Tori News political correspondent, Osayimwen Osahon George has taken a deep look at the National Assembly siege orchestrated by hooded operatives of the DSS.
DSS operatives at the National Assembly
The siege laid at the National Assembly by masked and unmasked men of the Directorate of State Security, DSS on the 7th of August, 2018 caused threatening political tremors across the country.
The media coverage was intense and the advent of social media helped the quick reportage of the development across the country. The stout Hon. Boma Goodhead from Bayelsa State stole the show by confronting the men of the local intelligence agency who brandished their frightening guns like the country was at war.
Social media platforms became awash with different versions of the besiegement. Fake news and partisan reportage as well as different analyses of the development took the centre stage. It was as if Nigeria was about to return to military rule. It instantaneously appeared there was a need for every Nigerian to compulsorily comment on the oddity to salvage our democracy. A lawmaker from the green chamber even insinuated that the National Assembly is the 'heart of democracy'.
The tweeting senator, Ben Murray Bruce wasn’t left out; he threatened to report that masterminds of the siege to the United Kingdom, U.S, Canada and the European Union so that their visas and that of their family members would be revoked. It remains unclear if his utterances were for comic relief.
It was an interesting but also sordid drama to watch. Inasmuch as I condemn the desecration and flagrant disrespect for the legislative arm of government which is backed by Baron de Montesquieu’s theory of separation of powers; I feel a national attention and energy was invested in the wrong issue.
The Nigerian system is all about the upper class which constitutes a small percentage of the populace. When the poor people who are in the majority cry, they are expected to cry alone. Their loud voices are always greeted with a deafening silence by the ruling class. Their representatives only release non-committal press statements of empty promises in the event of crises without concrete steps to plug loopholes towards curtailing a future re-occurrence of such dastardly acts. In fact, the problem is used as political brickbats between the opposition and ruling parties for the purpose of scoring cheap political points. The moment the hurricane hits the camp of the few elites, it’s like the whole nation has experienced the highest magnitude earthquake.
A false picture of an entire collapse of the governmental structures is painted with the poor masses blindly aligning with egotistical political leaders pursuing inordinate ambitions under the guise of representing the people.
I wish the Senate President Bukola Saraki's so-called 'World Press Conference' was held to raise an alarm about the unprecedented spate of killings in Plateau, Benue, Taraba, Adamawa states and other geopolitical zones by suspected herdsmen. Sokoto, Zamfara, Kaduna, Borno, Yobe States have also been hit with a combination of faceless militias and suspected Boko Haram terrorists with security operatives caught napping on several occasions.
According to a global human rights group - Amnesty International, the Nigerian government has been encouraging the impunity fuelling the increasing insecurity in the country by failing to hold murderers to account.
A recent statement (June, 28, 2018) by the group claims that at least 1,813 persons have been murdered across 17 states since January this year, which is double the 894 people killed in the entire 2017. In Plateau State, marauders attacked 11 villages on June 23 for at least seven hours and killed at least 200 villagers without intervention from security forces, Amnesty International asserted as it called for investigation into the onslaught.
Over 50 people optimistic about the New Year eve (January, 1, 2018) in Benue were killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen amid the biting crisis of fuel scarcity and age-long epileptic power supply but the news didn’t gain as much traction as the bike accident of President Buhari’s son, Yusuf. In fact, it was as if the best medical practitioners in Nigeria including the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole resigned from their day to day activities to salvage the life of just one ‘special child’.
The acclaimed boldness and varlour of Boma Goodhead would have been helpful if added to the struggle for redemption of Benue indigenes helpless at the mercy of herdsmen. The massive bloodshed in Benue didn’t compel the state governor, Samuel Ortom to step down; he stood firm, sympathised with his people and passed the buck as usual. The only time his seat was threatened was recently when he fell out with a political warhorse in his state and former party mate, George Akume which subsequently forced him to cross-carpet from the All Progressives Congress to the Peoples Democratic Party. We are aware of the move to impeach him by 8 APC state legislators reportedly guarded by the police. It’s also of public knowledge that the anti-graft agency, EFCC accused his administration of N22 billion fraud as well as freezing the Benue State account in an alleged act of political victimization sponsored by the Presidency. Wouldn’t it have been more honourable if the travails of Ortom started as soon as the killings in Benue went out of hand? It’s evident again that the interests of the elites in Nigeria always dominate that of the people.
I'm sorry to conclude that the protesting lawmakers in the face of the blockage weren't fighting for democracy or the sanctity of our institutions in my own view. They were only defending their meal tickets from being hijacked by a superior power bloc. The poor masses had nothing whatsoever to gain from the blockade of the National Assembly as well as the free entry of lawmakers sponsoring obnoxious bills which don't reflect the dreams and aspirations of the people.
There is nothing actually democratic about the National Assembly especially the Senate which has become the retirement home of former governors. In that same National Assembly which claims to be a democratic institution, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, Senator Ovie Omo Agege, Senator Ali Ndume were dragged to the slaughterhouse for holding opposing views against the powers-that-be in aberration to the stand of the court as seen in previous cases.
How many of our lawmakers really consult with their constituents before defecting? Has there ever been an opinion poll conducted at the constituency level to determine the political direction or decisions of their representatives?
The National Assembly became the bane of democracy the moment it started padding and delaying the passage of the national budgets in successive years at the expense of the destinies of 198 million Nigerians. A National Assembly that went on unprecedented recess (July, 24 to September, 25) at a critical time in the country thereby threatening a governmental shutdown is an impediment to democracy. According to Senator Ali Ndume, 5 critical items in the country have been left hanging in the balance with the expensive annual recess embarked upon by the senate due to its face-off with the executive arm of government.
“We have five different critical items. We have the budget of the FCT before the senate which has not been approved.
“We have the virement and supplementary budget for INEC which is necessary in order to conduct the 2019 elections and then we have the appointment and the confirmation of ICPC members, that of FERMA is lying there, that of judicial commission is there and in fact, the budget of 64 government agencies is before the senate. Approval for the funding, external borrowing to fund the 2018 budget which has already been approved is before the senate.” Ndume explained.
In a nutshell, the dramatic resistance against the DSS wasn't a fight for democracy; it was more of a 'demonstration of craze (madness) like the late Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti sang.
Democracy is dead in Nigeria. It was long buried and forgotten the moment these politicians bought votes with cash at polling stations, snatched ballot boxes during voting exercises and diverted funds allocated for constituency projects.
The country is being run as if the end time is near. 7.956 million jobs were lost in just 21 months under Buhari who promised to create 3 million jobs in a year, almost 2,000 people have been killed in the last 8 months due to incessant security breaches, properties worth billions of naira have been destroyed in the farmers and herdsmen clashes thereby threatening food security, cost of living has become excruciatingly higher, unemployment is alarming, illegal migration is booming due to perpetual economic hardship, internet scam and drug trafficking for quick cash is gaining prominence, increasing suicide rates, Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world today with 87 million extremely poor people ahead of India, the state-owned oil company – NNPC is paying fuel subsidy of N774 million daily to itself without provision in the national budget, corruption has taken new phases with cases of financial crimes and certificate forgery scandals being covered up under the administration of Mr Integrity. All these haven't culminated in a protest as fierce as the Arab Spring, Nicaragua or that of Iran but a simple siege at the NASS gate caused needless tremors. Same old Nigeria, always about the elites! A country of so many strong men and weak institutions!!
This is an aberration to the Social Contract theory of John Locke which states that the state exists to cater for the interests of the people termed the ‘general will’.
The media in Nigeria has become so reactive and no longer playing the role of the 'Fourth Estate' in the polity. Various reports about the mind-boggling sins of the disgraced DSS boss, Lawal Daura suddenly surfaced less than 24hrs after his sack. How come no media platform was bold enough to fully unearth his dark sides in this dimension while he was in office? Is it that he suddenly became a villain the moment he was eased out of office? Would he have remained a saint if he was left in office? These are questions begging for answers.
I wish I could join the general public in celebrating the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo and President Muhammadu Buhari over the timely sack of Daura but my heart is filled with scepticism. I have a strong feeling that Daura is just a fall guy and the sack was a face-saving move by the Presidency following the backlash received from the public concerning the besieging of the National Assembly by the DSS operatives. Daura couldn't have acted alone. Politics is deeper than looking at it at the surface level and making conclusions.
I will appreciate a swift, thorough, and transparent investigation into the blockade of the National Assembly. All those who backed the action of Daura should be exposed and punished. The investigation will help us estimate the cancerous damage in government and level of institutional weakness. This investigation will also assist in restoring the lost faith in this administration which seems to have made the police, INEC, EFCC, DSS partisan. Another opaque investigation of the incident will confirm my worst fears about the involvement of the Presidency.
Osayimwen Osahon George is a journalist and a doctoral student of the University of Ibadan. He writes from Lagos State.