Two watershed events denote a new profiling of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. First, was the rejection of Ibrahim Magu as President Muhammadu Buhari’s nominee for the substantive position of the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Senate said it based the rejection of Magu on a security report authored by another agency in the Presidency, the Department of State Service, better known as the State Security Service (SSS). The other matter was the walking out of the Comptroller-general of Customs, Hameed Ali, from the Chambers for not wearing uniform.
Both events have coalesced to suggest that the Senate has regained its bite after many months of acting as a toothless bulldog due to forgery and corruption charges its leadership has had to grapple with. With the resolution of the intra-party squabbles, the Senate is stinging hard. However, some concerned citizens are worried that these public officers turned back last week are being pilloried and humiliated undeservedly. Some political observers cite Magu’s rejection as a consequence of the role the EFCC boss played in the 13-count charge preferred against Senate President Bukola Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for giving a false declaration of his assets. Magu, rightly or wrongly, believes that his ordeal is a punishment for being the Chief Investigative Officer of many high-profile cases, involving many former governors who now call the shots in high government offices, including the Senate.
For Hameed Ali, his stubborn principles and politically incorrect approach to administering the cesspit of corruption within the Nigerian Customs Service remains a terrible albatross. In an apparent response to the Senate’s directive, the Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs, had once said he was not employed to wear uniform but to work effectively. Such bravado in Nigerian politics is a prescription for disaster. It is worse for someone whose ‘indiscretion’ is said to have led to the seizure of a bullet-proof Sport Utility Vehicle valued at a whopping N298 million belonging to a certain Senator.
In both cases, Nigeria looks like the obvious loser. While Ali has tomorrow to wear his uniform and redeem himself, the door seems to have closed for Magu, if prognosis from the Senate is anything to go by. While it remains to be seen whether President Buhari will intervene in the cold war between the leadership of the DSS that indicted Magu, we urge the Senate to be circumspect in the way it carries out its constitutional mandate. Discretion, we believe is the better part of valour. Perception also matters a lot and the Senate is not well rated compared with these two public officers. Democracy will be better served if those doing the work are encouraged. Those who partake in this unsavoury pastime of hounding and pulling down our best public officers because of political expediency, will sooner than later regret their inability to develop a structured and interpretative understanding of our reality.
The President has a right to re-nominate Magu. It happened during the Presidency of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo with Dr. Babalola Borisade. A treacherous Senate acting in cahoots with corrupt former public officers cannot be said to be working in the public interest. If anything, posterity will record them as anti-people, criminal conspirators and perpetrators of disrespect for due process and illegality. All these will only eventually undermine democracy and constitutionalism.
We do not see this new found ‘activism’ as salutary. We align ourselves with the right to protect legislative independence-which represents the bedrock of our nascent democracy but are averse to Senators working at cross-purposes with the executive arm. The government is one. The unfolding conspiracy by political scavengers and tyrannical elements will do more harm than good. These examples we saw last week smack of morbid intention to cripple the war the Buhari government promised to prosecute against graft. Those who decide to work against the interest of the ruling party and executive have missed the point. The same way we have strenuously worked against annexing the legislative arm of government by subjecting the current Senate leadership under perpetual torments and harassment using state institutions and apparatus, is the same way we enjoin the lawmakers to be objective in ensuring that they are not used to derail our common quest for honesty in governance.