Home FEATURED Opinion (24/6/19): Barbarians In The House, By Sam Omatseye

Opinion (24/6/19): Barbarians In The House, By Sam Omatseye

Sam Omatseye

In the days of the Owu chief, a stink was inaugurated. He endorsed a kangaroo act in the Plateau State House of Assembly in which six out of 24 members of the House impeached a governor. By that farce, the Obasanjo PDP had sanctified a rogue process.

It told Nigerians a legislative monster of that sort could pass muster. Lawmakers took notice. It signalled the end of a governor and the genesis of turbulence in Plateau State that has taken the coming of Governor Simon Lalong to quell.

But the stink has already pervaded our politics. We saw it in Anambra State, and Oyo State, ever turbulent, embossed its own signature of impunity before Ajimobi’s era. The trend went national, though. The APC members of betrayal teamed with the minority party to overthrow the party process and worked with the clerk to elect Bukola “Eleyinmi” Saraki as Senate president. The rot continued.

Like effluent in the sewer, it has remained in our legislative unconscious. Fast forward to June 2019. First in Edo State, the drama of the absurd. Governor Godwin Obaseki canonised a House where nine, some say 11, members out of 24 met and elected a speaker and his deputy. So absurd was it that one of them came sartorially unprepared in a pair of shorts. A hurried impunity.

A few days later, Bauchi State caught the contagion. In the case of Edo State, the party was divided against itself. The Bauchi episode replayed the Saraki script. Eight PDP members colluded with two APC men and the sole member of the New Nigeria People’s Party to elect an APC man as speaker and a PDP man as deputy, just as Saraki and Ekweremadu paired in that dawn of Abuja conspiracy. APC in words, PDP indeed. Just like Obaseki, Governor Bala Mohammed inaugurated a house of barbarians.

The Edo drama has pitched the state governor Obaseki against his anointer and national chairman Adams Oshiomhole. Adams said what happened in Edo ran counter to republican principles. I agree. The Governor defended himself by an appeal to state party supremacy. Speaking through his spokesman, Obaseki said Adams countervailed the principle of natural justice. I laughed at such grandiloquent appeal to high ideals to support a gangster act.

If Obaseki yielded to party supremacy, he was kowtowing to a hierarchy of miscreants. Was he telling the country and the good citizens of Edo State that democracy is a Hobbesian enclave? He is supping with the devil of tyranny. Has he forgotten that as governor, he is the leader of the party? Why is he hiding under party supremacy of barbarians? Does he not know that he makes himself into a political jellyfish by inaugurating an illegality and hiding under the cover of the people, a raft of party apparatchiks who bow and tremble before him every day because he controls the state’s mammon of unrighteousness? Is he hoodwinking us? Obaseki cannot even have the boldness, however shameless, to take responsibility for his action.

He has had a lacklustre tenure so far, but if he wants theatre, it better entertain and ennoble us rather than appeal to what theorist of drama call the absurd. Shakespeare, Rotimi, Soyinka have quite a few of them. Bringing such alawada acts into governance does not enshrine republican ideals. It holds it up to mockery.

Even during the days of Adams as governor in 2014, the Jonathan men split the House because Adams was not playing fool to the mavens of the PDP in Edo State. I called it “presidential meddlesomeness” on Channels Television’s Sunrise show. Today, it is gubernatorial meddlesomeness in Edo. The guilty man is Godwin Obaseki.

The Bauchi story is a case of a minority governor who wants to use a strong arm to impose his will. Governor Mohammed ought to be careful. He has less than 10 men in the house who want him. He is flirting with impeachment Damocles. He may not know it. The people who made it possible for him to mount the throne cannot stop the legislators from coming down on him. But more importantly, the Bauchi story is about an APC flirting with political self-immolation. The APC, especially kingpins in the centre, did not like the former governor. In plotting his fall, they may have lit the tinder of party implosion. It will be interesting to see how events will unfold in the coming months.

In Edo and Bauchi, we are witnessing the sore wounds of political malice. And none of it has to do with the high calling of democracy. They are the sort of problems that come from planting the wrong seed. Its contagion is what we have today. In his novel, The Plague, the French writer Albert Camus shows how rottenness can overtake a society that allows the wrong ideas and attitudes to fester. In Central London in the 1850’s, what became known as the Great Stink overwhelmed the city. The sewer was clogged with human waste and industrial effluent and the tranquil and blue beauty of the River Thames we know today was a miasma of waste that discharged smell and gave the people cholera. The famous scientist Michael Faraday described in a letter to the The Times thus: “”Near the bridges the feculence rolled up in clouds so dense that they were visible at the surface, even in water of this kind. … The smell was very bad, and common to the whole of the water; it was the same as that which now comes up from the gully-holes in the streets; the whole river was for the time a real sewer.”

That is the sort of problem that city bore. The parliament was forced to act when the odour choked them in session. The great legislative stink did not start today. In Poland of the Middle Ages, a writer called the parliamentary rabble, “a divinely ordained confusion.”

A parliament is the church of democracy. It should not become cult of mayhem.



– Omatseye is a respected columnist

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