If the high drama which played out at the National Assembly last Tuesday offers any lessons, one of such is that the time has come for the reinvention of the Nigerian legislature from its present stance of business as usual, to a new dispensation of vigorous legislative activism. In the real life drama that has not only gone viral but offers the inspiration for redefining Nigeria’s democratic space, the now sacked former Director General of the Department of State Security Services (DSS) Lawal Daura, had single handedly staged a coup de tat of sorts, as he deployed some 100 operatives under his command to invade and seal off the premises of the National Assembly as well as prevent any movement in or out of the place.
Hence as early 6.00 am on that day, workers and other early callers at the precincts were greeted by a contingent of fierce looking, masked, operatives in characteristically ominous black attires, and armed to the teeth with sophisticated Uzzi machine guns, in a ready kill-and-go mood. The reason for their mission as was revealed later was that they were there, even unlawfully as hirelings, to facilitate an ‘Oyewole’ style, back-door leadership change in the Senate, at the instance of a shadowy group of Senators, working in cahoots with other political elements that are too scared to own up to their complicity in the heist.
Incidentally, the poorly hatched attempt at grand treason, which will go down in history as the ‘Lawal Daura’s coup’ failed, with ripple effects cascading in all directions. One of the first of such effects was the denunciation of Daura and his co-travellers in parliament bashing, by the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, who promptly fired the former from office. The sack of Daura was followed by his arrest and interrogation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), with a pointer to the fact that he could be further investigated and possibly prosecuted. That is if the very useful preliminary report by Inspector General of Police (IGP) Idris Ibrahim is considered.
According to the report by the IGP, Daura acted beyond his powers, and in cahoots with yet to be named politicians who need to be fished out through further investigation. The recommendations of the IGP qualify for commendation as it reflects the sheer severity of the Daura misadventure, especially in the context of what could have happened, if the scheme had succeeded.
Beyond caging Daura, other ripples include the world press conference addressed by the President of the Senate Bukola Saraki, who raised vital insights into the matter, including a call for thorough investigation of the development.
Yet the ultimate fallout from this situation has to do with what the National Assembly does with itself and the rest of the legislative establishment which it leads; comprising the state assemblies and local government legislative arms. These exist by statute but suffer from compromised functionality in varying degrees. In particular, the 36 state legislative houses and 774 local government tiers of governance have each been serially subjected to sundry assaults on their integrity and functionality, leaving them as virtual rubber stamp entities of the executive arm.
This is where history renders the Daura coup attempt as one more assault too many that should prompt the legislature to engage in vigorous activism to save the country from whimsical power shows by so disposed, power crazed potentates. It is also in the context of this expectation that the now viral act of heroism played out by Honourable Boma Goodhead of the House of Representatives is accentuated. She it was, who during the standoff with Daura’s goons, and armed with only a sense of moral high ground, boldly engaged them in a war of words that vitiated whatever alibi they would claim, to execute their misdeed. It was she who boldly reminded them that Nigerians would have the final say on their misadventure. How prescient can she be!
From the lessons of history virtually every President since the return of democracy in 1999 – except perhaps President Umaru Yar adua, has the ugly record of attempts to muzzle the legislature. During the eight years of President Olusegun Obasanjo he turned the launch of sundry attacks on the National Assembly in any form that suited his fancy, into a pastime. The tenure of President Goodluck Jonathan also witnessed several assaults on the National Assembly including the infamous 2014 lock-out by the Nigeria Police over defection of Aminu Tambuwal – then Speaker House of Representatives and now Governor of Sokoto State. Under the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, the incidence of assaults on the integrity and functionality of the National Assembly has risen to a new high in frequency and intensity.
Infact, the central issue in whatever turbulence that is witnessed in the present 8th National Assembly today, derives from the conflict between those who want the institution to serve as a mere unit and appendage of the Presidency and others who believe in its constitutionally guaranteed independence. The anti-autonomy lobby which prides itself as the ‘Buhari Support Group’ in the institution seem more at home with a feudal type of servitude of the institution to the Presidency, instead of a constitutionally directed peoples; power house. The situation assumes a most acute and ominous dimension through the fact that the mindset of the leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) makes no pretensions about its inclination to the direction of a subdued National Assembly that responded to the beck and call of the party.
Usually the assault of the legislature at every instance starts with the exploitation of cracks in the operations of the institution – ostensibly through the acts of omission and commission by legislators whose reading of their mandate remains inchoate. Such elements then serve as the weak links through which the legislature is penetrated by traducers and associated toxic influences, which eventually foment trouble, and distract the establishment from its mission of addressing the aspirations of the citizenry for meaningful change.
The foregoing makes the reported endorsement of the Daura misadventure by elements of the APC as most unfortunate and constitutes a wake-up call on all Nigerians to be vigilant over the unfolding drama at the National Assembly in the coming days and weeks. With the reported endorsement of Daura, the APC lobby in the Senate may have unwittingly opened up itself for vigorous scrutiny and attendant suspicion.
As the time honoured cliché goes “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance”.
Nigerians are watching. Lest anybody forgets.