The problem in Nigeria now is that our democracy is receding and the international community needs to know this. Who says that the Army cannot take over in Nigeria? It is possible. So, let us not joke with our democracy, especially with the way they are going.”
These were the exact words of Dr. Ike Ekweremadu, deputy president of the senate while contributing to a debate on alleged high-handedness of some governors on the floor of the Senate yesterday.
The no-love-lost relationship between some governors and senators in some states hit the front burner following a point of order raised by Ahmed Ogembe (Kogi Central) to draw the attention of his colleagues to the “increasing and alarming spate of political intimidation and violence in Kogi Central Senatorial District.”
Senators, in their various interventions, did not mince words as they denounced the misuse of power by some governors, a development they said could truncate the nation’s democracy.
The lawmakers particularly descended on Governors Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano, Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna and Yahaya Bello of Kogi states.
Ogembe recalled how thugs suspected to be acting on the instruction of Governor Bello invaded the venue of an empowerment programme for some women in his constituency.
The lawmaker claimed that some hoodlums also attacked his family house in Okene and that of his supporters.
“A lot of my constituents are lying critically injured and traumatised in hospitals across Kogi Central Senatorial District,” he also claimed.
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, who presided recalled how Governor El-Rufai personally supervised the demolition of a house belonging to Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi.
He described the development in Kogi State as a threat to the country’s democracy.
He said the Senate would be serious about the issue, arguing that if the problem was not nipped in the bud, other states would follow suit.
Saraki said: “I just came back from Ghana where they were celebrating 25 years of uninterrupted democracy, and as such, it something that we too will celebrate and continue to celebrate even more than that.
“It is not really just about Kogi State but it is clear from what we are seeing that Kogi is coming to a point where it is becoming a threat to our democracy and we are going to be very serious about it. It cannot be seen to be defying our democracy because this is not what our democracy is about.
“For the role that we continue to make in the comity of nations, we must be seen to make good examples to other parts of the world. We must get to the bottom of this; we must take action that must stop this thing from happening and we must condemn this in the strongest term because this kind of action is totally unacceptable.
“It cannot be allowed to continue because it just starts with one state. Some of us have been privileged to be governors before; we are almost 20 years in democracy. This cannot be the democracy that we should be talking about after 20 years; it is totally unacceptable. And we must make sure that we use this opportunity to address the issue.
“We saw the case in Kaduna State, how a governor could proudly say that he is going to bulldoze a house in Nigeria, at this time, and we are all still keeping quiet. These are things that we must condemn totally.”
Ekweremadu recalled how his former governor, Sullivan Chime, had a running battle with him for four years.
He also alluded to the face-off between Rabiu Kwankwaso and his successor, Ganduje of Kano State and how the former is unable to visit his state, despite his stint as governor for eight years.
“I want to tell our brother, Ogembe, that some of us passed through the route before but by the grace of God we are here and those oppressors are at home because it is God that gives power.
“In 2011 to 2015, I passed through something worse than what he (Ogembe) was telling us here. The then governor of my state, there was nothing he didn’t do to repress me. Traditional rulers were banned from coming to my house. I bought a car for the association of traditional rulers in my senatorial district and because they accepted that vehicle, the chairman was removed from office and dethroned.
“At a particular time, one community wanted to give me a traditional title. The government decreed that there would be no giving of traditional titles in that state for the next one year. So, the Commissioner of Police came to the place to enforce it.
“First, he came to my house to tell me that the governor said he should go and enforce the decree in Enugu State, that there should be no chieftaincy title for the next one year. And I told that Commissioner of Police to go to the venue and then come and tell me if it is something that he can stop. He went, came back and said it would take the whole of 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Enugu, to stop it. And that chieftaincy title took place.”
“So, the problem in Nigeria now is that our democracy is receding and the international community needs to know this. Who says that the Army cannot take over in Nigeria? It is possible. So, let us not joke with our democracy especially with the way they going.
“We are talking of Kwankwaso who was stopped from going to his state, Kano, which he ruled for eight years. In Kaduna, Shehu Sani cannot organise a meeting, and we are talking of democracy.
“And somebody says this democracy is going to continue this way? It is not going to continue. People are holding meetings everyday on how to deal with each and everyone of us here. So, there is need for the international community to know this because they helped us to restore democracy to Nigeria. And some gang of people is trying to truncate the entire democracy. We are now second-class citizens not just in Africa but also even in West Africa, where we are supposed to be controlling.
“The only institution left to save our democracy is this National Assembly and we will never shy away from that responsibility, no matter the oppression, no matter the intimidation. Men will do whatever they want to do, but God will have the final say,” he added.
After a long debate, Saraki announced the constitution of an ad hoc committee to investigate the alleged attack on Ogembe in Kogi State.
The membership of the committee is yet to be announced by Saraki.