The Senate, yesterday, dared former President Olusegun Obasanjo to be courageous and name the rogues and armed robbers in the National Assembly.
According to the Senate, if the former Chairman, Board of Trustees, BoT of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP could, in the spirit of transparency, assemble such persons who are armed robbers rather than those who should carry out the job of lawmaking, it would go a long way in sanitizing the nation’s polity.
Addressing Journalists yesterday in Abuja, Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Media and Public Affairs, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, PDP, Abia who noted that while the Senate was not prepared to engage him because of the great respect the lawmakers have for him, said: “We have been getting many inquiries relating to the statement by former President Olusegun Obasanjo that the National Assembly is full of rogues and our statement is as follows; the NASS has great respect for the person of the former President of Nigeria Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and the National Assembly can never engage in any talk back to the president.
“We actually feel that the former President would help the National Assembly and indeed also help Nigeria in the new spirit of transparency and openness by assisting the National Assembly by naming those that he knows in the National Assembly as either rogues or criminals. That would help us to sanitise the polity and we sincerely thank him for his role in Nigeria; someone who cares very deeply about the Nigerian state and how it is at the moment.
“Not just President Obasanjo, we also urge other Nigerians who are concerned about Nigeria to also in the spirit of transparency let us know whatever information they have so that we could use it to check ourselves and to make Nigeria a better place.”
It will be recalled that Chief Obasanjo was on Wednesday quoted in some national dailies where he described the nation’s legislature, judiciary and police as corrupt, and that they held no hope for the country.
In particular, Obasanjo was quoted as describing the majority of lawmakers at the national and state assemblies as ‘rogues and armed robbers’.
Obasanjo who spoke in Lagos at the fourth Academy for Entrepreneurial Studies, Nigeria Annual Conference was quoted thus: “Integrity is necessary for systems and institutions to be strong. Today, rogues, armed robbers are in the state houses of assembly and the National Assembly. What sort of laws will they make?
“The judiciary is also corrupt. During my tenure, many of the corrupt judges were removed, some are still there. If the Judiciary becomes corrupt, where is the hope for the nation? Justice, no doubt, will go to the highest bidder. The judiciary did not see anything wrong with a former governor but the same set of evidence was used to sentence him in the United Kingdom.
“The police are even worse. Well, I will not lament; I will only say, ‘let us understand our problems and emphasise the good ones.”
Mixed reactions trail Obasanjo’s outburst in House
Meanwhile, the leadership of the House of Representatives was guarded in its reaction to former President Obasanjo’s comments.
Attempts to rally members of the House of Representatives to pass a resolution condemning the statement credited to the former President to the effect that the National Assembly harboured rogues, proved futile as the leadership of the lower legislature effectively intervened and referred the issue to the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges for investigation.
Deputy Minority Leader of the House, Hon. Suleiman Abdulrahman Kawu had risen under a matter of privilege to ask his colleagues to condemn the statement by Chief Obasanjo.
Said he: “It is in respect of a statement credited to former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo that some members of the National Assembly were rogues and armed robbers”.
Having obtained permission from Speaker Aminu Tambuwal to read the newspaper report, Mr Kawu concluded amidst grumblings from some of his colleagues: “Mr Speaker, as a member of the National Assembly, I know I am not an armed robber. I am not a rogue. Enough is enough, Mr Speaker”.
However, Speaker Aminu Tambuwal urged his colleagues to refrain from debating the issue and instead refer it to the Ethics and Privileges Committee of the House.
According to him: “Honourable colleagues, I believe that this is not a matter that should be debated. By the rules of this House, all matters of this nature are to be referred to the Ethics and Privileges Committee because Chief Olusegun Obasanjo can come up to say he was quoted out of context.”.
However, several members of the Lower House who reacted to the media reports expressed dismay that a former President could make such remarks.
In his own remarks, Hon. Daniel Reynieju representing Warri Federal Constituency said what he had read so far in the newspapers about the remarks of ex-president was rather unfortunate.
“I don’t know who they are. It is up to him to identify who such persons are.”
He continued: “It sounds too far-fetched. May be he is talking about those who were involved in the controversial third term agenda. He knew those he had dealings with; he knew those who were involved in the tenure elongation controversy. The legislature during President Obasanjo’s administration faced different challenges from what the present parliament is facing. The issues being addressed by the 7th National Assembly are different from the issues that were addressed by the past legislatures.”
Other members of the House who reacted to former President Obasanjo’s remarks include Chukwuemeke Nwogbo (APGA Anambra).
He said: “It is really a pity that our father and grandfather, a former President of Nigeria would make such a sad pronouncement. May the good Lord forgive him”.
Minor changes in Senate
Meanwhile Senate President David Mark yesterday announced minor changes in the composition of the committees of the Senate, just as former governor of Kaduna State, Ahmed Makarfi returned to the Finance Committee he chaired in the sixth Senate.
It will be recalled that Makarfi, PDP, Kaduna North returned to the 7th Senate after the court sacked Ahmed Baba Datti.
In the shakeup, Senator Bassey Out, PDP Cross River South who was the Finance Committee Chairman was moved to head the committee on Banking, Insurance and other financial institutions.
Former Chairman of the committee on Banking, Insurance and other financial institutions Ayo Adeseun, ACN, Oyo Central takes over as the chairman of the committee on Capital Market, formerly headed by Senator Abdu Yandoma, just as Senator Attai Aidoko (ANPP-Kogi East was appointed Vice Chairman of the Senate committee on Navy having replaced Senator Emmanuel Ocheja who was also removed from the Senate by a court order; Sen. Hadi Sirika (CPC-Katsina) was named Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) while Senator Abubakar Yaradua, CPC, Katsina is the new Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism.