Barrister Tolu Babaleye is an Abuja based lawyer and a fiery human right activist who is resolutely committed to the defence of defenceless in Nigerians. He was recently interviewed and spoke on the implications of the continuous face-off between the Senate President and the Inspector General of Police on the nation’s democracy.
What is your opinion on crisis rocking the National Assembly especially the senate President and the 12 point agenda raised at the joint session last week?
The National Assembly is the third arm of government and its main responsibility is to do checks and balancing of the other two arms of government. It is also the National Assembly that makes the difference between the democratically elected government and a military dictatorship or oligarchy system of government. When you remove the National Assembly from democracy, it is no longer democracy. It will become a dictatorial government or civilian dictatorship. What the national assembly did last week is a wake up call to the President of Nigeria to live up to his responsibilities. I do not see the threat of impeachment as anything strange. It is just a weapon kept in case the President refuse to act on the items listed inform of resolution by the joint section of the National Assembly.
Some observers and some politically inclined groups claimed that the senate president in his capacity as the Chairman of the National Assembly is trying to incite the legislators against the President based on the fact that he has been at a logger head with the IGP who is an appointee of Mr President, what do you make of this?
I don’t think that is correct because the Senate President is just an individual out of many that we have in the National Assembly. If any member decides to support the motion in the house, I don’t think they should put the blame on the Senate president because he is just a presiding officer. In fact, it is the floor members that decide and the Senate President will only read out their decisions to the public. So it is not possible for the Senate President to influence any member if they are not willing, considering the fact that the ruling party has the majority in the National Assembly and these members are still the one calling the President to order. I don’t think anybody should blame it on the Senate president. So it is what the members want.
What can you say about the continuous face off between the leadership of the Senate and the IGP taken into consideration that the IGP is the head of security apparatus of the nation; and aside defence, don’t you think this is posing a great danger to our democracy?
Honestly, I will say it is not healthy for our democracy because both the Senate President and the IGP are supposed to work together on how to move the nation forward. But in a situation where the IGP has refused to appear before the Senate, it is not good for our democracy. What I see is politics because they are laying a bad precedence by saying the National Assembly do not have the power to summon the IGP. It will have a serious implications on the future of our democracy. I want Nigerians to look at the institution of the National Assembly and not the personality occupying various offices and the leadership. It is very wrong for Senate to summon the IGP and he will refuse to appear and now turn around to say the National Assembly and House of Reps members have questions to answer in a questionable way. This is not good for our democracy.
Does the rift have anything to do with the name of the Senate President mentioned in the Offa robbery case?
Let me first condemn the robbery act. And it is so unfortunate that political thugs will turn out to be armed robbers. From the report of the police, it is very glaring that the people who perpetrated the robbery are political thugs who have been operating in Offa and the environs. The question we must ask ourselves is that is political thuggery not different from armed robbery? If the political thugs confessed that they are political thugs of the Senate President but he did not ask them to go and rob. Why must you now link the Senate President with robbery? Political thuggery should be treated as such and armed robbery should also be treated as such.