The invasion of the national assembly complex by masked security personnel and gun totting police officers who looked like they were baying for blood, on the morning of Tuesday, August 7, 2018, is an affront on democracy, our institutions and the hallowed chambers of parliament.
The national assembly is so called for a reason as it is the venue where elected representatives of the people convene to debate laws and pass legislation that should positively impact members of their constituencies. The national assembly is sacred and sacrosanct in a democracy.
Since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999 however, we have watched lawmakers desecrate their own hallowed chambers by hurling chairs and punches at the other, padding budgets and stealing the mace—the symbol of authority in parliament—for full measure.
The national assembly has been turned into a circus by lawmakers who should be holding up the complex as a totem of democracy, probity, decorum and accountability.
However, the bad behaviour of the lawmakers doesn’t excuse what transpired at the complex today. Masked gunmen who were said to have been deployed to the scene by the Department of State Security (DSS) and police headquarters, seized the complex, barricaded all gates and prevented senators and staff from going about their normal businesses.
The speculation is that security has been heightened at the national assembly complex in order to prevent Senate President Bukola Saraki from holding a pre-planned emergency meeting with other principal and presiding officers. There are also insinuations that the gunmen arrived the complex to aid APC senators who are said to be locked in a plot to impeach Saraki as senate president following his defection to the opposition PDP.
But in a sane country, no one would need masked security personnel to stop meetings from holding or to impeach anyone. If we are practising a democracy like we claim, we should allow institutions run as they should without bringing law enforcement to whip anyone into line.
It is a good thing that the masked men have now left the national assembly complex and normal activities have been allowed to go on at parliament. But the point is that these guys shouldn’t have been there in the first instance.
Democracy works when institutions are allowed to work interdependently from the other and when the doctrine of separation of powers is respected by arms of government. We shouldn’t always hark back to the dark military days to score cheap political points.