Dorathy Mato Is Dogara a sexist or just a vengeful lawbreaker?

The refusal of the Speaker of the House of Representatives to swear in Dorathy Mato raises a few unsettling questions.

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Dorathy Mato play

Dorathy Mato

(TheCable)
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On June 23, 2017, the Supreme Court sacked representative of Benue state's Vandeikya/Konshisha constituency, Honourable Herman Hembe in favour of petitioner, Dorathy Mato.

Both belong to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the panel adjudged Mato to be the winner of the party's ticket.

Hon. Herman Hembe play

Hon. Herman Hembe

(Benue State Government)

 

On Thursday, July 6, 2017, a jubilant Mato walked into the National Assembly complex expecting to get sworn in as was her right.

To the utter shock and disappointment of her constituents and supporters, the House leadership reportedly acted cagey before eventually dropping the ball on Mato that there would be no inauguration just yet.

Maureen Acka, a representative from the Benue state House of Assembly and Mato's political associate, was the first to float the accusation that Mato was denied her inauguration that fateful day because she was a woman.

Even though spokesman of the House of Reps, Abdulrazak Namdas, promptly shot down the insinuation that it was a gender bias holding back the inauguration, his explanation was not entirely convincing.

Namdas said the sole reason Mato had not been sworn in was because she had not completed documentation to get to that stage.

Keep in mind that she had already been issued a certificate of return by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the court had directed.

After another week of silence about when, if ever, Mato would get sworn in, it was hard to not start thinking something fishy was going on.

It didn't take long before rumours started flying that the dismissed Hembe is a very close associate of Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Yakubu Dogara.

With how he had been handling the issue, it was quite easily believable especially since Hembe has deep roots in the chamber after he was first elected 10 years ago.

play Herman Hembe (right) was the Chairman, House of Reps. Committee on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) before his dismissal

 

In the same time that the lower legislative chamber failed to swear in a candidate with a proper certificate of return, the upper legislative chamber had sworn in Alhaji Shuaibu Isa Lau who had replaced Sani Abubakar Danladi after he was sacked by the Supreme Court around the same time that Hembe was sacked.

Two weeks later after a big wall of impenetrable silence on the issue, Hon. Namdas revealed that Mato would not be sworn in until after the National Assembly resumes from its 'constitutional' recess.

In that statement, he made a slip that serves as a significant insight into what the House's real position was on the Mato.

He said right at the end of his statement, "You can't be sleeping in your house without going through a process and then you go and obtain a court order or ruling to achieve your ambition."

Even though he had not intended it, Hon. Namdas could have possibly revealed that the House leadership is upset that Mato wasn't particularly duly elected by the people but by a court who followed the due process of the law.

Members of the House Representatives returned to the National Assembly on Tuesday, September 26, after an extended recess and expectations returned for Mato's swearing-in.

Nothing happened on Tuesday, but something shady and extraordinarily mindblowing happened the next day.

It turned out, while Mato quietly tussled to get sworn in, Hembe had filed a fresh motion in the Supreme Court on July 18 asking the panel to review its earlier decision and allow the case be retried in a Federal High Court in Makurdi.

The Supreme Court panel dismissed the absurdity on the ground that it couldn't possibly review its own judgment.

For filing a frivolous appeal and wasting the court's time, the panel further awarded the sum of N1 million against him and in favour of Mato.

The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, also expressed his displeasure with the House leadership's delay in swearing in Mato, describing it as "a very terrible paragraph in the history of the nation's democracy".

After three plenary sessions in the first week of its resumption, Dorathy Mato has still not been sworn in as the Vandeikya/Konshisha constituency remains without a representative.

In the same time, new information emerged that the House leadership's refusal stems from the fact that a case had been filed in court challenging its refusal to swear in Mato.

Most notably since the Supreme Court's judgement, Mato had maintained a dignified silence, refusing to say anything in public that could muddy the water any more than it was already.

When Pulse Nigeria tried to reach her for comments on the situation back in July, she declined to say anything at all.

After the new information surfaced, she indulged a rare response where she indeed confirmed that the inauguration was being held up by a lawsuit that had been filed by a third party she had nothing to do with.

She said, "There's nothing much according to my speaker, Honourable Dogara; some boys in my constituency took him to court so he asked me to get in touch with them so that they can withdraw the court case.

"I've done it so maybe by the special grace of God, next week, I'll be sworn in."

She said when she spoke with one of the sponsors of the lawsuit, he had called her a "weak woman" who wasn't fighting hard enough for her right.

She also made a case for Dogara, calling him "my speaker" several times during the phone conversation, and insisting that he has nothing against her.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara play

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara

(Paradigm)

 

She clearly explained that her inauguration didn't take place initially because he was "on one engagement or the other and was not on seat".

While there's enough to argue for and against why she holds that belief, it's a little unsettling to discover that the Speaker is holding Mato to ransom over a lawsuit that she knows nothing about.

There's no reason to believe there's a law that dictates that's the proper process of how things should run in regard to an inauguration, but there's enough to comfortably say that the Speaker might be dangerously dancing close to being in contempt of the nation's highest court.

To avoid running an unbalanced story, Hon. Dogara's Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Turaki Hassan, was contacted to comment on the new development, but he never responded to the phone calls placed to his number after initial contact.

Whichever way one decides to look at it, it's undeniable that something is glaringly amiss here but it's hard to lock down on which is truer than the other.

While Maureen Acka insists this is an "issue of women's gender equality, empowerment and all of that", it also appears Hon. Dogara might be holding on to some hope that his 'buddy' still gets retained somehow.

Needless to point out the obvious, but it also looks like he's blackmailing Mato to make sure a lawsuit against him is dropped before he proceeds with swearing her in as the Supreme Court had ordered three months ago.

As another week of plenary sessions beckon, it'll be interesting to see whether the Speaker surrenders himself to the dictates of the law, or of his own interests.

In an interesting twist, while speaking at the 2017 edition of the Women in Parliament Summit on Thursday, September 28, Hon. Dogara admitted that the representation of women in Nigerian politics is abysmal and blamed it on men's influence.

He asked, "Must we continue to crush our women in order to continue feeling powerful?"

Maybe he needs to answer that question for himself first.

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