All President Muhammadu Buhari would require to amend the constitution, remove term limit for elected presidents and rule Nigeria for the remainder of his life is to simply write a tersely worded letter to the Senate President Ahmed Lawan stating his intentions. On the evidence of what we have seen in the last five months, Lawan has never seen a bad idea he does not instantly like and the records are there for all to verify.
On July 18th at plenary, Ahmed Lawan’s senate confirmed the nomination of Aliyu Abubakar as a non executive commissioner representing North East in the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC). Interestingly, the said Aliyu was rejected by Bukola Saraki’s senate in 2016 over what Premium Times called “shady academics qualification.”
Gilbert Nnaji, the chairman of the senate committee on communication at the time had told the senate that Aliyu when requested “failed to produce any credible educational certificate for the Committee to verify at the screening.” Continuing, Nnaji told the senators that “Aliyu obviously lacks the professional and educational disciplines provided in Section 7 (1)(a-h) of the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003 which stipulates the qualification for the Commission’s Board.” Concluding, Nnaji told his colleagues that Aliyu “is not prepared for the demands of office such as required Commissioners of the NCC.”
It is doubtful if as at the time of his confirmation by the senate under Ahmed Lawan’s leadership, Abubakar Aliyu has done anything to improve the “shady academic records” which made his confirmation impossible four years ago under a more robust Saraki Senate.
But then, President Muhammadu Buhari did not pull all the stops to ensure the emergence of Ahmed Lawan as senate president to be met with opposition or critical enquiries each time he places a request at the table of the head of the national assembly. Many would recall that in the build up to the election of principal officers of the senate in June this year, President Buhari held a closed door meeting with former Gombe state governor Danjuma Goje who was also running to be senate president. Buhari is believed to have prevailed on Goje to drop his ambition and get a soft landing in his long running corruption trial involving an estimated 25 billion naira allegedly looted within the eight years he ruled the north east state. A few days later, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) announced its withdrawal from the trial. If the attorney general’s office assigned the case to another agency or pressed the EFCC to continue the prosecution, it must have been a well guarded secret known only to the minister of justice, the president and the EFCC chairman.
However, the information in the public domain is that the matter has gone cold and if Goje stole any money from the coffers of the Gombe state government as EFCC alleged, he has been given the pass to enjoy his loot in peace- without having to look over his shoulders- so long as he remains a “good boy.”
Ahmed Lawan clearly must have realised that our “anti-corruption” president could not have gone that far to secure him the number three seat in the country for nothing. In July when President Buhari sent the list of his would-be ministers to the senate, Ahmad Lawan reciprocated the president’s gesture by hurriedly passing off the nominees like a lousy class master would promote every pupil in a promotion exam. No tough questions were permitted to be asked of the nominees, those who have pending corruption cases at the courts were allowed to sail freely and today, those men are serving as ministers of government under a presidency that told Nigeria it is fighting corruption. The ninth wonder of the world does indeed have a Nigerian address.
While Nigerians were still wondering the fate of our democracy under a senate president who appears to have no qualms taking orders from the executive arm of government, news emerged that the senate is considering a bill to make “hate speech” an offence punishable by death. The sponsor of the bill is Senator Sabi Abdullahi of Niger North, a ranking APC member and a close Buhari ally. As Nigerians continue to watch with bathed breathe while things unfold, not many would be shocked if at the end, the proposition becomes a law.
Now to be clear, Enyi Abaribe and a few senators from the PDP would call for caution and respect for the time-honoured tradition of rigour in law making, there will be little doubt that the “yes-men” senate headed by Lawan would go ahead to do whatever they believe would serve the interest of the men who planted the current senate leadership.
How does anyone rationalise the decision of Ahmed Lawan’s senate to approve a suspicious N10 billion naira refund for road maintenance projects to Yahaya Bello of Kogi state two days to the conduct of a governorship election he is VERY LIKELY to lose? Why was Lawan so much in a hurry to have this money paid into the coffers of the Kogi state government that Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe’s wise call to have the money paid after the election was tossed aside? Is Lawan working for his party, the APC, President Buhari or is he serving the interest of the country’s hard won democracy?
If an Ahmed Lawan was senate president in 2006 when President Olusegun Obasanjo attempted to do a Paul Biya on Nigeria, there is little doubt Obasanjo could have remained Nigeria’s president today. If the current senate president was in charge in 1999 when Gen. Obasanjo attempted to make the Nigerian senate an appendage of the presidency, there could have been no effective opposition. If Ahmed Lawan was calling the shots at the national assembly in 2010 when the nation was on the verge of a constitutional crisis following the prolonged absence of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua, the worst could have happened; matter of fact, a dying Yaradua could have continued president until he was pronounced deceased in May 2010.
At any rate, it was not for nothing that Buhari and the APC apparatchiks favoured Lawan to become senate president after a tough four years with Bukola Saraki. Lawan does not possess the political sagacity and eloquence of a Chuba Okadigbo, he lacks the superior carriage of a David Mark; he is not gifted with the youthful ebullience that made Anyim Pius Anyim a bulwark against tyrannical aspirations of Olusegun Obasanjo and certainly, does not possess the courage and daredevil disposition of a Ken Nnamani.
While a Bukola Saraki for example earned his senate presidency on the strength of his political wizardry and an uncanny ability to outsmart the foxes, Ahmed Lawan owes his seat entirely to Buhari and the APC. If you go down memory lane, you will realise that Okadigbo and Nnamani emerged against stiff opposition from the presidency and thus ran the senate as an independent arm of government- something that may have escaped Lawan’s attention or perhaps above his understanding.
But Ahmed Lawan cannot be held solely responsible for the charade that goes on on the floor of the senate these days. A senate populated by former governors on whose necks are handing serious allegations of corruption is already a compromised institution- susceptible to blackmail and intimidation by a president accustomed to loathing opposition. Several senators came to the national assembly on the sponsorship of their state governors. Can these men (women) ever be trusted to be independent? Who are the intellectuals of today’s senate? Who are its pillars?
So when eventually President Buhari and his handlers eventually decide to drop the third term or life presidency ball, little opposition would be coming their way from the current occupants of the red chambers. Will things be rougher for the emperor and his men at the green chamber? Wait until the long knives are out.