For quite some time now, the Nigerian Senate and the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris have locked in a battle of wits. Three times, the Senate invited Idris to clarify two issues: the arrest and detention of a Senator, Dino Melaye over an allegation of gun running and killings by armed herdsmen across the country. But thrice the IGP failed to put in a personal appearance. On two previous occasions, Idris sent Deputy Inspector General Joshak Habila who was rejected by the senators.The third invitation was ignored by the police authority.
The response of the Senate leadership, supported by that of the House of Representatives was to suspend the capital budget of the office of the IGP and declare him “unfit to hold public office within and outside Nigeria”. Senate Majority Leader Ahmad Lawan said, “….public officers should do what is in the public interest and where any public officer feels he cannot do what is in the interest of the public, then there is no need for such an officer to continue to occupy that kind of office.” Deputy Minority Leader Emmanuel Bwacha reasons the same way. “I think the Senate will need to take a very serious action on the way forward. We cannot continue to stand this embarrassment any longer,” he said last week.
Idris in a statement defended his action arguing that the Senate was trying to blackmail him to pervert the course of justice. He described Senate action as “deliberate blackmail, witch-hunting, unfortunate and mischievous.” Unofficially, we have learnt that all of last week the IGP was away in Kaduna and other places to attend to “security emergencies”, the same issue over which the senators wanted to question him. Clearly, the IGP had reasoned thai it was more important to be on the ground to tackle the emerging security challenges, and meet the senators later than before he has had an opportunity to assess the situation. He was right. What would he tell the senators about, for instance, the killings in Birnin Gwari last Sunday if he did not have the facts? In any case, the IGP takes his first orders from the President and it was President Muhammadu Buhari who asked him to move to Kaduna to take charge of the fluid security in Birnin Gwari.
This said, the IGP was not right not to have told the senators and ask for a new date to meet them. His silence was rightly interpreted as a snub. However, the senators acted rashly by declaring him unfit to hold public office in and outside Nigeria. Only a qualified medical doctor and a competent court of law have powers to do so. Clearly, two wrongs have been committed here, and we know that two wrongs never make a right.
The senators should have learnt from the mistake of their predecessors who in 2013 barred former FCT minister Nasir el-Rufai from holding public office for 20 years. His offence was that he accused the senators at the time of demanding a bribe from him during his ministerial screening. El-Rufai went to court and the outcome was a bloodied nose for the Senate. We don’t believe today’s senators want a repeat of that nightmare. The two parties should put an an end to this unnecessary muscle flexing. What is needed is coolheadedness, not emotional outbursts. The issues the two parties are bickering over are of interest to all Nigerans. Nobody should feel their pride or ego has been rubbished by the action or inaction of the other. We all are in this together.