The History of the Fourth Republic will never be written without an honorable mention of the Second Senate. The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by all means and purpose is a constitutional mimic of its American counterpart because it serves no practical constitutional purpose (like the need to balance the interest of small states vs. big states, or Slave States vs. Free State). In short, it is a copy cat makes me look good body of so called “distinguished senators” that serves as the last clearing house of the Nation’s legislature when a unicameral legislature would have worked just as well.
The Fourth Republic Senate however started on a rather wobbly premise- especially in its first session that ended in June 2003. Ostentatious furniture allowance, certificate scandals, age falsification, crisis of leadership, brazen corruption, an executive arm led assault that basically sowed seeds of discord in this distinguished body all but conspired to conscript the first session of the Nigerian Senate in the first republic in the dustbin of history. Nothing best exemplifies the trauma of the first Senate than the spate of leadership changes that produced three Senate Presidents in that four year period. Hence, it was a somewhat discredited body the President inaugurated at the start of the new session of the Senate in June 2003. Looking back four years from thence, there is no doubt a new Senate has emerged from the ashes of the previous one.
Don’t get me wrong, the Senate still has and will still hold her own fair share of charlatans. The most notorious of them of course is Mantu, the lying Senator. In this dishonorable category you can add that noisemaker called Nzeribe and the “alleged murderer” Omisore. This not an exhaustive list, but I owe it to posterity to mention the three worst senators in my considered opinion that walked that hollow grounds of the National Assembly and brought shame to our collective sense of goodwill. Regardless of these facts, the current Senate has done well comparable to the last. It is true that ours is a difficult country to govern, more so when you belong to this August body that key decisions from constitutional amendment to state of emergencies to elections and even investigation of public institutions fall onto. The current Senate has acted at the minimum with some dignified pace in the face of these pressures and must be commended.
Perhaps the Senate’s brightest hour came when the so called third term agenda was laid before it by the enemies of progress. With resounding statesmanship and sense of responsibility the Senate passed on ushering Nigeria to the dishonorable camp of Banana Republics where life leaders emerge with the stamp of legislative approval to ride rough shod on the entire national enterprise. Rejecting those constitutional amendments no matter how short sighted it might have been, was the best thing to happen to Nigeria since the death of Sani Abacha and it took the leadership of few senators most especially Kuta (Niger), Late Yari Gandi (Sokoto), Afikuyomi (Lagos) and Chukwumerije (Anambra) to see to the fact that the President’s chicken would not be “proprietorless” on May 30, 2007.
Of all the remarkable changes from the past- a strong, stable, and independent leadership the second senate possessed stands out. The Senate indeed got its leadership problem sorted out this time around. In Senate President Ken Nnamani emerged a new collegiate, responsible leadership that did not take instruction from the Presidency nor cherished undermining that equally important leg of the tripod that holds up our constitutional democracy. Nnamani was statesmanlike (remember the third term debate), pragmatic (remember the PTDF debacle), collegiate (when his integrity was called to question by the administration’s hatchet men) and decisive (on the issues of the discredited 2007 elections and State of Emergency in Ekiti). What the Enwerem could not achieve by being the President’s lackey man, Okadigbo by being an antagonist, Nnamani did by simply being the people’s Senator.
The current legislative session will never be productive without the contributions of some indefatigable behind the scenes Senators that have provided the bulk of legislation that forms the core of their legislative duties. Deserving of special mention is Senator Felix Ibru the chair of the Committee on Establishments from which important bills including public pensions reforms, civil service reforms, tax reform, and more recently the fiscal responsibility bill and Public Procurement Bill has emerged from. He was also a prime mover of the Freedom of Information Bill. Senator Ibru is a special breed of Senator-a simple search of his name in Google will reveal the legislative harvest he has been in his four years in the Senate. I have watched his service closely in that body and he comes across as a man more willing to serve than be heard. He is definitely more qualified candidate for Vice President than the criminal set to become Vice President if our current President is not one more impressed with mediocrity than achievement. Senator Ibru is a man whom by all means is proven in business and in governance, shy of the limelight – neither hugging the cameras when he could, but consistently leading the way in shaping the nascent legislative work of our nation. To his likes, the Second Senate is indebted and we look forward to many years of honorable service from more senators like him.
Now that the current senate is tidying up work on its legislative duties, it is imperative the next Senate build on the achievement of the current. It is a sad thing that due to the mediocrity of the ruling party leadership best represented by President Obasanjo who is the partly leader, the brightest and best senators will not return. This group includes Senators Ibru and Nnamani. They will be replaced by some governors who are currently under the spotlight of the EFCC which means we might see a return to the theatrics of hiding under legislative privileges to undermine important national business like fighting corruption in the third senate. This will be dangerous as it will amount to taking three steps backwards after taking one forward. Well, this is Nigeria and only time will tell. Adieu to the Second Senate.
One Last Favor from the Honorable & Distinguished
The threat of the Nigeria Police boss to crush and destroy our sons & daughters and spill their blood on the streets to satisfy the insatiable blood thirstiness of his masters should not be taken lightly. I hereby call on the National Assembly to begin to take steps to amend the Public Order Act especially taking away the power to issue protest permits from the police to an empanelled body of judges that can do so fairly and firmly with public security and need to allow voice of dissents factored into such decisions. The time to act is now. Preserving public order should not be at the expense of our democratic rights to dissent.