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KonkNaija Media | May 3, 2016

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Tragedy of parliamentary disruption

The uproar in the Rivers State House of Assembly has rekindled the memory of the disruption of the parliament in the earlier dispensations. Whenever it occurred, democracy was usually under strains.It started in the House of Representatives in the First Republic. Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa proposed the Anglo-Nigerian Defence Pact to the 312-member parliament. It generated controversy nation-wide. The radical segment of the newly independent Nigeria perceived it as re-colonialism through the back door. The supporters of the bill, mainly from the ruling Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) advised the Head of Government to forge ahead.

However, students from the universities of Ibadan and Lagos stormed the Parliament at Onikan, Lagos during the plenary session and drove the legislators out of the chamber. They claimed that they did it in the national interest. Among the legislators in the House that day were the proponents and antagonists of the controversial pact. They included Balewa, the Leader of Opposition, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Mohammadu Ribadu, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Chief Theophilus Benson, Chief Adekunle Ajasin, Chief Ayotunde Rosiji, Alhaji Shettima Ali Mongonu, Chief Babatunde Akin-Olugbade, Chief Jaja Nwachukwu and others. Many of the legislators took to their heels. On that note, Balewa dropped the idea.

Following the split in the Action Group (AG), the Western Regional House of Assembly was enveloped in tension. Pro-Awolowo and Chief Ladoke Akintola’s supporters turned the chamber in Ibadan into a theatre of war. AG legislators claimed that Chief Akintola had been removed as the Premier, adding that Chief Dauda Adegbenro had been nominated to fill the vacuum. Akintola and his supporters rejected the directive of the governor, Sir Adesoji Aderemi, that he should vacate the State House, Agodi. He insisted that a proper vote of confidence or otherwise should be taken in the chambers.

But hell was let loose on that fateful day in the parliament. A legislator from Ogbomoso Constituency, Akintola’s birthplace, Hon. Oke, suddenly jumped up from his seat, threw his chair at Akintola; shouting ‘fire on the mountain’. Some parliamentarians started throwing their seats in a pre-determined manner. Many of legislators were injured. Among the regional legislators present at that rancorous sessions were the Speaker, Chief Adeleke Adedoyin, Chief Oduola Osuntokun, Chief Olu Ogunniran, Oba Claudius Akran, Abraham Adesanya, Ehinafe Babatola, Remi Fani-Kayode, Adegbenro, Jonathan Odebiyi, and Joseph Odunjo. The members were later tear-gassed by the policemen, who invaded the chamber. The legislators dispersed. The chains of events that followed led to the declaration of a state of emergency in the region.

The House of Representatives was also a House of commotion between 2007 and 2011. Legislators converted the plenary sessions into boxing ring. It was a self-inflicted tragedy. Decorum was thrown away and democracy was mocked.

The war in the Rivers Assembly has only echoed the past unruly behaviours of parliamentarians in the country.

Source: The Nation