analysisBy Kola Ologbondiyan
Lagos — The Senate, 'in its wisdom' suspended the vice chairman of its Committee on States and Local Government Administration, Senator Isa Mohammed for admittedly assaulting his chairman, Senator Iyabode Anisulowo, over disagreements bordering on the allocation of committee's N1.2m. Kola Ologbondiyan x-rays the road to Mohammed's suspension
In the Senate of this Fourth Republic, suspension has been the norm rather than exception. The upper legislative body has not failed to say ayes to the rattling of the gavel of successive Senate Presidents as a means of invoking punishment for any of their own as detterence to other members. Senator Joseph Kennedy Waku opened the gates of suspension in the last Senate. He earned his two weeks suspension over allegation that he said military rule was better than a democratic system. Ironically, he was sent on suspension even before he was adjudged guilty of the act. When the body discovered that it acted in error as Waku was able to prove that he never made the statement in context, he was recalled but he had done a week of the two.
Senator Femi Okunrounmu was next. His guile was that he opened up that the late Senate President, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo's leadership was plotting to sack President Olusegun Obasanjo. Expectedly, the leadership denied the allegation and Okunrounmu became the fall guy. He earned and served his suspension.
Also travelling on the suspension road later was Senator Arthur Nzeribe. In one of his many battles against the former Senate President, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, Nzeribe was accused of printing materials in which he claimed that the photographs contained in those materials were Anyim's property in Nigeria and abroad.
He was accused of also alleging that Anyim deployed the Senate funds into purchasing those property in spite of the fact that Nzeribe did not append his names to the printed document.
Anyim was able to prove that Nzeribe circulated the document and the current Senate Deputy Leader, Senator Jonathan Silas Zwingina that Nzeribe was discrediting the Senate by dragging the office of the Senate President to the mud.
Zwingia's motion was carried unanimously after Order 70 which says no senator could be suspended for more than two weeks had been stood down. Nzeribe did not return to the Senate until the expiration of the life of the last Senate.
Isa Mohammed's Road to Suspension Senator Isa Mohammed's road to suspension however took another bent. Although he was docked and adjudged for assaulting a female collaegue, it is crystally clear that the Niger West Senator strayed into the hands of some colleagues who would not hesitate to take their pound of vengeance.
His desire to occupy the Deputy Senate President office, which was by consensus bestowed on Alhaji Ibrahim Nasir Mantu at the North Central Caucus meeting held in Minna in June 2003 was never hidden. When the Federal Capital Territory Minister, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, made the allegation that two members of the leadership demanded bribe for his ministerial clearing, Mohammed threw all his weight behind the Minister. "The leadership must resign," was his sing-song.
Believing that if called upon, the Minister would dug up empirical evidence, Isa Mohammed participated in every session of the Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora's Committee on Ethics, Good Governance and Privileges investigation. He however met his cul-de-sac when the Minister said "only God witnessed the transaction," a position which the Senate threw out for lacking in provable evidence.
When the bid failed, he stayed off the Senate and for several weeks he did not participate in plenary sessions.
That was not all. Isa Mohammed joined the campaign to sack the Senate President, Chief Adolphus Wabara, on the ground that the entire leadership positions would be declared vacant. He is believed to have done this to enable him achieve the Deputy Senate President position. Also, this bid failed. Thereafter, the Senate reconstituted its committees. Isa Mohammed, a ranking Senator, who hitherto was the Senate Committee on Housing chairman, found himself trailing behind Anisulowo, a new (digital) female senator. Whereas, the second ranking Senator, who suffered a similar fate, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, took it in his strides, Mohammed scarcely participated in committee's works. The matter came to the hilt recently. el-Rufai was alleged to have insulted the Senate in his remarks that "silence is the best answer to a fool." While majority of senators considered the language offensive and recommended the FCT Minister's sack to President Olusegun Obasanjo, Mohammed joined Senator Ama Iwuagwu in leading a lobby group on behalf of el-Rufai within the Senate. In a personally signed letter, which he addressed to all senators, Isa Mohammed pleaded among his colleagues to temper justice with mercy stressing that "to err is human and to forgive is divine." When the allegation that he slapped Anisulowo came to the front burner, it was certain that in spite of his everyman's friend approach among his collaegues, he had gone full circle. The Night Before Mohammed moved to stave off the offensive. Throughout the weekend, he worked his colleagues phones. When that did not achieve the desired effect, by Monday, he led the members of his family which comprised of his two wives and children to Apo Legislative Quarters touring the residences of his colleagues. Those whom he failed to meet at home, the family spoke to on phone. In the course of this, he received all sorts of advices which included that he should own up to his act and apologise rather than denying that he did not spank Anisulowo because the incident happened in broad day light where Senators and other members of the public were present. He agreed to this and expressed his readiness to make a public apology. The Judgement Day Isa Mohammed came to the Senate chamber at the nick of time. In his tradition, he adorned a complete babanriga and was trailed behind by two female assistants. When he entered the chamber, he moved round his colleagues hugging and shaking hands. He later proceeded to the Chair where Mantu was already seated after a short discussion, he hugged Anisulowo and gave out some pecks. As the Senate Deputy Chief Whip, Kola Awoyelu, hurried the floor steps, Mohammed held his hand and whispered into his ears. But this would later not deter Awoyelu from moving the motion against Mohammed. The hugging and back-slapping over, Mantu called the Senate to order. Votes and Proceedings of the last legislative day was taken and announcement followed. As the Order Paper was called, Awoyelu hollered his Point of Order. Citing Order 14 (a&b) (Privileges), he complained that "the incident between Anisulowo and Mohammed last Thursday is a very serious issue which has brought the image of this House to serious disrepute. "The Senate all over the world is a respectable institution and all members ought to themselves in that tradition. When you say you are distinguished, you should be respectable and successful. I can't imagine a Senator slapping another in the public even in private. It's even more serious because the victim is a woman," Awoyelu canvassed. Continuing, he urged the Senate "to condemn in its entirety the conduct of Senator Isa Mohammed; that the Senate deals with the matter seriously and speedily; that the matter be referred to the Ethics, Code of Conduct and Privileges Committee whose report must be brought back to the Senate within two days for the consideration of all senators. Awoyelu was seconded by Senator Emma Anosike (PDP, Anambra North) but Senator Timothy Adudu (ANPP, Plateau State) sought an amendment to the motion to the effect that condemning the act before the outcome of the Ethics Committee's investigation would amount to placing the cart before the horse. "We should wait for the outcome of the Ethics investigation," Adudu canvassed. But Senator Bassey Ewa-Henshaw (PDP, Cross River State) in proposing a slight amendment said, "it's serious enough that this House should go into a closed door and consider the matter right away. Let every senator hear and participate in the investigation and decision. We should go into a closed session rather than refering the matter to the committee." But Senator Ekarika (PDP, Akwa Ibom) however stated that "my understanding of the situation is that the two parties involved have reconciled. If we found out and that is correct, I think we should drop the matter." The Deputy Senate President, Alhaji Ibrahim Nasir Mantu, after recognising Senators Farouk Bunza-Bello; Ifeanyi Ararume; Ibikunle Amosun; Daisy Ehanire-Danjuma; Nuhu Aliyu; Sanni Kamba; and, Mohammed Ibrahim remarked that "ordinarily, whatever the mover of a motion proposed is what we should do. But because we attach so much importance to this matter, I think we should agree that we go into the closed session by dissolving the Senate into a committee to hear the matter and take a decision on this unfortunate incident". During the closed session, Anisulowo was called upon to make her case which she was said to have told her colleagues about her encounter with Mohammed. At the close of her explanation, Anisulowo's vice chairman was said to have apologised and "accepted responsibility for everything that had happened." Mohammed was said to have implored his colleagues to consider the appeal of notable Nigerians that have intervened on his behalf promising to be of good conduct in his future relationships with all senators. He also expressed his readiness to apologise to the Senate as well as all Nigerians. Informed sources said that Mohammed colleagues wielded the big stick by condemning his action against a fellow senator and a woman while a few were said to have canvassed that since he had become penintent over his actions, the Senate should be "light" in its punishment. Anisulowo was said to have told his colleagues that she was ready to accept Mohammed's apology stressing that she had the consent of her husband and the family to do so if he would genuinely apologise. But the Senate, as an institution, decided by resolution to suspend Mohammed for two weeks to serve as detterence to other senators. Plea for Mitigation "The events of last week has generated so many things; and you know in this world, there is no human being, anybody that says he has control of himself other than being controlled by Almighty God is a liar. "And in the life of every human being, one is bound to see some trials and temptations and what really happened last week is very unfortunate because everybody in this Senate is either a brother or a sister to me. "I know the feelings of many Nigerians, especially the women, and I, Isa Mohammed, hereby in the name of Almighty God apologised to every citizen of Nigeria, especially our mothers, that I should be forgiven and God will bless Nigeria, bless our leaders and the people and continue to be with us and I pray to Almighty God that there wouldn't be occurence of such either from me or anybody in this world. "I have to thank my distinguished Senator Iyabo Anisulowo, like I told you earlier, we are brothers and sisters, but the devil can always find a way; I'm very, very sorry for what really happened. I also apologise to her family, her state government and to everybody and to the entire nation. "You can see, I look like a confused man but God would bless this nation," Mohammed submitted in an extempore speech. Gavel's Ruling The Senate Committee on Information chairman, Senator Tawar Wada, who accompanied Mohammed to the Senate Press Centre, explained that "the Senate conclusively listened to both the complainant and the accused and also had the privilege of getting additional information of what took place before the matter came before the Senate. "Senate was very aware of the apology which Senator Isa Mohammed made to the Senate, he owned up to it, whatever happened and went straight ahead and apologised. The Senate was also receptive of the fact that the Niger State Government and the entire people of Niger State regretted the action that took place. "They (Niger State) also sent emissaries, sent people to come and apologise to Senator Anisulowo and the Niger State House of Assembly also condemned the action. So, all things put together affected the position of the Senate. "The Senate as a body is expected to be a paragon of virtue, it regrets this act and shows its displeasure. The Senate therefore in consideration of the circumstance of all that took place, the gravity of the offence, the unreserved apology from Senator Isa Mohammed and the remorse shown by him, as well as the concern shown by the entire people of Niger State, for the unity of this country, the Senate decided to accept the apology of Isa Mohammed and also confirmed from Senator Anisulowo if she has accepted his apology. "On the whole, the Senate therefore considers that it can mete a punishment which has been mitigated against the distinguished colleague, the Senate therefore passed the resolution of suspending Senator Isa Mohammed for two weeks and I believe that is going to act as a detterence to all other senators and infact all citizens of this country and wherever you are, we are expected to show a sign of responsibility anyday, anytime," Wada said further.