In most parts of the world, the attainment of the position of a Legislator such as a Senator or a Representative, or in some cases a member of Parliament is seen as an important position, which deserves huge admiration and respect as these are the people who have been elected by their constituents to represent them in all matters relating to their welfare. The aspiration to become a senator representing people from your town, village, state or region is seen as a heralded position that comes with huge responsibility and public trust but this is not the case in Nigeria. Nigeria has long prided itself as the ‘Giant’ of Africa and being the most populous black nation on earth with an abundance of resources, there is no reason why that slogan should be true but history and current events have shown that is this is far from the truth.
Nigeria with all its potential continues to remain one of the most troubled nations in the world today and one reason amongst others for this is the broken political and legislative system in the country. The election of officials into public offices in the country is wrought with irregularities and election malpractices. The eventual winners of these legislative elections for the most part are not those that have the interest of their people at heart but those that have the most money to buy up the votes they need to win. Another feature of the National Assembly in Nigeria is the overall lawlessness and reckless behavior of lawmakers, which is evident in the ongoing face-off between Senators Oluremi Tinubu representing Lagos Central Senatorial District and Dino Melaye representing Kogi West Senatorial District.
The face-off apparently started on Tuesday July 12th 2016 during a senate session where Senator Dino Melaye after being authorized to speak was deliberating on the ongoing forgery case against the current Senate presidency led by Senator Bukola Saraki and his Deputy Ike Ekweremadu where the aforementioned persons are accused of forging the senate standing order rules that brought them into power last year. Melaye was arguing that the case against the senate leadership in various courts be dropped because of the recent resolution of the Senate that the documents were not forged and he urged those who took the senate leadership to court to withdraw their petitions and names from the court and failure to do so by the senators should result in their suspension. According to Melaye, there were varied reactions by Senators after his utterances but he insisted that he did not use any foul language. Senator Tinubu spoke shortly after and according to Melaye, she accused him of harassing her and other senators over the forgery case. He later went on to say she started the name calling by calling him a thug and a dog and that is when he reacted angrily and a heated exchange ensued.
Senator Remi Tinubu has accused Melaye of verbal and attempted physical assault against her. She also accused him of allegedly threatening to rape and ‘impregnate’ her during a closed-door session of the senate later on the same day. Even Senator Oluremi Tunubu’s husband Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who is a former governor of Lagos State and the National Leader of The All Progressives Congress (APC) which is the party the two sparring senators belong to interestingly has weighed in and labeled Melaye a ‘disgrace’ and there are some reports that he has even threatened to ‘deal’ with Melaye.
Several protests have been held by Women groups in Lagos and Abuja calling for the resignation of Melaye and accusing him of sexist and misogynistic behavior towards women. The latest twist in the ongoing saga is the formal petition by Senator Tinubu to the Senate President and the chairman of the APC Chief John Odigie-Oyegun. In the midst of this ongoing saga, there are even allegations that Senator Tinubu paid the women leader of the APC Chief (Mrs) Kemi Nelson N75 Million Naira to organize protests against Melaye.
This incident though unique is the product of a broken political system and the overall recklessness and impunity displayed by Nigerian public office holders. The Nigerian national assembly has a history of thuggery, recklessness and corruption that dates back to the beginning of democratic rule in 1999. The job of legislators is to make laws that will benefit the totality of their people but Nigerians are used to seeing senators and members of representatives shouting at each other on both legislative floors, hurling insults at each other, physically assaulting each other and in some instances even scaling the fence of the national assembly building itself. If as a nation, we have these kind of people as our elected representatives, then it is not rocket science that only a few out of many bills are passed in the Senate and House of representatives every year and that, the national assembly ends up wasting time inviting public officials to account for their work in their respective ministries while neglecting their core duty which is to make laws and transfer them to the presidency for assent so that they can be made permanent laws and form part of the constitution.
However this case is unique because this is the first time it involves the two sexes a man and a woman and in this modern age where women’s’ rights are held in high regard and more women are occupying important positions in power, this touches a nerve. While I am for womens’ rights and respect for womenfolk all over the world even going as far as to support equal pay for equal work, the woman in question in this case has been known to use her husband’s influence as a prominent politician and a kingmaker in Nigerian politics to oppress her colleagues and fellow politicians. There have been reports that the Bourdillon Ikoyi residence of Mr. and Mrs. Tinubu is a haven of unending prostrations and servitude from various public officials who constantly go there in search of favors for political appointments and influence in attaining key positions in the APC led government. ‘Jagaban’ as Senator Tinubu’s husband Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is fondly called is known to wield huge power and influence in the corridors of power in the country and his wife has subtly used this to her advantage by her extreme elitism and self-glorification for instance by insisting on not being called distinguished senator but ‘mummy’ when her constituents allegedly go to see her when she comes to Lagos whereas in other advanced nations of the world, it is the senators themselves that go and knock on the doors of their constituents to ask them what they think should be done to improve their standard of living.
In conclusion, the only way to avoid these unsavory and disgraceful moments is to put a political system in place that will produce servant-leaders of good character, competency and moral understanding who have the interests and welfare of their constituents uttermost in their hearts.