In the current showdown between the Senate and the Executive the adage about two elephants, and the parable of the traveller and the snake are both very apt. When two elephants fight it’s the ground that suffers. The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has become so divided against itself it appears as if all its elephants are fighting simultaneously. As a result, the welfare of the nation is being trampled underground! A Political Party which is supposed to concentrate on planning our progress, is fully occupied fighting itself. Instead of them focusing on our poor standards of living, we focus on their poor standards of governance!
When Nigerians go to the polls they elect a President, not a Paramount Ruler. He has to work within the constraints of the Constitution which outlines separation of powers and responsibilities between the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. There is really no excuse for Presidential nominees to create problems for us all. Little serious consideration appears to have been given to the ramifications of openly confronting an unpliant Senate. The fact that Senators appear deficient in compassion for the suffering of the majority of Nigerians and some are ethically challenged having been charged to Court for alleged corrupt embezzlement, does not justify the posturing of the Executive. They cannot and should not expect to win every fight against the legislature especially when some of their key members also face serious allegations of corruption. Those who come to equity must come with clean hands.
In this egoistical face-off at the highest levels of government the Executive is represented by the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Comptroller-General of Customs, and the Secretary to Government of the Federation who despite their self-righteous indignation are not lacking in culpability. No agency or individual should defy the Senate irrespective of the shortcomings of its leaders. It’s essential to separate lack of respect for certain Senators from the need to respect the Senate as an institution. A unicameral legislature is a far more efficient, economical and sensible option for our democracy.
If we separate personalities from institutions, then 109 Senators is infinitely preferable to 360 Members of the House of Representatives. All sorts of reasons, none of them altruistic, are speculated as to why Senators don’t want the President’s nominee to be confirmed as EFCC Chairman. However, there is no justification for retaining him in an acting capacity after he has been presented for confirmation as required by the Constitution and rejected. Surely there are others who can do the job? It is trite that the graveyards are full of the bodies of indispensable people! Under the circumstances is it really reasonable to expect the Senate to continue screening others when those screened and found wanting are retained in office? It’s illogical, disrespectful and illegal because there is no law in Nigeria which recognises any powers ascribed to an “Acting” Chairman EFCC. Now that matters have come to a head and an infuriated Senate is using the confirmation of Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) as a blackmailing tool, either a political compromise or an all-out confrontation with Upper Chamber must follow.
President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) should rest assured that he has the support of the overwhelming majority if he decides on the latter course of action. Indeed, most Nigerians can’t understand why he isn’t acting more decisively in the matter when after all there are precedents. Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo (OBJ) and Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ) had little time for the antics of self-indulgent leaders of the National Assembly. Once Speaker Salisu Buhari was exposed for tendering a forged Degree Certificate, OBJ had him removed ignominiously. GEJ on his own part unlawfully withdrew Speaker Aminu Tambuwal’s security aides after he decamped, shut the gates of the National Assembly against him and teargassed other legislators. OBJ had even less tolerance for the antics of Senate Presidents and dealt with them mercilessly. When irregularities in his credentials implicated Senate President Senator Evan(s) Enwerem in criminal forgery, OBJ had him sacked. Following Senate president Chuba Okadigbo’s award of a contract without due process OBJ got rid of him as well. When yet another Senate President Senator Adolphus Wabara was implicated in a bribery scandal OBJ ordered his immediate prosecution. In all of the cases nothing happened. Why then should any subsequent President feel hampered by inappropriate leadership in the Legislature?
The current Senate President has difficulties with the Code of Conduct Bureau; the Nigeria Customs Service; and the EFCC. In dealing with him PMB should bear in mind the following story… A traveller took pity on a snake which had been run over by a car. He picked it up, took it home and nursed it back to full health. When fully recovered, the snake inflicted a poisonous bite on its benefactor. On his death-bed the victim asked the snake “how could you do this to me after all I did for you?” The snake smiled and replied “you knew I was a snake before you rescued me!”.