ABRACADABRA IN RIVERS POLITICS
Empirically, one does not see much difference between the tout and the Legislator in Nigeria. Existential reality show that the only differences between the two are that while the former may be nobody in society and prone to punishment for any little offence, the latter has more money in his pocket, is above the law, feeds fat from public purse and a megalomaniac in an epic ego trip. The argument that the legislator may be more educated cannot go because education goes beyond formal certification that is synonymous with our educational system.
Thus, the legislator may brandish a certificate that is more dangerous than the illiteracy of the tout; after all, the illiteracy of the tout could be categorized and his potential madness envisaged beforehand but that of the legislator cannot just be ascertained having mixed up with arrogance of power until unleashed on the society. However, they share a lot in common: both could be rascals, lawless and killers at the same time. While the former could be a killer on the street, the other one could be the one in the hallowed Chamber. Our Hallowed Chamber is no longer sacred having being desecrated by the blood of those legislators with bloody legislative bashings. That is why they cannot perform because, logically, no genuine legislative output can come out of a desecrated entity. No wonder five legislators are mathematically in majority in a House of 32 members. Even my son of five years shouted to my chagrin that five cannot even be a quarter of 32. Ride on my boy!
Mathematical miscalculations have always been in the character of our legislators and this has caused us lots of harm. Most of them are mathematical illiterates. For instance in Oyo State, 18 of 32 member House decided to impeach Governor Ladoja claiming two third majority. Only 8 of 24 legislators impeached Governor Dariye of Plataeu State. We have not forgotten the purported removal of Speaker Zakawanu Garuba of Edo State House of Assembly by a section of the House and the exploits of Tunji Egbetokun led faction in Ogun State. If the purported removal of Speaker Mike Belonwu of the Anambra State House of Assembly was the most dramatic, the impeachment of Governor Alamieyesigha of Bayelsa State was the most horrible. The House had to relocate to Abuja to perfect it, no thanks to Baba, etc. What a bad way of teaching simple arithmetic to our children!
Just few weeks before the legislative quagmire in Rivers State, I was opportune to watch a similar psychotic melo-drama but this time not in the Hallowed Chamber but at the Awka Motor Park by the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway (Unhallowed Chamber). Two touts were in a fisticuff over a passenger's choice of a vehicle to Lagos. In a twinkle of an eye, two teeth were on the ground and before anyone could say Prolific, everyone in the Park became a target for destruction. We all ran helter-skater as the young man whose teeth were knocked out snatched an Iron-bar on the ground and instead of facing his opponent, hit anyone in sight in annoyance and defeatist attitude of absolute surrender. It was madness let loose and end to sanity; a misplaced aggression! In the same vein and just few weeks ago, we saw, thanks to our cameramen, the physical psychosis in the Hallowed Chamber of the Rivers State House of Assembly, typical of the battle in the Motor Park. Members used heavy clubs, chairs and Mace etc. to smash the heads of their colleagues, reminiscence of the drama in the Motor Park. A particular legislator, Chidi Lloyd, knocked down everyone in sight to the admiration of others. He got standing ovations from the watchers of his lunacy. In fact, the harder he hit, the louder the 'legislative' cheers while the gushing out of blood could not even inspire a sense of restraints. It was a legislative fun and a democratic caricature of the highest order.
I am just suspecting that the Majority leader of the Rivers State House of Assembly must have been a village hunter, butcher or thug before delving into politics. In short he is a professional. The implication of his action, and going by the Nigerian way, it is now obvious that no member should now have the effrontery to confront him again on any matter on the floor of the House. The madness of July 19 is simply a stern warning to all not to oppose him again or risk the danger of a broken skull. Perfect arrangement!
Of more interest was the way the Policemen and even drivers of the legislators became honourables overnight as they fought alongside their bosses inside the Chamber. In short, a particular driver was said to have plucked out two teeth of his Oga's opponent right in front of his boss as a brutal pledge to his honourable boss that he was still honourably loyal. Another Personal Assistant (or Assistant to the Assistant) was full of thunderous cheers whenever his boss landed heavy blows on anyone before him. The legislative smiles on the faces of the Policemen were indeed a demonstration of their satisfaction that at least and for once, they had participated in serious legislative matter, no matter how badly.
On a serious note, one is bothered by the external involvements in the crises. In short, externality was the mother of the crises and the indictment of the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan by Senator Kabiru Gaya's Panel is most disturbing. I wonder how someone without a constitutional office could be, not just powerful, but as powerful as to the 'official destabilization of a constitutional state. God forbid! I'm not sure she did that but if she did, it is the height of condescension and trivialization of supra power. The Office of the President of the Federal Republic should not, for small issues like this, be drawn into the mud. The good things and other federal projects attracted to Rivers State by the reality of the 'indigeneship' of the First Lady should have been the matter and not the other way round. Charity begins at home.
It was in the middle of this reflection that it dawned on me that historically, some First Ladies of this country had contributed immensely to the problems of this nation. At times, it was for the political control of their home states especially, when married outside them. Most recently, it was Turai, the wife of late President Yar'Adua that actually ruled Nigeria. She deceived Nigerians that all was well with Mr. President as she went on administering the nation single-handedly in a manner that nearly sniffed life out of the nation. While the President was almost dead, she kept telling the nation that he was capable of even his midnight responsibility as a husband. Jonathan nearly lost out and I'm afraid they have not been talking ever since. There was also Stella Obasanjo, the flamboyant youthful cum fashionable wife of President Obasanjo. She ruled while Obasanjo administered and as a General Overseer, she did not just influence but in fact, made great public decisions on the appointments and removal of public officers. It was even rumoured that her itinerary became worrisome to His Excellency to the extent that he did not even know details of her plans and oversea trip for the Tummy Tuck that eventually claimed her life. She was absolutely in-charge and wanted to remain a young girl forever. The message was simple: Obasanjo could be a General to Nigerians but was for sure, Stella's madam. One cannot forget Miriam Abacha, Mariam Babangidas etc. It was only Fati Abubarkar, wife of Abdusalami that was not engulfed in one controversy or the other just because she was not only enlightened but 'gainfully employed' before the emergence of her husband as Head of State.
However, Amaechi's overzealousness and naked show of power is also questionable. Ordinarily and as a servant of the people and the governor of Her Excellency, primitive diplomacy should have applied because arrogance of power is nothing but the prodigal son of vanity. By the way, the governor's purported uninvited visit to the House of Assembly amidst blow-throwing in the House is suspicious of a man prepared for war. In the bar of peoples' conscience, his mission to the House in the midst of the imbroglio, was logically to fight (I am told he is a martial artist) and that singular act has made nonsense of his claims to neutrality. Amaechi is neither a legislator nor the Clerk of the House and if he was actually slapped in the Chamber, he had not even the right to cry in the Hallow Chamber. It was a deadly exuberance.
While it is believed that Amaechi's 'untamed' presidential ambition might be instrumental to the crises in the Governor's Forum (an illegal entity) and Rivers State, it is pertinent to note that ambitions do not generate crises; what does is the manner of its pursuit. The governor has every right to aspire to any position in this country and should not be harassed, not even by the Office of the President. However, if he does so with unbridled political desperation, then, he has a case to answer. Little wonder why an 'ordinary Police Commissioner' of the State, Mbu Joseph Mbu, labeled him a 'dictator'. By the way, is that Police Commissioners a member of Rivers State House of Assembly or a politician in uniform? The simple fact is that the Commissioner has disappointed not only himself but his boss by being too open in an issue he should have been tactful while still doing the bidding of his master (is it madam?). He has sold out and the punishment for not being smart in a sensitive mission is dismissal but for the sake of his wife and children, let him manage a transfer to Borno State. I think the Commissioner needs policing tutelage in Anambra where Bala Nasarawa is demonstrating through uncommon service that all Policemen are not the same.
I know for sure that there are legislative norms which our legislators have always violated with impunity because there is no one with the moral rights to enforce them. They are all the same. According to Hinckley, norms are not neutral in assigning value to certain actions. Congressional norms have definite political implication. Matthew sums it up by arguing that they provide motivation for the performance of legislative duties that perhaps, would not otherwise be performed. They discourage long-windedness in a Chamber of highly verbal men, dependent on publicity, and unrestrained by any formal limitations in debate. They soften the inevitable personal conflict of a legislative body so that adversaries and competitors can meet (at the very least) in an atmosphere of antagonistic cooperation or (at best) in an atmosphere of friendship and mutual respect. They encourage Senators (legislators) to be 'compromisers' and 'bargainers' and use their substantial power with caution and restraint. Without these folkways, the Senate (legislature) could hardly operate in anything like its present form. Senator Ben Obi once said that a legislature without the ability to enforce its norms is not worth its salt.
The most unfortunate joke in this entire political abracadabra is the takeover of the legislative functions of the Rivers State House of Assembly by the National Assembly. While it is true that the action of the National Assembly was predicated on Section 11 (4) of 1999 Constitution and whereas the action would definitely soothe nerves, one thinks that the National Assembly has no moral right to takeover those functions. A near blind man cannot clearly lead another because on a number of times, the national Assembly was itself engulfed in such lunacy as the legislators in Rivers State and still, nobody took over its functions. It held the nation hostage as the fracas lasted and yet nobody was bold enough to announce its temporary obituary. Amusingly, it is only when the National Assembly has a case to settle with other entities that it remembers the relevant sections of the Constitution. In short, by its antecedents, it should be responsible for the height of legislative rascality and irresponsibility in the country because attitude comet by emulation.
The inability to adhere to legislative norms is also as a result of the failure of the people to elect to the Hallowed Chamber at every level, credible men and women. The nasty effect of Money politics is playing itself out. The class and character of most people in the legislative Houses across the nation fall short of the general democratic expectations. Therein are some former thugs who, 'by fire, by force', saw their way into the Chamber. Some are partially insane while a good number of others have not overcome the temptation of the use of what they learnt from their training camps as political jobbers. Our people say that no matter how well a madman is cured, no one can divorce the possibility of 'Ntamu' (intermittent self-conversation) and that is why they see the Chamber as the extension of their jungle cum battlefield. Interestingly, the cameras, fine floor, desks and organizational disposition of the Chamber do not really matter after all, they had all danced naked in the market square before and shame is no longer their portion.
Generally and more importantly, we should think of more punitive ways to stop this kind of carnage because according to Wahlke, sanctions are salient to most members with regard to behavior that is inconsistent with the norms, and deviance from norms, going by the words of Hinckley, is tolerated but is not rewarded. Our legislators must be called to order. All those caught red-handed in the act must be punished according to the law whether the offence was committed in hallow or unhallowed Chamber. In the same vein, Abuja must be cautioned (I wonder who does that) because the consistent accusation of the power at the centre as responsible for troubles in component units is unhealthy and condemnable. Nevertheless, while the Offices of the President and First Lady of the Federal Republic must be well respected there is need for the centre to respect the leaders of the people in the states. Our governors should also know that they are not gods while our electoral system should not be reduced to the election of mainly those with the monopoly of violence and intimidation. Walahi, I really have the ambition of going to, at least, my State House of Assembly but my fear is that I am not a tout.
Frank-Collins Okafor PhD
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