WHERE IS THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY? BY EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO
A highly provocative pattern of conversations by politicians and their unlearned/uncultured supporters have emerged in the last few months which signpost the emergence of authoritarianism of the worst degree.
This pattern of public debate has to do with the increasing amount of intolerance to critical thinking and the irrational conclusions drawn by supporters of the central governments targeted at demonizing persons with a difference of opinion from the president.
The National Assembly has also caught this bug by aligning herself to the emerging dictatorship by way of trying to foist a tyranny of a commission to monitor the operations of Non-Governmental organisations.
This grand scale intolerance to dissenting voices was recently taken to a very ridiculous dimension against the person of the senate president Dr. Bukola Saraki when he intervened in the controversy that trailed the declaration by the defence headquarters of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a terrorist organization.
The senate president who doubles as the chairman of the National Assembly had only pointed out the disrespect to the rule of law and the non-compliance to relevant sections of the counter terror Act in making that determination about the status of the self-determination group.
But his position was viciously attacked by the majorly leader of the Federal House of Representatives who felt that the senate president’s speech was meant to provide support for the self-determination group based in the South East of Nigeria.
The majority leader of the federal House who is a Northerner was apparently playing to the gallery.
As if that was not enough, an Abuja based newspaper known as the media mouth piece of the core North seems to have gone to an overdrive by publishing sensational stories meant to demean the office of the senate president and to ridicule his position on the declaration of IPOB as a terrorist organization.
However, this writer is pleased to note that the senate president has not capitulated to the naked show of irrationality displayed by those who have reduced the agitations for self-determination or restructuring as being enemies of president Buhari.
Undeterred by the misplaced and illegal criticism of his stand on the hasty but illegal declaration by the military of IPOB as a terrorist organization the senate president was the same person who counseled the president to abide by the relevant sections of the law in making any declaration particularly on IPOB .
The same Federal government then went back to now file an exparte motion before the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court which subsequently proscribed IPOB.
IPOB is however challenging the action in court.
Welcoming his colleagues from their recent recess, the senate president told them thus: “ a house divided against itself will not stand. More than ever before, we need to stand for the unity and indivisibility of our country.”
“We must condemn in the strongest possible terms all forms of violence as a form of engagement. The Constitution and laws have laid down tools and procedures for us to push through our interest as all democratic nations do. Our nation is blessed with exceptionally talented and beautiful people, we are collectively strong and indomitable and it is time for all of us to stand up for our nation. Our dream of a virile nation must keep us motivated and this dream is already at the horizon.”
He argued that as leaders, closest to the people, the Senators must rededicate themselves to the values they have institutionalized in the chamber.
“In this chamber, we are first and foremost, Nigerians. Yes, we are Igbos, Yoruba’s, Hausas, Fulani’s. Yes, we are Muslims, Christians and traditional worshipers”.
The Senate President apparently aware of the sinister motives of some irrational regional warlords told his colleagues that: “we must in all our conversations and decisions continue to be first and foremost Nigerians and as Nigerian citizens be our brothers’ keepers. Too many of our youths, too many of our families from the South to the North need a lifting. Our job is to help government give them a hand and ones again make them feel great again being Nigerians. This is our mission.”
“As we work to even make our Constitution better, it must be remembered that Constitution review is a continuous process which we must undertake with the vision of the future in our minds.”
The Senate President should be reminded that too much of tinkering with the constitution makes nonsense of the essence of having a politically stable polity. Nigeria needs to work out the modalities for genuinely writing a people’s constitution that will stand the test of time.
Sadly, the speaker of the Federal House of Representatives Mr. Yakubu Dogara never spoke against the extra judicial killings by soldiers of IPOB members which happened when soldiers began the ongoing operation python dance 2.
The speaker rather sounded like a Northern irredentist by consoling only the victims of floods disasters in some parts of Northern Nigeria.
Hear Him: “We are all aware that during the recess, the agitation by a group of persons based in the south eastern geopolitical zone of the country and the heightened call by many groups for restructuring of the country dominated discourse in Nigeria”.
“It is in this regard, that I wish to commend our religious and traditional rulers, leaders of various ethnic nationalities, elder statesmen, security agencies, the Governors and indeed governments of the states in the Federation for their display of statesmanship during this period.”
Even whilst he is guilty of overlooking the extralegal executions of civilians he pretended to be patriotic by asserting that indeed all patriotic Nigerians rose in unison to uphold the fundamental rights of all citizens to move freely and reside in any part of the federation as they choose, without let or hindrance.
” It appears to me that the citizens of this great country have sounded the message loud and clear that they stand for a united, prosperous and just Nigeria.”
The Speaker said it is necessary to emphasize that Nigeria is a constitutional democracy with a clear legal framework for resolving differences that normally arise among citizens, between citizens and government as well as between the structures and arms of government.
He then made a very pretentious affirmation thus: “Make no mistake, as representatives of the people we have a duty to champion the protection and preservation of the rights of our constituents and peoples. We are very conscious and indeed jealous of the fundamental human rights of all Nigerians”.
“As an institution, this House stands firmly on the side of those who seek equity, fairness and justice so long as such is pursued in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which we as Honorable Members have sworn to protect and preserve. Anyone or group who assaults our Constitution will not find a partner here because our oath of office repels it…”
The above statement is callous and insensitive to the plights of the people of South East of Nigeria. The National Assembly must truly behave like an independent national institution whose place is assured in the Constitution rather than behaving like puppets of the President.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and blogs @www.emmanuelonwubiko.com, email@example.com.