It is supposed to be a house where laws are made. But on Wednesday, the National Assembly became a lawless institution. The lawlessness was not orchestrated by senators, but by armed thugs who invaded the upper legislative chamber and carted away the mace.
Since the return of democracy in 1999, such a Hollywood scenario and an affront on democracy, never, never, played out. As ‘corrupt’ as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was when it held sway for 16 years, there was no assault on the epicenter of Nigeria’s democracy, the National Assembly. But our dear All Progressives Congress (APC), populated by saints, made history.
The import of what happened last week, may not sink in right now. But in the coming days, weeks and months, we will see the danger of what we have done. Like Godswill Orubebe, whose political career ended on March 30, 2015, when he attempted to disrupt the collation and announcement of the presidential election results, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege will look back someday and wish he had not gone into politics.
Let me digress here and address more salient issues. The National Assembly is located at the Three Arms Zone. Ordinarily, it is believed to be the second safest and most secure place in Nigeria after the Presidential Villa. At least, that was what we imagined until something illogical happened last Wednesday.
There are over 250 security agents attached to the National Assembly. You have got the Police, Civil Defence Corps, Military, Road Safety, Immigration, Customs, Department of State Services (DSS), and Sergeant-at-Arms. Beside Road Safety and Sergeant-at-Arms, every other security agent attached to the National Assembly is armed.
That is not all. There are only two entry and exit points to the expansive building. Before you can access the complex, you must go through three or four security checkpoints. At each point, you are expected to either display your staff identify card or your visitor’s tag.
As soon as you step into the White House, where the two chambers of the National Assembly are located, you will see a big sign with an inscription that “arms are not allowed here.” Again, you have to be a senator, an accredited journalist or a Sergeant-at-Arms, before you can step into the Red Chamber.
Security aides attached to lawmakers, are not permitted to go into the chamber. That was the practice, until five boys defied over 250 security agents last Wednesday and invaded the Senate. Like many Nigerians, I still can’t come to terms with the dramatic scenario and how five rascals could do that.
I needed to establish this sequence before we will have a serious conversation. When the hoodlums, acting on the instructions of Omo-Agege invaded the Senate, two things would have played out. First, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, would have been attacked and possibly killed. Before you shout God forbid, let me enlighten you.
The criminal who snatched the mace, was just a distance away from Ekweremadu. What if he was an assassin? What if he had opened fire as soon as he came close to Ekweremadu? What if he had decided to use the mace as a weapon of death to strike Ekweremadu since he was just a distance away? What if, what if?
Again, the Senate, unlike the House of Representatives, is populated by old people. What if the hoodlums had opened fire as soon as they gained entrance into the chamber? That is even too extreme. Imagine if they were confronted by security men and there was an exchange of fire, what would have happened? Just the sound of a gunshot would have sent some old senators to their early graves.
Again, what if Senator Dino Melaye was in the chamber when those animals struck? They searched for him as soon as they gained entrance into the chamber. Maybe he would have been a dead man now. There are so many ‘what ifs’ and thank God it ended there.
You remember Senator Solomon Adeola from Lagos State? Yes, he was almost kidnapped by the same hoodlums. Luck didn’t go on sabbatical that day. He would have been in a big mess by now. In a building secured by over 250 security agents, Adeola was almost ‘smuggled’ out of the complex and no one noticed.
The implication is that, herdsmen or Boko Haram Islamic terrorists, can successfully launch an attack there. The nonsense going on in the National Assembly must stop. Folks who parade themselves as security guards are simply illegal tax collectors. They are beggars. Yes, that is what they do. Maybe there are exceptions, but all they do is beg.
For them, securing the lives of lawmakers and other people in the building is secondary. Their daily bread is the most paramount and they don’t hide their shameful acts. If you are in doubt, visit the National Assembly. Even without a visitor’s tag and with just a small bribe of N1,000, you can access the complex.
Almost on a weekly basis, car owners complain of theft of their batteries. This nonsense happens right inside the complex. Whereas, security guys are supposed to be on patrol! In the same National Assembly complex, diesel running into hundreds of thousands of naira, developed wings recently and vanished.
Food vendors and women of easy virtue ply their trades unhindered and nobody gets punished. Hustlers are not left out. In sum, the National Assembly represents chaos and authorities pretend as if they are not aware. So, the invasion of the National Assembly didn’t come to many of us as a surprise. The security of the complex has been seriously compromised.
As always, we can pretend as if all is well and do nothing or take a decisive action and punish security agents and the Sergeant-at-Arms by firing them. Yes, fire them. Tough times call for tough measures. My position may be extreme, but this is the only way forward. The invasion was the climax of everything wrong that has been going on in the National Assembly.
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, is the chairman of the National Assembly. Oga Saraki, do something and overhaul the security architecture of the National Assembly. The folks you have there are merchants and not security agents.
Saraki needs to take an unannounced walk round the National Assembly to see the chaos. From the comfort of his office, he may not be privy to the goings-on. He needs to see things for himself and act swiftly. If you don’t kill this virus sir, it will kill all of us sir. Do something and fast too.
As for Omo-Agege, best wishes sir, because you are going to need it. Unlike your father who was a respected judge, you have brought shame to the institution of the legislature. For a newcomer into the APC fold, it is baffling that you now pretend to love President Muhammadu Buhari more than core northerners. Your naivety is legendary and someday, you will look back and bite your fingers.
I so submit!
Re: The coming anarchy
Fred, what a deadly confrontation against the media that at least pays you something to hold your family together! Beg your pardon. You must have been doing some business alongside your media job; as you advised in your piece, “The Coming Anarchy”. That also is unprofessional and it is a strong ground for your disengagement; for cheating on your employers. Let me however commend your courage for saying the truth; no matter whose horse is gored. But you should have helped potential beneficiaries by stating possible causes of the prospective “anarchy” and how to avoid it when it materialises. Anyway, keep saying the truth no matter what. More grease “bravy” Fred.
• Lai Ashadele, Lagos.
Fred Itua, I read your note on the coming anarchy which I found to be sincere, logical and pertinent. I sympathise with the profession, but yet it is the key to the communication world with limitless opportunities. Why don’t you broaden your scope of studies and interest and diversify to greener pastures like Mike Awoyinfa and co? Goodluck.
• Elder Dr Egwu
Re: Senator Victor Umeh and his many enemies
Although you don’t publish feedbacks, I am particularly enamoured by your “The tyranny of military.” What prompted my reaction is that you were very observant on the vocal and intelligent senators of Igbo extraction viz: Prof. Ekweremadu, Enyinnaya Abaribe, Chukwuka Utazi, Mao Ohuabunwa and who have been, fortunately, joined by Chief Victor Umeh, a gentleman I have always described as “A SAN without a degree in Law”, because of his cerebral analysis of legal issues on election tribunals. The only wonderful cerebral senator Anambra State has. We pray that in the next general election, our people will allow politicians like that to go to the Senate as the youths need role models to aspire to. The great Zik said: “Youths should emulate the sterling qualities of their leaders.” Youths need intelligent people in the legislative houses to look up to in their aspirations to become something in life.
• Polycarp Onwubiko, Awka, Anambra state.