For the past few months, Nigeria and Nigerians have been held hostage by the unprecedented crises of confidence and unproductive muscle flexing at the House of Representatives. During this lingering period, legislative and oversight functions of the lower House have been rudely suspended; as the legislators who are sustained at public expense, have all but abandoned the sacred responsibilities for which they were elected by Nigerians from 360 constituencies, in pursuit of what, to all intents and purposes, tantamounts to shadow chasing.
Since the inauguration of the current House of Representatives last June, it has become embroiled in a crisis that has led to a debilitating impasse brought about by the probe of contract awards for the renovation of the residences of two principal officers as well as the purchase of operational vehicles. The facts of the case, if overtly exaggerated, have become too obvious to warrant further elucidation. What, however, needs further probe are the ironies and misdemeanours which the impasse has continued to throw up, to the consternation of most thinking Nigerians. The most unprincipled in the series is the fierce, uncouth, illegal and Machiavellian methods that have been applied in the attempts to stampede Madam Speaker, Honourable Patricia Etteh out of office, in complete disregard of due process and the rule of law.
The self-proclaimed Integrity Group of the House of Representatives who brought the so-called contract scam to the fore and notice of Nigerians had almost succeeded in passing themselves off as a group of patriotic citizens who had no other motives other than the protection of the interests of Nigerians who, they claim, were short-changed through the contract award. It has also been unproductive to try to expose that the real driving force of the so-called Integrity Group has been a self-serving and selfish attempt to go for the jugular of whosoever they believed denied them the opportunity of being appointed to what they believed, were choice committee positions. It has equally been unproductive to convince Nigerians that there has been nothing altruistic on the part of anti-Etteh forces about the ongoing impasse in the House that is threatening to drag the nation into an unexpected conflagration. Even though the antecedents of these agents provocateurs are well-known, they have undeservedly continued to ride the crest of the extreme emotionalism of Nigerians.
However, for now, the issue should not be about the truth or otherwise of the allegations which have been levelled with so much deviousness and ferocity against the House leadership. Rather, Nigerians should be more concerned about the real, but veiled, motives of the anti-Etteh group who have grounded the activities of the House and seriously injured the national psyche. It should have been naturally expected that as self-proclaimed democrats with the interest of the nation at heart, the so-called Integrity Group should have, first and foremost, opted for things to be done the right and legal way; for procedures to be followed. Of course, there is no way doing a ‘good thing’ illegally. As lawmakers who should show example in the respect of the observance of the rule of law and due process, how come this group have a scant consideration for this most basic tenet of democracy and civilised conduct? How can a lawmaker worth his/her salt be afraid of due process?
We agree, as has been severally adduced, that it is a tenet of natural justice that ‘no one should be a judge in his own cause’. And from what we know of the Honourable Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Right Honourable Patricia Etteh, she subscribes fervently to this time-honoured principle and has never been opposed to its application in the House. However, both in her personal and official life, she doggedly subscribes to the fact that the application of Due Process is the integral and most cardinal tenet of developed conduct. She had always held this fact as an article of faith, even before President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, espoused it as the main backbone of his administration.
Supposing, for the benefit of argument, the Honourable Speaker had a case to answer in the Idoko Report which investigated the so-called N628 million contract scam which never indicted her in any form? Supposing, in the recognition of that fact, she also agreed that she could not be a judge in her own case; does it not stand to reason that Due Process and the Regulations of the House should be followed in the handling of the issues? Supposing, too she was to step aside and allow a pro-tempore Speaker to sit over the debate of the report on the floor of the House, are there no procedures and rules to be followed for the process?
If the so-called Integrity Group had any respect for law and order as well as for the Nigerians who elected them through a democratic process; if they do not harbour any other ulterior motives other than the ones they are publicly espousing, how come they would not allow due process to take its course? If they are afraid of Due Process which is the basic norm of the democratic process, is it just possible they might prefer or be opting for a military option, which like themselves, has no place for such ‘niceties’ of civilised conduct?
So, we wish to pose once again: Who really is afraid of Due Process, and why?
Long live Nigeria.
Alhaji Jibril Mohammed Lawan
Dr. Bede O. Adindu
Hon (Mrs) Bisi Adeyinka