We strongly condemn the April 18 invasion of the Senate Chamber of the National Assembly by thugs. Nigerians watched with dismay and total disbelief on television as thugs invaded the hallowed recesses of the Senate and carted away the mace, the symbol of authority of the Senate. The unwarranted invasion was a desecration of all that is noble and civil.
The Senate invasion could have had a worse outcome for the persons inside it and the image of the country if the invaders were armed and resorted to shooting their way through. The ugly incident was a brazen and premeditated attack on democracy. That is why every effort should be made to get to the root of the matter and with a view to identifying the immediate and remote causes of the affront. The masterminds and foot soldiers of the sad incident should be identified and adequate sanctions visited on them in accordance with the laws of the land.
But to put the matter in proper perspective, how was it possible for the invaders to gain entry into the chambers of the National Assembly in the first place? If the security and sanctity of the inner recesses of an institution as critical and strategic as the National Assembly could be so easily breached, what happens to the ordinary places and the rest of us, ordinary people? It is a very troubling development, which we hope the management of the National Assembly and our security forces, especially the police, would find appropriate answers to. Our evidently scandalised citizens and the rest of the civilised world are watching.
It has been alleged in some quarters that perhaps the invasion of the National Assembly by the intruders was aided and abetted by privileged persons and the powers-that-be. In this wise, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, currently on suspension from his duties at the Senate has been allegedly fingered. Omo-Agege is on record to have disputed his alleged involvement in the invasion of the Senate Chamber even as he seeks legal redress on his suspension.
We are persuaded, however, that in this contentious issue of Omo-Agege’s suspension, self-help is never an option. Instead, the instruments of the law and litigation should be adequately and fully exhausted. We should enthrone due process and the rule of law, the foundation of any democratic culture.
Omo-Agege’s suspension may just be the latest on the long running saga of unrest and divisions in the National Assembly, going back to the emergence of the present leadership. The leadership of the National Assembly should put its house in order. The long-suffering citizens of the country are definitely tired of the many acts of brigandage and melodrama emanating from the National Assembly. The sacrifices of our heroes of democracy and those of the ordinary citizens could not have been to bring these acts of repeated embarrassments upon the country.
In this instant case, while it is within the rights of the Senate to make its house rules to guide the conduct of its members and their operations, it may be taking it too far when such rules impinge on the fundamental rights of its members and other citizens. Suspension, for expressing a contrary opinion, as has been applied in this case may have gone too far, as it denies the member his privileges and his constituents, their right to adequate representation in a democracy.
As the nation awaits the outcome of the investigation of the dastardly act, we hasten to remind all and most especially the legislators that the institution they represent is bigger than any one of them and indeed all members that constitute or run it. They would come and go, but the institution remains. The national lawmakers must bear this important point in mind at all times and remember that posterity will judge them for their roles, whether good or bad.