On Tuesday, the National Assembly was figuratively a theatre of war. That day, operatives of the Directorate of State Services (DSS) took over the complex, brandishing guns. They were out on a mission considered by Nigerians to be against democracy.
Adorning masks, the DSS operatives blocked all entrances to the legislative complex. They dismantle the internal security at the complex and chased away the sergeants-at-arm. They denied federal lawmakers entry. They stopped journalists from entering the complex for their lawful duties. They also stopped staffers of the National Assembly from having access to their offices.
In the melee, tempers flared, with one of the lawmakers, Hon Boma Goodhead, confronting the security operatives and daring them to shoot her and others. She was vehement in saying that invasion of the National Assembly was bad, shouting: “If Jonathan had done this, would Buhari have been president?” And the Director General of the DSS, Lawal Daura, was sacked on the order of Acting President Yemi Osinbajo.
At the National Assembly yesterday, the madness of the previous day was missing. There were no armed DSS operatives. Movement in and out of the complex was not restricted. Lawmaker had free access. National Assembly staffers were at their desks. And there was no stand off whatsoever.
Although there was no siege, sober mood pervaded the arena. Staffers and lawmakers were still unsettled. There was what looked like a cam after the storm, peace of the graveyard.
Yesterday, lawmakers, staffers and visitors, who were thoroughly screened by the sergeants-at-arm before being allowed entry were seen in clusters discussing the previous day’s event. Many analyses and conjectures were made. Blames were traded, depending on the side the commentators were. One person who was the centre of most discussion was Goodhead. A once unassuming lawmakers has suddenly become a national icon for confronting armed security operatives. She is being seen by many as a heroine, who exhibited fearlessness at a time some of her colleagues scampered for safety.
Goodhead received a standing ovation during the press conference held by Saraki and Dogara. In fact, her office, 4.62 in the National Assembly complex was a Mecca of sort, as people trooped in to greet the woman who stood to be counted at a critical time in the history of the National Assembly. Some of those who visited her office did not meet her, as she was said to be at one meeting or another.
On arrival at the gate of the National Assembly, Goodhead had asked the DSS operatives their mission. Not coming to terms with what was playing out, she broke through the barricade, stood her ground and called on other lawmakers standing by helplessly at the gate to come into the complex.
For her bravery, Goodhead is the star in the political firmament today. A first time member of the House Representatives, standing in for Akuku-Toru/Asari-Toru Federal Constituency of Rivers State, her action has shot her from relative obscurity to national limelight.
Before yesterday, this lawmaker was only known within the House of Representatives. Although she attended plenary regularly and also participated in committee activities actively, she did not contribute to debates all the time.
Goodhead is, however, an active member of the PDP caucus in the House. She is reputed for having the courage to defend her conviction. It was gathered that once she is passionate about an issue, she pursues it vigorously and doggedly.
During the debate on the South East Development Commission (SEDC), which was thrown out by the House of Representatives last year, she was among those who vehemently rejected the ruling of the House that the bill should be stepped down.
She said the excuse that the lead sponsor and Deputy Minority Leader, Chukwuka Onyema, was not on the floor when the bill was called was untenable. She had, therefore, openly tackled some of the lawmakers that were opposed the bill.
Although peace appears to have returned, there is still a battle next time, which watcher of the National As- sembly discussed yesterday. They expect a storm on the floor of the House of Repre- sentatives if Speaker Yakubu Dogara defects to the PDP, as expected.
In anticipation of the defection to the opposition party, his supporters have formed a pressure group known as Parliamentary Democrats Group (PDG) and have vowed that the Speaker will never be impeached, whether he defects or not. Similarly, the PDP caucus in the House is strategising on how to protect the Speaker if he joins the PDP.
On the other hand, lawmakers loyal to President Muhammadu Buhari, under the aegis of the Parliamentary Support Group are equally strategising on how to thwart anything that will jeopardise the interest of the president and the ruling party in the House. With rising tension in the polity, a clash within the two groups is inevitable.
Indeed, some lawmakers are still apprehensive that more surprises may come in the coming days or weeks. Dogara alluded to this while speaking on Tuesday, following the invasion. He had urged his colleagues to remain vigilant, while warning that the country’s democracy would face similar trials in the weeks to come.
“We have to be extra vigilant. It is not that Tuesday’s event has ended. Democracy will still face other trials. They will keep coming,” he warned.
To draw the attention of the world to the siege, Saraki and Dogara addressed a world press conference at the National Assembly. Over 100 lawmakers, both from the Senate and the House of Representatives attended the conference held at the foyer of the National Assembly.
At about 11.58am, Saraki and Dogara had stepped into the building for the press conference, which kicked off at about 12.35p.m. For over 30 minutes, Saraki, who spoke on behalf of his counterpart from the House, Dogara, entertained questions from journalists.
As soon as the briefing ended, shouts of ‘Oloye’ rent the air. Basking in the euphoria of the moment, Saraki waved and stepped out of the arena.
Some staff of the National Assembly, who spoke to Daily Sun, decried what they described as a reccurring decimal. They urged the leadership of the National Assembly to put an end to the endless harassment and intimidation by security agents.
An aide to a senator, who spoke with Daily Sun in confidence, said his boss had informed him that
plans were on ground to arm Sergeant-at-Arms of the National Assembly. He said as soon as lawmakers resume from their annual recess, a bill to that effect will hit both chambers.
The aide said: “I have been in the National Assembly since 2011. This is the third time we are getting this kind of treatment. In 2014, when Jonathan was in power, security agents did the same thing and locked out lawmakers. The difference was that staff were allowed to come in.”