A former President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has described the crisis in the Plateau State House of Assembly, which has kept the parliament under lock and key, as an embarrassment to Nigeria after practising democracy for 21 years.
Saraki, in a statement issued on Saturday by the Head of his Media Office, Yusuph Olaniyonu, stated that if the issues that led to the crisis had happened in the first few years after the return of democracy in 1999, it would have been excusable as part of the learning curve.
The statement was titled, ‘Saraki: After 22 Years of Democracy, Plateau Assembly Crisis, Huge Embarrassment to Nigeria.’
He said, “The Plateau crisis should be viewed in a larger context. It is not about Governor Simon Lalong with whom I have a personal relationship and enjoy mutual respect, neither is it about the two claimants to the office of Speaker of the State House of Assembly nor their supporters in the legislature. It is even bigger than Plateau State or any individual.
“The issue is about how the world sees us as a serious democratic country. It is about whether the rest of the world will see us as a people who lack respect for due process and therefore incapable of putting the provisions of our constitution to work on simple matters.
He continued, “How can we, after 21 years of democracy, be talking of the impeachment of a Speaker by six or eight members – whatever is the correct figure here – in a 24-member legislature, and a picture of a parliamentary proceeding to impeach the Speaker holding at 7 am?
“These are developments that will surely make this country a laughing stock in the international community. Yet, all our leaders and top politicians are silent. We, the political leaders, are behaving as if we are unconcerned. This conspiracy of silence is the major worry that I have on this issue.
“We should all speak against the flagrant disregard for due process and lack of respect for the provisions of the constitution. This is the reason why we make a simple issue complex.”
Saraki described the closure of the Assembly complex as a mere “escapism and using a wrong response to correct a wrong development,” adding that it is a measure that would deny the people representation and prevent the legislature from performing the duty for which the members are elected.
He stressed, “It is trite to state that by the provision of our Constitution, only 16 members can validly impeach a Speaker in a 24-member legislature. It is also not difficult to determine whether 16 members of the Plateau State House of Assembly want Hon. Abok Ayuba to be removed as Speaker or not.
“If those who want him to be removed have the number, it should be easy to determine during a peaceful, properly convened proceeding. And if those against the Speaker do not have the number, they should bide their time and go back to renew their strategy. No state machinery or institution should be used to perpetrate or condone illegality.”
The former Governor of Kwara State stated that all Nigerians should learn to insist on the right thing being done at all times, no matter who is involved and what their motive is.
“My concern is the need to always take actions that will strengthen, not weaken, our democracy and its institutions. We should stop exposing our country to ridicule and contempt of the global community. Maybe I feel this way because of my antecedent as a former legislative leader who was also a victim of the disrespect for due process and constitution.
“I hereby urge all political leaders to speak out on the need to respect due process and protect the integrity of our political system. We should all make interventions that will help the country’s democracy to grow.”