NASS Invasion And Democracy


Last Tuesday morning, Nigerians woke up to be confronted with what was apparently an attempt to scuttle the electoral process and subvert the country’s democracy.
In a gestapo-like manner, masked operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) and their police collaborators, invaded the National Assembly Complex in Abuja, desecrated its sanctity, in a boldface attempt to prevent some Senators and members of the House of Representatives, including journalists from performing their constitutional duties.
Apparently acting a script from ‘the power above’, the DSS operatives barricaded the NASS Complex and barred some lawmakers, particularly those of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from accessing their offices and even threatened to shoot them, including journalists covering the Parliament.
More worrisome is the fact that the NASS invasion was part of a grand plot by some Senators elected on the platform of the APC to effect leadership change in the Senate, without recourse to laid down rules, as provided in the Constitution.
Indeed, the scene that played out at the National Assembly that day, is a throw-back to the inglorious days of full military rule, where dissent is not tolerated and freedom of association and other fundamental human rights are willfully and carelessly violated
Not once have anti-democratic elements and forces held the nation hostage, as it were, against the spirit of the country’s Constitution, and carried out, with a sense of ignominy, such a brazen and despicable action and got away with it since the present All Progressives Congress (APC) – led Federal Government under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari.
From Ekiti, Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Kogi to Akwa Ibom, Kwara and Zamfara States, the stories have been the same. Members of the opposition have been at the receiving end. They are being haunted down and persecuted; pointing to the fact that under President Buhari, the country is rapidly descending into full-blown dictatorship, with scant regard for the separation of powers and the rule of law.
It was no doubt, an attempt by the Buhari administration to further asphyxiate the legislature and make it pander to its whims and caprices, apparently forgetting that the essence of constitutional government is to ensure that the powers of the state are kept in check so that personal liberty would not be infringed upon. Undoubtedly, the legislature is the unmistable symbol of democracy.
Though the Presidency, in an uncharacteristically swift response, sacked the former Director General of the DSS, Lawan Daura, many Nigerians still believe that the move is a face-saving measure to insulate the present Federal Government from complicity.
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, while sacking Daura described the unauthorised take over of the National Assembly Complex “as a gross violation of constitutional order, rule of law and all acceptable notions of law and order”.
For the past three weeks, the country has been awash with reports of misuse and outright abuse of power.
The Tide recalls that on July 24, 2018, security operatives displayed the same level of rascality when 14 Senators and 37 House of Representatives members defected from the ruling APC to other political parties, particularly the PDP. The police and officers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had invaded the Abuja homes of the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki and his Deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and prevented them from leaving their homes.
Events followed one another in quick successions since then. The Senate President, Governors Samuel Ortom of Benue, Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara and Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto States, inadvertently announced their defection from the APC to the PDP.
To show that this did not go down well with the APC and the Federal authorities, it did not take long before Nigerians were treated to another macabre dance in Benue State where the police locked down the State House of Assembly and aided eight minority lawmakers, in an assembly of 30 members, to launch impeachment proceedings against Governor Ortom.
The EFCC has since then bared its fangs, as it is now probing the governor’s spending of security vote and has gone ahead to freeze the accounts of the Benue State Government including those of Akwa Ibom State, an action that clearly lends credence to the fact that the APC-led Federal Government is hell bent on caging members of the opposition.
That the DSS operatives laid siege on the National Assembly Complex for over nine hours, locking out lawmakers and other NASS members of staff from their chambers and offices, was, infact, the height of impunity.
The Tide joins other well-meaning Nigerians including members of the international community to condemn, in strong terms, the actions of our security operatives. We think that the invasion of the NASS Complex is not only reckless, unconscionable and unacceptable, but, also portends grave danger to the country’s democracy.
The isolated cases of naked abuse of power as witnessed in the country today are themselves disturbing and ominous. We make bold to state that President Buhari bears the responsibility and blame for this avoidable and needless recourse to fascism, aimed at furthering some personal political interests.
We think that the earlier he comes out clean of this weighty accusation, by halting the flagrant display of these dictatorial tendencies forthwith, the better for our democracy.
Undoubtedly, what is currently playing out in the country does not bode well for her political stability and economic prosperity. Right now, the country is in dire need of foreign direct investments, and only actions that portray her to the outside world as an embodiment of the rule of law can suffice and ultimately bolster the confidence of investors.
It, therefore, behoves the APC-led Federal Government to drop every shreds of lawlessness and impunity noticeable in the polity and cultivate and inculcate the politics of tolerance and inclusiveness, which are the fundamental principles of democracy.