BY OBA ABDULWAHAB
Nigerians are not only very resilient, they are highly resourceful, innovative and creative. And in recent times, the social media, through different platforms, have provided opportunities for an expression of their ingenuities and creativity.
Only recently, I came across a post listing, in no specific order, the most mentioned names in Nigeria this year as Arsenal, Buhari, APC, Dollar, UK, USA, Fulani herdsmen, El-Rufai, IPOB, Boko Haram. What is missing in the list is the Senate.
No doubt, both before and after its inauguration, the Nigeria Senate has remained in public discourse, first because of the way its leadership emerged and the dramatic personnel involved in its pre-inauguration political conundrum, and later as a result of seemingly political persecution of the leadership.
Ministerial screening, and especially of some contentious nominees, passage of the 2017 budgets, its fight against corruption have also convoluted to put the Senate on the spot.
The rejection last week of Mr. Ibrahim Magu as chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) for the second time by the senate would continue to generate interest for quite some time in various quarters, not just because the senate has the constitutional power to make such decisions, but more because of the implications of the senate decision on the evolving culture of democracy that the current federal legislature is building.
That the development was followed almost immediately by the refusal of the senators again to listen to the Customs boss, Colonel Ali (rtd) unless he appears in the official regalia of his position, only served to add more flesh to the seeming commitment of the upper chamber to separation of powers, an essential ingredient of democracy.
Expectedly, Nigerians have begun to take positions on the development, but like everything ‘naija’, some of the positions are based on preconceived notions about the characters in the ‘play’. Thus, those who still do not believe that the battle for the legitimate control of the Assembly is over and therefore, do not wish the legislature succeed, have refused to see anything good in the rejection of Magu. With hired commentators, they would not let the sleeping dogs lie. To them, the Senators have murdered sleep and shall sleep no more.
On the contrary, lovers of the federal legislature have also not kept quiet thumping up the decision.
My take: I am enthused with the national assembly on this matter for two reasons: one, it is rare to have the kind of ‘effrontery’ they have displayed in the Magu case, given the fact that the upper chamber is controlled by the party in power, where, by party convention, the President, who nominated Magu, is the leader of the party. They have remained not only loyal to their parties, but to their consciences and constituencies.
And the second attractive factor for me is the fact that I see in the evolving case the deepening of our democratic culture where the theoretical separation of powers between the executive and legislative arms of government is made practical, and in the end, it is the nation that wins.
The Magu case is a pointer to the fact of an unspoken crisis of confidence among the leadership of the nation’s security formation which I expect most commentators focus on because of the far reaching implications it bodes for our national security and the anticorruption crusade of the incumbent administration. And that is why those who are blaming the senate over the rejection are to me not being fair. What else should the lawmakers have done, after twice inviting the opinion of the DSS which has the constitutional right to investigate Nigerians and after the secret service twice wrote the same damming verdict on Magu? It looks, like the Yoruba saying that even if you throw the cutlass up a hundred times, it would land on its side; to me except there is a miracle, the Magu case is closed. At any rate, even without the DSS report, the Senate could still have decided not to confirm Magu’s nomination. It is the statutory responsibility of the red chamber to confirm or otherwise.
And of course, what the rejection also teaches indirectly is the fact that Buhari, as President, is indeed for everybody and for nobody. After nominating Magu, there appeared to have been no effort to lobby the lawmakers, a normal legislative practice and therefore secure their understanding over the issues raised in the DSS report against his nominee at the first screening. The President merely wrote a letter exonerating Magu of the allegations as if the Presidency is a clearing house for allegations. Why could not the Presidency convince the DSS, an agency under it, to write such a review and forward it to the senate?
This was also the same attitude the Presidency has displayed in the matter of the allegations against the Secretary to the Government f the Federation (SGF) in the mater of the money meant for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP). Rather than turn over the matter to the security agencies that are expected to be neutral players between the executive and legislative arms, the presidency took over the matter and without much ado cleared its own. Again the Yoruba people have wisely observed that if you give even a mad man the hoe to use, he will weed in the direction of his interest. And now Nigerians are waiting and watching to see if this issue would be swept under the carpet or it will eventually find a plan of reckoning in the anti-corruption crusade of the government.
My humble submission to President Muhammad Buhari is to find another excellent Nigerian who can head the anti-corruption agency. The issue now is no longer about the personality of Mr. Magu but about the institution of anti-corruption in the country. And whenever there is a conflict between institutions and individuals as it is apparent in this case, the best way to build democracy is to defer to the will of institutions because at the end of the day, both this present corps of lawmakers will go, and Mr. Magu, in whatever capacity he eventually serves Nigeria, will go. What will remain will be the institutions from which these actors play out their respective scripts and which must be preserved.
On the issue of Customs Comptroller General, Colonel Ali (rtd) and his insistence not to wear the uniform during his appearance before the senate simply because having once been a military officer, tradition does not allow him wear any other uniform, my intervention is not significantly different. Proud soldier he is, some have applauded! But please, should we not recognize the presence of ego in the man’s insistence? If he wears the Customs uniform, will that make him less of a RETIRED military man? If he cannot wear the uniform, doe that not tell anyone that this man is not proud to identify with the assignment the Commander-in-Chief has given him? Does wearing the Customs uniform deminises his Colonelship in the army? I beg make the man comot make naija people see well. Enough of ego trips please.
Nigerians want better living conditions; they want better and improved wages; Nigerians want to sleep with their eyes closed; Nigerians want better school environment for their children; Nigerians want electricity round the clock; Nigerians want roof over their heads and food on their tables. May our president live to achieve his dreams for Nigeria.
*Oba can be reached via e-mail:email@example.com