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Mind your language, Senate tells Obasanjo

Posted by By ISMAIL OMIPIDAN, Abuja on 2007/02/22 | Views: 1188 |

Mind your language, Senate tells Obasanjo

The Senate on Wednesday strongly objected to what it termed unguarded utterances by President Olusegun Obasanjo, warning him to henceforth desist from making comments that tend to raise doubts about the sincerity of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) government to hold free and fair polls in April.

•Accuses him of trying to foment trouble

The Senate on Wednesday strongly objected to what it termed unguarded utterances by President Olusegun Obasanjo, warning him to henceforth desist from making comments that tend to raise doubts about the sincerity of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) government to hold free and fair polls in April.

The Senate’s position was sequel to the adoption of the motion moved by Senator Uche Chukwumerije and seconded by Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora. Senator Chukwumerije had on Tuesday sought and got the leave of the Senate to table the motion jointly sponsored by Senators Sani Kamba, Titus Olupitan, U. K. Umar, Saad Mohammed, Saidu Dansadau, Ben Obi, Mamora, Umaru Dahiru, Iyabo Anisulowo, John Brambaifa and Mohammed Ohiare.

Moving the motion, Chukwumerije said, among other things, that it was unpresidential and unbecoming of a person of the president’s standing to declare that the 2007 elections would be a-do-or-die affair.
Senators Mamora, Saidu Dansadau, Titus Olupitan and Timothy Adudu spoke in favour of the motion, with Mamora specifically saying that Obasanjo’s utterances violate the spirit of Section 97 (2) of the Electoral Act, which frowns at the use of vulgar languages during campaigns.
Olupitan, on his part said: "Let me continue from where Mamora stopped. Obasanjo’s utterances are just the continuation of the third term agenda. It is another plan to cause confusion and allow the president to declare a state of emergency so that he can elongate his tenure.

"The Bible said ‘out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.’ He knows what he is doing is bad, but he meant everything he is saying. So it is our responsibility to tell him that enough is enough. He should be made to apologize to Nigerians and to assure them that he never meant everything he said."
Reacting swiftly to their submissions, Senator David Mark argued that if anyone felt maligned by Obasanjo’s utterances, such a person should go to court, adding that President Obasanjo was only exercising his freedom of expression as guaranteed by section 39 of the constitution.

Said he: "It is not the duty of the Senate to start setting parameters for people on how to talk. What they (motion movers) are talking about are mere deductions made from newspapers. We have to read the newspapers too. The section of the Electoral Act that was referred to is only applicable to candidates in the election. Obasanjo is not a candidate in this election.
"To also wake up and attribute anything in this Senate to third term failure is diversionary. We can’t wake up and make comments that are diversionary."

The Senate President, Chief Ken Nnamani fired back, saying: "Too much freedom make people to commit suicide. Are you saying that he (president) is free to say the elections will be a do-or-die affair?"
Mark replied: "Today’s copies of the newspapers should have been made available to us."
Nnamani asked: "Is there any denial that you know about?"

Senator Mark, on his part, queried: "Has anyone confronted the Presidency?"
Other senators who queued behind Mark are Tawar Wada and Victor Oyofo, with Senator Wada arguing that the motion was vexatious, frivolous and untimely, adding that it should be thrown out.
When reminded by the Senate president that he, as the presiding officer, reserves the right to interpret the Standing Rules of the Senate, Wada replied: "I know, Sir, that you reserve the right to interpret the order the way you feel, but I have a duty to draw the attention of the Senate president to the spirit of the rules and guide him appropriately."
Oyofo, on his part, said: "It will be wrong for people to use their liberty in the Senate to force the Senate to do something that is not proper. It is improper to want to manipulate the Senate to condemn someone."

Controversial Senator Arthur Nzeribe almost caused a stir when he rose to say, after the motion, that he would be moving a motion of no confidence in the president and an impeachment notice. When reminded that his comments did not fall in line with the motion under discussion, he said: "How serious do we take his utterances? About a year ago he told the whole world that there are rouges in the Senate. We changed the leadership based on that."

Making his own submission, Senator Idris Kuta said: "I feel very sad for Nigeria. We are always late in taking decisions on issues. When I first heard of the motion, I told the mover that the motion would die because of the personality of the mover who does not see anything good in Obasanjo. People will say we should kill the motion as quickly as possible without going through its merits.

"I was supposed to be part of the movers of the motion, but my name was removed from the list after the dinner we had with President Obasanjo at the Agura House, where I poured encomiums on him. They must have felt that I won’t support the motion, so they removed my name. I don’t want to indict anyone in this chamber, but we should always do things in the interest of the country, not for our personal interest. I urge the Senate to look at the motion based on its merits and not because of the personality involved."

To this end, the Senate adopted the motion urging President Obasanjo to, among other things, desist from making utterances which raise doubts over the disposition of the government to conduct free and fair elections in April 2007; draw attention of the president to the importance of transparency and strict compliance with all relevant electoral laws, in addition to urging the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to work strictly within the Electoral Act.

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