Nigerians woke up Tuesday to the sad news of what looked like an invasion but which turned out to be a blockade of the National Assembly complex, Abuja. The blockage, which reports suggested began before 7.00am was carried out by hooded Department of State Security, DSS officials, reminded Nigerians of the delicate nature of our democracy. Indeed, those who described our democracy as nascent can no longer be said to be too conservative. Ours truly is not only nascent, it’s still at its elementary stage. The thought of having any security agent come into legislative headquarters of Nigeria in a cavalier manner is simply indefensible. There is no spinning the event; it was simply a sad tale.
Several media reports claim that the siege by members of staff of the DSS was planned to give cover to a faction of the senate led by All Progressives Congress, APC lawmakers with the backing of superior powers to go into the senate chambers to alter senate leadership. The plan, according to reports, was to prevent non aligned senators of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP from being able to access the complex during the period of the clandestine moves of the APC. Unfortunately for the planners, what has been described by many people as a coup did not fly. PDP lawmakers got there on time, took positions and cried out to Nigerians and the international community to be aware of the perpetration of rights infraction by the government.
Indeed, the DSS did justice to their brief. They prevented PDP lawmakers, journalists and staff of the National Assembly from going into their offices. This tension caused quite a furore in the National Assembly and the social media and other media circles. It is good to know also that this is following a pertain of misbehaviour by security agencies. In 2014 for example, the police blocked the entrance to the National Assembly and prevented lawmakers, including the then Speaker Aminu Tambuwal from going in, members were forced to scale the high gates to access their offices. That episode did not attract any penalty. It is perhaps as a result of that non-action that may have led to a repeat this year.
The event of 2014 was preceded by the defection of Tambuwal from the then ruling PDP to the then newly registered APC. This time, another defection by the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki from the ruling party to opposition PDP may have necessitated a repeat of the 2014 debacle. This is a characteristic repetition of history. The same events that played out four years ago, are being repeated today.
Apparently, man does not learn from history. We are equally appalled that security operatives can hide their identity even at the National Assembly. The legislature is the bastion of democracy, any democracy for that matter as such people are supposed to be free around their facility. So why hide identity.
In the last several days, many APC big men have made a song and a dance about their desire to remove the senate president. They claim that the position he occupies is their property. Well, need we remind them that the position of the senate presidency and indeed the senate belongs to Nigerians. It does not belong to anyone or any political party. Besides this, any attempt to remove Saraki must follow laid down rules and regulations. The constitution of the republic is clear on the process. For example, the National Assembly is on recess, nobody has the right to reconvene the Assembly except the presiding officers. Otherwise, it is 2/3s majority of members that can do so.
Even to remove any of the two presiding officers of the senate, at least you require nothing less than 72 senators. So those allegedly plotting to remove the presiding officers must muster the required numbers. DSS or blockade can never achieve that.
We commend the Ag. President for not dithering after he learnt of the events on Tuesday. His swift sacking and arrest of the former director general of DSS is a soothing balm considering many gross misconduct of security officials, which have never attracted reprimand by the appointing authorities. We hope that the promised inquiry will take place and its findings made public. We cannot afford constant altercation in our polity. We call on all parties, in spite of obvious provocation, to remain calm and consult more.