably the action threw the Senate into great confusion. Injuries were reported.
There were conflicting reports in the aftermath of the ugly incident. While some papers reported that the senator was arrested, the Police Commissioner said he was not arrested; he was simply escorted out of the National Assembly. Five young men all bearing names exclusive to the Delta were said to have been arrested as direct perpetrators of the crime. The Senate spokesperson released a statement describing what happened as ‘treasonable’ to the Legislative body. By next morning however, we read reports that the mace had been found somewhere under a bridge in Abuja. Also, the beleaguered senator has secured an injunction preventing the Police or DSS from arresting him.
The circumstances of the mace-kidnap were strange, much like what we could encounter in our Nollywood productions. First was the idea that such a secure zone could be easily violated by hoodlums. What it means is that if the hoodlums had carried weapons some lives could have been lost. They also could have kidnapped some legislators. It was also strange that the hoodlums escaped through the gate which links Aso Rock with the National Assembly if we are to believe newspaper reports. Was there backing from the Presidency? The most bizarre part of the unfolding narrative was the fact that in spite of a court order preventing the Senate from suspending the embattled senator, the plenary session of the hallowed Chambers went ahead to interdict Omo-Agege for 90 days. The senator wouldn’t take the nonsense as a proper ‘Warri’ boy; he bulldozed his way into the Senate and took a seat. Television footage showed some senators shaking hands with him after he sat down. For now nothing short of a physical removal can remove the senator from the chambers.
There is a sense in which we can contend that the Senate set the stage for this anarchical drama in its confines. Apart from ignoring the time-tested rule that once a matter is subjudice it cannot be formally discussed, it went ahead to flout an existing court order. Senate actually went a step further. Its officers wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of the Federation asking him to call Judges to order. Omo-Agege’s action was therefore an extension of the character of brigandage that has characterised the National Assembly. The late Justice Kayode Eso once spoke about ‘executive rascality’ during the years of military misadventure in governance. Here we are concerned with legislative rascality and impunity by holders of the sacred mandate of the people. Under the present circumstance we are compelled to ask what the appellation ‘Honourable’ usually attached to names of legislators really mean. Are these honourable men in the tradition of the great legislators who gave a legendary iconic stature to law makers? Is what happened an example of a proxy war, a war between the Presidency and the National Assembly? What gave Omo-Agege the courage to take on the Senate almost singlehanded?
Members of Legislative Houses have been known to physically express their views in the past. This is not limited to Nigeria. Often their fights are not over real substance; in other words, the fights are not over whether or not to pass good laws. Making laws does not cause fights. It is when extraneous, selfish or personal interests come into play that emotions rise to boiling point. The messy mace affair in my view is the result of two main blocs within the Senate. It has to do with 2019. On the surface of it, one group believes that the Presidential election should come first; the other group says no. This group wants the old order kept. The perception is that if the Presidential election comes first it would have a bandwagon effect on the rest of the elections in the country. But the struggle is indeed deeper than this. It is all about 2019 and the survival of individuals; not the nation’s survival. This gives cause for worry.
There is great disenchantment in the land. Members of the National Assembly should know that the people are angry with the system. They should know that the same extreme emotion which grew in the last months of the Jonathan administration has resurfaced. Both arms of government should realise that in spite of what their spin doctors tell them, if elections are free and fair, the face of the country in 2019 will be different. The time has come for both arms to sit up and govern the nation in the interest of the common man. Security issues, hunger, uncertainty, poverty and despair have dominated the lives of citizens.
The fight over the mace in Abuja is therefore a distraction. Omo-Agege is as wrong as the Senate in the whole affair. Two wrongs cannot make a right. The suspension is illegal just as the means of challenging the suspension is a clear example of brigandage. I am sure the electors did not send our senators to revel in brigandage and rascality. If this had come from the House of Representatives, perhaps we would have understood. The Senate ought to be for mature minds, the experienced and well-mannered legislators who do not sink into gutter tactics to achieve their goals. It is doubly saddening because this happened at a time when Nigerians are in total shock about the take-home income of the typical Senator. To add this brigandage to their sins is an affront to the collective consciousness of the Nigerian people. The Senate therefore ought to apologize to Nigeria and re-order its steps in order to restore whatever shreds of dignity it had left.
I am very sure that the Urhobo nation did not send their son to seize the mace either by himself or by his cronies in the National Assembly. But I am also sure that the Urhobo people are not happy that the Senate at plenary decided to ignore the proper procedure of doing things and went ahead to silence the only Urhobo voice, the (fifth largest ethnic group in Nigeria) in the Senate. Justice must be done and be seen to have been done for the individual, for the system and for the people.