As a student of politics, I find the huge powers accumulated and constantly expressed by the Senate President Bukola Saraki intriguing. There is almost no day that passes by without Nigerians seeing the power being used in surprising ways. This week, we saw the poor senator representing Borno South, Ali Ndume, bagging a six-month suspension for not carrying out “due diligence” before filing a petition against the Senate president, Senator Bukola Saraki and the lawmaker representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Senator Dino Melaye. It would be recalled that the Senate had, on March 21, 2017, decided to investigate the allegation that a bulletproof Range Rover SUV said to be worth N298 million, but which the lawmakers said costs $298,000, and belonging to the president of the Senate, was seized by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS). Senator Ali Ndume had also called on the upper chamber of the National Assembly to investigate the certificate scandal involving distinguished Senator Dino Melaye. By so doing, he was said to be “deliberately” bringing up an issue that painted the Senate in a bad light and had to be punished. The Senate also showed its anger that Saraki could be even remotely construed to be carrying out vengeance on the Comptroller-General of the NCS, Hameed Ali, for seizing a vehicle purportedly belonging to him. The Ethics Committee recommended a 181-legislative days suspension (one year) for Ndume but the Red Chamber became magnanimous and reduced it to six months.
Legislators are elected by citizens to represent their constituents in the legislature and it is extremely strange that their powerful colleagues would, in a cavalier manner, deprive constituents of the functioning of their elected representatives by suspending them. We all recall that the same Dino Melaye and eight others had in a previous Chamber of the House of Representatives been suspended from the legislature but an Abuja Federal High Court nullified the suspension, saying it was illegal and unconstitutional. The trial judge, Justice Adamu Bello, in his judgment, said the plaintiffs were not given fair hearing, as provided for in the 1999 Constitution. Obviously, Ndume did not deserve fair hearing also and was summarily suspended at a time he had gone outside to pray.
Saraki is indeed powerful and I believe that he would agree with the late Alistair Cooke of the “Letters from America” fame who once declared that “power corrupts and absolute power is absolutely delicious.” It appears no one can stop Saraki enjoying his powers today but as we all know, people with power have an urge to over express their powers and get themselves into deep trouble. I would advice Senator Saraki to be very careful at exercising his vast powers. Also this week, in fear of Saraki, the formerly powerful Federal Executive Council (FEC) met to consider the vast powers of the legislature and has set up a committee under the vice president with all previous senators in the Executive as members to most probably reach out to, beg and placate the powerful legislative leaders.
The Senate had last Tuesday suspended the confirmation of 27 Resident Electoral Commissioners over what it described as President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to sack the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu as directed by the powers that be. The Senate has also this week summoned the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Professor Itse Sagay, whom it accused of making derogatory remarks against them. The learned professor of law has had the temerity to describe the Senate’s refusal to confirm the re-nomination of Mr. Magu as substantive chairman of the EFCC as “childish and irresponsible”. I don’t know what they would do to him but as I write these words, and I am being very careful not to get into trouble myself. Twice already, the Senate has also turned back the Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali (an appointee of the president) for disobeying their directives that he should dress up in Customs uniform to have the privilege of talking to them.
We all stand warned of the mighty powers of Saraki the Great. We all recall that when a former EFCC boss called Larmorde attempted to arraign Saraki’s wife, he was summoned to appear before the Senate and he lost his job. I’m sure you know the rest. In previous administrations, the Secretary of the Government was a powerful position; the current one is in deep problems since he told the Senate that their constituency projects would not be executed since that is not their constitutional responsibility. He should have been more careful, especially as he was a grass-cutter and had cut grass.
Let me close this issue of vast powers by telling my former student Dino Melaye that as a loyal retiree of Ahmadu Bello University, I have heard my vice chancellor tell the world that he did get a degree and is therefore indeed distinguished. Our degrees however testify to knowledge but also to GOOD CHARACTER as stated clearly in the law establishing Ahmadu Bello University. When people shut others up so that they cannot make revelations about sleazy acts of corruption, it’s not legitimate power. It is cover up and the hands of the law are long and will eventually catch up with all crooks, no matter their temporary power.
BBC Hausa at 60
Yesterday, I attended the public lecture and celebration of sixty years of excellent public service broadcasting to the Hausaphone world by our beloved ‘bibisi’ as we say in Hausa. BBC has been a source of largely truthful, competent and quality content broadcasting over the period and as Jarman Kano, Professor Isa Hashim said during the ceremony, after listening to the station from day one to the present day, he could provide testimony to the quality of their work. Okay lets be careful, BBC is the outpost of our imperial ruler and must have manipulated and lied to us on certain occasions. Nonetheless, the general conclusion is that their impact has been very positive. The typical Hausa person today is well informed and has balanced information after listening each day to BBC, VOA, China, Egypt, Iran and French Hausa services, and BBC set that tradition rolling.
BBC has kept up with technology and today 23 million Hausa speakers listen to the BBC daily on their computers, tablets and smart phones. Hausa citizens from Jigawa, Katsina, Kano and Bauchi have gone to jail for criticising their governors on BBC Hausa Facebook. No one would have noticed had it been on Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN). As Professor Umar Pate said during the celebrations, its fine to commend BBC Hausa, but should we not be ashamed that the only competition to BBC Hausa was FRCN Kaduna that used to transmit to the whole West African region and today cannot project beyond seventy kilometres of Kaduna city centre? For the Hausaphone world, the radio has always been a companion for information but also for democracy, said Speaker Dogara at the event. That tradition continues today said my good friend Professor Abdallah Uba Adamu, the keynote speaker. In contemporary Kano, there is a huge community of “sojojin baka” – soldiers that rely on what comes out of their mouth. May their mouths continue to lead us to the deepening of democracy.