By Emmanuel Onwubiko
A certain historian observed succinctly that those who makes the mistake of failure to learn from history stand the risk of repeating the mistake of history.
It would seem that under the current political dispensation, characterized by flagrant disrespect to binding orders of courts of competent jurisdictions by the Federal government and some states like Kano, all the mistakes of the despotic military era and fraudulent attempt by one time president chief Olusegun Obasanjo to amend the constitution to railroad him into a tenure elongation of his administration, have all but resurrected. The signs are ominous.
It is obvious that with all the Constitutional violations by federal security agencies and particularly the State security Services (SSS) and the failures of security in all parts of Nigeria including the violence that attended the elections of the governors of Kogi and Bayelsa states leading to scores of casualties, the Nigerian National legislature is in slumber. The National Assembly is now headed by turncoat leadership that have failed to pursue the ideals of good governance. There is palpable fear in the political firmament of Nigeria that with an overwhelming executive President who successfully supplanted his rookies and stopped as leaders in the National Assembly it means that this is the end of the vibrant oversight duties of the legislature which in Section 4 of the Constitution has the legislative powers of the federation. Sections 47 and 58 amongst a plethora of other provisions of the Constitution are framed in such a way that the legislature should provide checks to any excesses of the other three arms of government. However, the statements and actions coming from the Senate are such that have sparked off the fear and a feeling of a dejavu or that have resurrected the apprehension that dictatorship has been reborn.
The fear that constitutional democracy in Nigeria is about to implode and witness imminent destruction has now been reinforced by a singular statement credited to the senate president Ahmed Lawan in which he told a visiting team from president Muhammadu Buhari that as the head of the National Assembly, he will ensure that all bills and requests sent to the National Assembly by the president are attended to since they are assumed to be of national interest.
I will return to quote him in full and to affirm that unless the people of Nigeria stand up, wake up from their perennial slumber and demand true and genuine separation of powers and the independence of the different arms of government, then we may one day wake up to witness the disbandment of certain democratic institutions including the National Assembly because the body language, mindset and the modus operandi of what has manifested as a ruber stamped National Assembly’s leadership may even accept to legislate the end of National Assembly going by the farcical statement coming from the stooge of the President holding the office of senate president who has now deify the current president and has declared that president Buhari is infallible.
Here are the words of the senate president made on the day he was visited by a group headed by Professor Itse Sagay who has carved a niche for himself as a Presidential lackey.
The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, on Thursday said any request from President Muhammadu Buhari would make Nigeria a better place, and such would be acted on “expeditiously.”
Lawan spoke when the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Itse Sagay visited him in his office on Thursday.
Sagay had called for the timely passage of the Special Criminal Court and other similar bills, saying such would help the anti-corruption war and ensure that the fight was successfully won with speed and energy.
He also appealed to the Senate to consider the confirmation of the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu.
Responding, Lawan said, “This is a new Senate. Going by our rules and I believe that goes for the House of Reps too, any issue that was not concluded in the last National Assembly, will have to start all over again.
“So, as far as we are concerned, those bills will have to come again and start to go through the process from the very beginning.
“We are ready. In fact, we are in haste if those bills are ready for us to start working on them.”
Lawan said there was no request before the Senate for the confirmation of the acting chairman of the EFCC.
“I want to assure you that any request that comes from Mr. President is a request that will make Nigeria a better place in terms of appointments or legislation.
“When such request comes, the Senate will act expeditiously to ensure that we play our part in the confirmation or passing of legislation appropriately.”
This statement confirms that the Senate leadership lacks a sense of authority and legitimacy because if the National Assembly that should exercise the legislative powers of the federation is now heard arguing that the head of the Executive Arm of government is infallible, it then means that he is simply saying that the Constitutional provisions that clothed the legislators with the powers of oversight responsibilities over the other arms of government including the Executive headed by the President are of no consequences. Why operate a national assembly in the first place if what it will simply be doing is to behave like a computer set which works according to what is fed on it by an external body in a form of garbage in, garbage out.
The man who is the Minority leader of the Senate Senator Enyinaya Abaribe foresaw this misadventure of leadership in Nigerian Senate under Ahmed Lawan when last year even before Lawman became Senate President he delivered the 2018 national lecture of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) titles “Before Democracy fails.”
He wrote that in Nigeria, perhaps, our present democracy has not been cherished and jealously guarded as it should be by the elected and electorate.
Abaribe said maybe this is because of the weird absence of History in our school curriculum resulting in a nation without a sense of perspective or contemplative hindsight.
In other climes, the factual account of History of political developments and roles respective players in the shaping of a country is studied compulsorily up to certain appreciable levels in schools, and free to view national channels are dedicated to repeatedly recounting history and unbiased account of peoples role in it, whether good or ignoble.
We never imagined that just 11 years after Senator Ken Nnamani, as senate president, in the full glare of the world, fought an ex-Generals’ extra-constitutional and anti-democratic third term project to a stand-still, that we will be doing a paper yet again, on the subject of an impending failure of democracy!
“We never imagined that we will be ‘re-fighting’ a fight to save democracy, which was fought and won further back, over June 12 of 26 years ago, when an ex-General was fought to ‘step-aside’, after which, Abacha, who was even more brutal usurper stood between us and democracy, but we had unarmed heroes who took to the trenches, struggled through sustained bouts of incarcerations, threats of life and physical assaults, to ensure the dictator was never allowed a peaceful reign, until he abruptly demised.”
Have some of them been bought over?, he asked. Yesterday heroes of democracy as un-doers of their own good-work: Common sense will expect those who were in the trenches and frontally fought for the democracy we enjoy today will be the ones to most-jealously protect its tenets and principles, through being the foremost and fiercest protectors of the Rule of Law and upholders of the sanctity of the Constitution.
Therefore, as the battleground of the renewed fight to save democracy rages, Enyinnaya said that students of history are baffled and wondering why a predominant number of political key players in the current onslaught, happen to be those same fellows who risked all to fight for democracy 26 years ago; this makes no sense.
“The reasons for the apparent turn-around will make a good research topic for political science and history scholars. Most probably, as Prof. Ziblatt puts it, “citizens are often slow to realize that their democracy is being dismantled – even as it happens before their eyes. Or, rather, perhaps, in Prof. Levitsky’s words, “the quiet silencing of influential voices by co-optation” has actually taken place. Whichever is the case, the Harvard Professors warn that “once key opposition, media, and business players are bought off or sidelined, the opposition deflates. The government wins.”
These prophesies are beginning to be made manifest going by the pronouncement made by the Senate President in which he has relegated the Senate to the position of the ERRAND BOYS of the President who in his warped imagination is an all knowing political demi-god whose requests must be attended to with the speed of lightening.
NIGERIANS MUST wake up now before it is too late to act. Save our democracy today. Nigerians must never accept that we are a conquered people who can’t take action against the misbehaving political class. Nigerians should think of ways and means of occupying the National Assembly to compel the leadership to be responsible and accountable to Nigerians and not to the President. Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria and not to those we have donated the legitimacy to exercise authority for public good. Nigeria is doomed if this attitudes of anything from the President must pass continues. Today it is Value added tax and other imposition of taxation and the attempt to stifle free speech, tomorrow or may constitutional amendment to permit third term for the the President. Nigerians must stand up and defend our nation.