“Senators Should Not Incite” – Senator Sani
The Senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, has said that Senators should have a right to express their opinion but not to the point of inciting others. He stated this today on Sunrise Daily, a programme of Channels Television station.
Senator Sani was speaking against the backdrop of yesterday’s incident where some thugs forcefully entered the Senate Chambers and snatched a mace. A statement signed yesterday by Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, stated that the invaders were led by Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, representing Delta Central Constituency.
Reacting to the incident and what led to it, Senator Shehu Sani said: “I would be the last person to approve the sanction of any person simply because he expressed a contrary opinion. If I support that that may one day follow me. What happened with Omo Agege and his group, the Parliamentary Support Group was not simply that they were opposed to the reordering of the sequence of the election. But they created an impression that may incite the populace against the Senate.”
“What they did was to say that the reordering was targeted at Buhari. And you know very well how the ordinary people in the north and especially in some parts of the North C entral take Buhari as a person. People who are being seen to be anti Buhari are being haunted and also being scaled down in most cases. I don’t mind you calling me anything. As far as I am concerned, if the President is wrong, I would express my opinion. If the party is wrong, I would express my opinion.”
In response to the view held in some quarters that the Senate is intolerant of dissenting opinion, Senator Sani said: “As for me, I have been dissenting and I think nobody should be persecuted for having a voice that is contrary to others. But what is on the ground is the very fact that the only way for the Senate to gain acceptability in the eyes of many people is to begin to accept, endorse, embrace and simply swallow hook line and sinker whatever comes from the executive.”
He explained that the Senate derives its essence from the fact that it is never a rubber stamp of the executive arm of government, as it rather holds that arm of government to account.
However, Senator Sani said: “We have reached a point today, anything you say, anything you do, as long as it does not tally with the President, you simply become anti. And I don’t know how expressing your opinion becomes anti. I believe that Senators should have a right to express their opinion but not to the point of inciting others. There is a difference between you saying ‘I am opposed to the sequence of election’ and also saying ‘those who are in support of the sequence are against Buhari….’”
Senator Sani recalled that sometime ago, he expressed his opinion on the allowances of members of the National Assembly, in order to “bring an end to the culture of secrecy.” He said: “I am not unaware that they may be Senators and members of the House of Representatives who were not happy with this. It does not mean, even if that led to my suspension, that I would simply go back to Kaduna and bring in thugs to take the mace and get out.”
He explained the significance of the mace, stating that: “When trouble happens, the mace should be most protected. Whoever takes the mace would be perceived as having taken the symbol of the parliament. That is why we equate it to an attempt to overthrow an arm of government.”
Therefore, Senator Sani described yesterday’s incident as an assault and an affront on the institution of democracy. He said: “It is right to equate it to an attempt to take over the government in the sense that one came in forcefully to take over the mace and go away with it. We should understand that the parliament is one of the three arms of government and if that could happen to the Senate, it can also happen to the President.”
“Those who are trying to justify the very fact that because a Senator is suspended, he has the right to act that way, would also have difficulty to also justify it if that should happen to a President. Every day you see members of the Islamic movement outside protesting because one of their leaders was detained. What becomes of them if they say because one of their leaders is detained so they should enter the villa and do the same thing? I believe that if an action is not taken on this, it is going to set a very bad precedent and democracy would seriously be at risk.”
Meanwhile, the stolen mace has been recovered by the Nigerian Police and returned to the Senate. Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Deputy Senate President, confirmed this today when he posted this message on the Senate’s twitter handle: (@NGRSenate): “Let me therefore, confirm to you, my distinguished colleagues, that the mace has been recovered and returned by the police.”
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