Was the mild drama which ensued at the Senate a subtle attempt by the legislature to impeach Osinbajo?
The upper legislative chamber had adjourned on Thursday, June 15, 2017, to celebrate this year’s Eid-al-Fitr festival.
Aside the usual task of law making, most Nigerians were expecting mild dramas from the lawmakers at both chambers of the National Assembly.
Nigerians who fall within this category were not disappointed.
After about an hour of executive session, the lawmakers returned to begin the day’s task.
Senate President Bukola Saraki moves for the adoption of the votes and proceedings of the last legislative day. Senator Stella Oduah seconds the motion.
Saraki then read a letter from Acting President Yemi Osinbajo seeking the Senate’s confirmation of Lanre Gbajabiamila as director-general of the Nigeria Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC).
The lawmakers were irritated by Osinbajo’s letter for two reasons.
Firstly, Senators who spoke expressed displeasure over the failure of executive to fully swear-in nominees confirmed by the Senate and sack those rejected by the upper legislative chamber.
Secondly, the lawmakers alleged that the Acting President accused the Senate of not having the power to either confirm or reject individuals nominated by the executive.
Senator who commented Osinbajo’s letter wondered why Ibrahim Magu, the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had not been sacked by the executive.
Magu who was rejected twice by the Senate is still in acting capacity – the lawmakers described this as “an insult and total disregard” for the institution of the Senate by the executive.
Senator Isah Misau described Osinbajo’s letter as a case of double standard and hypocrisy.
“I look at the issue of the confirmation brought today like a double standard or a kind of hypocrisy” Missau said.
"Clearly, it shows that they don't want this national assembly to function properly. There are people that the government wants them even without confirmation to work and there are certain people that they are bringing because they have interest.
"This shows that it is a matter of interest and Mr President we are not able to define corruption properly in this national assembly because most times we associate corruption with financial misappropriation or has to do with money. But then again a lot of things that the highest forms of corruption in terms of appointment when it comes to appointment - they bring the appointment of friends without due process and that is corruption.
"We must stand and speak the truth no matter what, what they are doing is just blackmail because I remember when they somebody blow whistle - in the executive, ministers, former ex-governors, have never been investigated, even the minister castigating the national assembly on Lagos-Ibadan road, there is corruption allegation under him. But most times when they harass our people, we keep quiet, we don't hit back. This is issue of double standard, I hope Nigerians are watching, as long as we are operating the national assembly they must respect it," he added.
Similarly, Senator Dino Melaye advised Saraki to stop reading letters from the executive seeking the confirmation of nominees until the wishes of the Senate in the past were complied with.
“Mr President, let it not be heard that it was during your time that the institution of the Senate lost its powers. I want to move a motion to prevent you (Saraki) from reading any letter from the executive seeking the confirmation of any nominee. It should become abominable,” Melaye said.
The debate took a new turn when Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe stood to make his contribution.
“I simply want to bring to the attention of this chamber and all Nigerians and to ask the question, the acting president is the person who is at the head of government now, but we have a serious problem in Nigeria today. We have nobody in Nigeria who is at the head of the government,” Abaribe began.
Abaribe’s views sparked argument between lawmakers on the floor of the Senate.
He continued, nonetheless.
“The law and the procedure and all the laws in Nigeria states that you cannot have a vacuum. Today the acting president is outside the country and so there is a vacuum,” Abaribe said as he was interrupted by the uncontrollable arguments from lawmakers as they exchanged divergent views on the matter.
Calls for calm order by the Senate President and Chief Whip, Olusola Adeyeye fell on deaf ears as the lawmakers argued for over five minutes.
Senator Kabiru Marafa raised a point of order citing Order 54 (4) of the Senate Standing Rules.
Marafa said senators must confine themselves to the matter discussed and not bring irrelevant issues there to.
“Mr President my distinguished colleagues, it is the abuse of our sensibilities and that of Nigerians everywhere to make the assertion that there is no head of government in Nigeria and that there is a vacuum in the leadership of Nigeria,” Marafa said.
“The constitution is very clear, if the president is out of the country, the constitution is clear as to who is the head of government. If the acting president is out of the country, the senate president is the next in the line of succession.
“You should desist from making this unwarranted attacks,” he added.
Saraki then ruled Abaribe out of order as the matter was presented at a wrong time.
“This matter senator Abaribe brought out, as eloquently as being delivered is not in one with the discussion that we have now. So we can have another day for that if there is need be. But according to our rules it is not in line with our discussion. I have no choice but to rule the matter out of order,” Saraki said.
Most Nigerians interpreted the mild drama which ensued at the Senate as a subtle attempt by the legislature to “impeach Osinbajo”.
Nigerians in some quarters have linked this assumption to Osinbajo's decision to question Senate's right to appropriate -- add and remove projects from the budget.
But, is the Senate really planning to kick Osinbajo out of his position as Acting President?
Unfolding events in the coming days may help answer this question and many others.