The touts in the House of Reps -By Emeka Okah

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The touts in the House of Reps -By Emeka Okah

 

Honour goes with those who hold exalted office as members of the House of Representatives or indeed mem­bers of the legislative arm of gov­ernment all over the world. This is because they are the true rep­resentatives of the people in the best legislative sense. Law making is a serious business and the peo­ple’s happiness is a reflection of a parliament that holds itself high.

In a bicameral federal leg­islature, the lower chamber is believed to be an assemblage of more vibrant and somewhat radi­cal members as opposed to the upper chamber. Nowhere has this example played itself out more than in Nigeria’s House of Repre­sentatives.

The Federal House of Repre­sentatives, Abuja, has seen it all. In the beginning of this republic, it was the certificate forgery scan­dal by her first Speaker, Alhaji Salisu Buhari, who claimed to be a former student of University of Toronto, Canada. It turned out to be a huge lie. The early alarm which implicated the then Speak­er and the credibility of available evidence were too hard for Presi­dent Olusegun Obasanjo to disbe­lieve and swallow. Nigerians were in agreement that he should step down to enable us pursue a new and decent beginning.

Tearfully announcing his resig­nation, Alhaji Buhari said: “I was misled in error by zeal to serve the nation.” A forgiving nation quickly looked up to God and tempered justice with mercy. However, if the people thought that the House of Representatives was to be a sanctuary for the righteous, later events have proved them wrong.

Our experience is one of ago­nizing shame. John Bulus put it more succinctly when he said: “There appears to be this per­sistent stench oozing from the House of Representatives in every given legislative year. In fact, it is such that since the return of democratic rule in 1999, no dis­pensation has successfully ended without an awful event breaking out from the Green Chamber. Worse is that the events are not palatable. If it does not bother on issues of certificate forgery, it was an outright embezzlement of pub­lic funds which never got investi­gated beyond breaking news.”

The list of such awful events referred to by Bulus is legend­ary. The Farouk Lawan scandal, the ‘matter’ of Dimeji Bankole/ Nafada regarding funds, Patricia Etteh’s contract scam, the case of Ndudi Elumelu and the N6B Rural Electricity fund, the Dino Melaye/ Dimeji Bankole brawl, the Har­man Hembe/Arunma Oteh brib­ery scandal and so many other cases now define the character of a House that Nigerians once re­spected. While Nigerians are fac­ing the preparations for the 2015 general elections with hope, the recent decamping of the Speaker Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) disrupted the seeming quiet in the House of Representa­tives. The Speaker who imme­diately adjourned the House to December 2014 after announcing his defection appeared to have stirred the hornet’s nest with that act. Tambuwal short-changed the party that brought him to power and set the stage for series of ac­tions that may remain largely un­palatable.

The PDP was ready to take a pound of flesh, but so far the party has kept a cool headedness. For the records, Tambuwal emerged Speaker of the House at a time when the PDP wanted the Office of Speaker zoned to the South West. Hon. Mulikat Akande-Ade­ola who was the favoured person was later to lick her wounds after the House elected Tambuwal as Speaker. The leaders of the PDP lamented this betrayal but Tam­buwal and his group remained adamant, insisting that zoning was not sacrosanct. Although Mrs. Akande-Adeola became the House Leader, the loss of that exalted office remained a great dent to comradeship in political parlance.

While many people thought that the status quo had come to stay, some are of the view that under our laws, no legislator should spend a day longer in the parliament if he decamps from one party to the other. The only exception is that if the former party is in crisis and there is divi­sion, then that will be a sufficient ground for cross carpeting by any parliamentarian. However, there is a court decision to the fact that there is no crisis in the PDP and this is where Tambuwal’s matter finds disability.

Technically speaking, by leav­ing the PDP to the APC, Tambu­wal automatically ceased to be a member of the House of Repre­sentatives and there is no other way out of it. No matter the col­ouration and the garnishing of pro-Tambuwal supporters, the truth is that the Constitution of Ni­geria has express provision for de­fection of lawmakers. There have been recent cases where parlia­mentary seats were declared va­cant by the courts on account of defection. Therefore, Tambuwal’s case must follow that precedent.

Tambuwal is likely contesting the Sokoto State governorship election in 2015 and there is noth­ing wrong with that but he cannot eat his cake and have it. He must quit his seat as a member of the House and the PDP is right to seek the enforcement of that principle. The argument that other parlia­mentarians defected from other parties to the PDP and their seats were left intact is irrelevant. Hon­our demands that he should quit.

We have no doubts that the Tambuwal matter is not over but the recent show of shame when some supposedly honour­able members of the House were climbing the entrance gate like touts and ill-bred primary school kids is rather dishonourable. We have listened to lots of commentaries on the NASS gate saga and it is difficult to rational­ize such aberration and degrada­tion. Nigerians are still wondering if there was any peculiar kind of urgency that could justify such show of shame by fathers and grandfathers in the Parliament.

If the security agencies wanted parliamentarians to be checked and screened for their own good, they should have co-operated by maintaining law and order. The House members should have re­sisted the temptation of mixing with hooligans and street thugs as they have shown they can be law­less. Attacking the police officers that were doing their legitimate duty at the gate on that day was inappropriate.

Having met a closed gate of the NASS, the appropriate action would have been for the relevant officers to lodge appropriate com­plaints to the Presidency and get the matter clarified. If this had been done, the assault on Sen­ate President David Mark would have been averted. Rules guide our conduct and we must play by the rules. Tambuwal has lost his membership of the House in the first place. So the issue of presid­ing over thugs and touts as mem­bers of House of Representatives is belated. If honour matters to him, he should quit the stage now.

 

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