You can describe Wednesday, April 18, 2018 anyhow you like, but it was indeed, a national day of opprobrium. Some would also say it was a national day of mourning. Or how does one describe a day the National Assembly, in broad day light, was under attack.
The incident was enough public disgrace that shocked the country to the marrow, thus relegating to the background the fact that elsewhere outside the country, the nation’s president was tearing Nigerian youths apart, calling them lazy and illiterate lot that just want to live their lives on freebies. Yes, all of those were simply unimaginable.
But at the Senate, democracy was under attack. Nigerians were told that at about 11:30am, Wednesday, some hoodlums, allegedly led by suspended Senator Ovie Omo-Agege from Delta State, walked into the Senate plenary and seized the symbol of authority of the upper legislative chamber, the mace, without which no official duties could be held and recognized as such.
Presiding was Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, as Senate President Bukola Saraki was said to be attending the Spring Meeting of the World Bank/International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington DC.
Naturally, the development sparked various reactions by Nigerians, some of who made a huge joke of it, especially on social media. A lot others would lament how the symbol of authority could be so brazenly stolen with such ease.
Even more alarming is that the National Assembly was so easily invaded without almost no resistance, which understandably explains why most lawmakers, and indeed most Nigerians, allege that for the ‘unidentified invaders’ to so successfully carry out the attack would mean they had the backing of security operatives. The thugs successfully made it through the first, second gates and security checkpoint therein, and then headed straight into the upper chamber where they brazenly took away the mace.
Majority of the Senators actually stood watching, with little or no resistance, as the men walked away with their symbol of authority. Watching the video clip of the unfortunate incident, one wonders if indeed Nigeria is a failed state, or how could those thugs beat all the security checks at the National Assembly with no resistance? And the way and manner a suspended Senator Omo-Agege, who is said to have led the thugs into plenary, took his seat and watched on, made a real mockery of the system.
If these thugs were terrorists, for instance, by now, the story may have been that of abduction of our federal lawmakers in their chamber, or worst. If this assault could happen in the hallow chamber of the Senate within the perimeters of the three arms zone, how safe is Nigeria and Nigerians?
This, perhaps, would explain why the likes of Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti state and a leading opposition voice against the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government would allege that the act he described as “shamefully embarrassing,” must have some executive backing to so succeed.
In a tweet, Fayose said only thugs with presidential backing could have carried out such treasonable act. Senator Shehu Sani from Kaduna state similarly described it as treasonable and an attempted ‘coup d’état,’ so to speak.
Although the mace is said to have been recovered, less than 24 hours after the incident, the desecration of the hallowed chamber remains a forewarning to those who believe in democracy.
The invasion was, no doubt, meant to intimidate the various arms of the government. It also calls to mind how, in the dead of the night under the present administration, Justices of the Supreme Court were humiliated while the anarchists expectedly justified the act.
Though it may not be easy to fathom the exact motive behind the Senate invasion, it is worthy to note that the Senate President, his deputy and three outspoken senators have often been paraded before various courts like common criminals.
Nonetheless, Wednesday incident was an assault on democracy and happening in a government that came on the plank of security obviously questions if really there is security anywhere in Nigeria. If the primary responsibility of any government is security of lives and property of citizens, how do we explain a situation where heavily armed herdsmen, militants and all manner of bandits brazenly take lives of fellow citizens by the day, with hardly anyone being apprehended for the numerous acts of murder?
The Senate invasion to most lawmakers, therefore, was a planned work that must have taken sometime to hatch and execute in conjunction with the security operatives.
Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, who commended lawmakers at both chambers for standing up firmly in defence of democracy and the rule of law, has described the action of the lawmakers as a strong signal that enemies of democracy and those who wanted to undermine the legislature would be resisted by all parliamentarians.
It is hoped the National Assembly will not be intimidated by well trained hoodlums, because irrespective of how anyone chooses to view this crop of lawmakers, an absence of the legislature presupposes that there is no democracy. What such a situation therefore will present is ‘official’ tyranny.