Uproar, confusion, chaos, turmoil are some the words to describe what transpired at the National Assembly on Tuesday, August 7, 2018 when heavily armed, masked operatives of the State Security Service (SSS) invaded the Complex for over eight hours.
A colleague from The Guardian newspaper, Azimazi Momoh Jimoh and I were the first to get to the main gate of the Complex on that fateful day after we received a message late Monday on the Whatsapp page of the Chief Press Secretary to the President of the Senate, informing us to be at the Complex as early as 7am, as against 12noon for the scheduled meeting of the leadership of the National Assembly with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The message which was sent at 11:15pm read thus: “All members of the Press Corps are hereby invited to be at the Senate on Tuesday 7th August by 7am to witness the plan by some Senators to break into the Senate Chambers and hold an illegal session”.
Prior to this time, there had been accusations and counter-accusations between Pro-Buhari and Pro-Saraki senators over plans to forcefully reconvene plenary and impeach Senate President Bukola Saraki.
Having left home as early as 6:25am, Azimazi picked me up in his car and fortunately we were the first reporters to get to the scene of the theatre at exactly 6:45am.
The atmosphere was chaotic, as we saw agents of the secret police brandishing their weapons and barred workers, journalists and legislative aides from entering the Complex.
Upon alighting from the vehicle, we approached one of the SSS officials who seemed to be their superior, dishing out instructions to them. He told us in clear terms that they were acting on instructions and ordered us to leave. I then asked him where he got the orders from and at this point he charged at me, threatening to deal with me mercilessly.
Also, the security operatives seized the mobile phone of my colleague and later returned it after they asked for his password to check if he had taken pictures of them. Chairman, Senate Press Corps, Ezrel Tabiowo, was however, not lucky, as his phone was not only confiscated but shattered by one of the security men.
Five minutes later, the first lawmaker, Rafiu Ibrahim, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, arrived the scene. He identified himself but was also barred from accessing the main building just like us.
Not long after, he was joined by other PDP lawmakers from both chambers of the National Assembly: Ben Murray-Bruce, Biodun Olujimi, Isah Misau, Shabba Lagiagi, Mark Gbillah, Tope Olauonu, Razaq Atunwa, Chris Azubogu, Frederick Agbedi among others. At this point, the crowd was already surging, as international media outlets like Al Jazeera, BBC, VOA Hausa and so on arrived the scene.
Incidentally, this was the third invasion I have witnessed since I was posted to the National Assembly in 2014; the first being in November of the same year when heavily armed policemen invaded the Complex, tear-gassed and tried to prevent members of the House of Representatives, including the then Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, from entering the Complex. The second encounter was in April this year when armed political thugs invaded the Senate chamber, disrupted plenary and snatched the symbol of authority – mace. Unfortunately, the culprits are yet to be brought to book.
Back to Tuesday’s incident, as some male lawmakers at the scene appealed to the agents on the need to allow them entry, with other workers maintaining a distance and expressing their frustration from afar, a female member of the House of Representatives from Rivers State, Boma Goodhead, who was initially sitting on one of the road dividers, made an audacious confrontation and dared the masked security men to shoot her.
Like a commander in a war front, the member representing Asalga/Akulga Federal Constituency of Rivers State, practically forced her way passed the gun-wielding operatives and beckoned on her astonished male colleagues to join her.
And like hen drenched by rain, they walked shamelessly behind her, as she led them to the lobby.
I was later informed by my colleagues in the House of Representatives that she is the younger sister to ex-militant leader, Asari Dokubo and that she had fiercely resisted and confronted security operatives when her brother was arrested, detained and charged to court by the Federal Government between 2006 and 2007.
In all my eight years in journalism, I have never encountered such a bold, courageous and audacious woman.
Her bravery was reminiscent of the days of Queen Amina of Zaria and Fela’s mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti.
Indeed, she has a good head.
There are so many questions begging for urgent answers: how come only PDP senators were at the scene while the siege lasted? Where really were the APC senators throughout the eight-hour ordeal? Is it true that the sacked SSS DG, Lawal Daura, took orders from APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole and Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari to carry out the act? Where were the other sister security agencies stationed in the National Assembly when the operatives took over the Complex? Was the invasion stage-managed by Saraki to win public sympathy? If true, is this not an indictment on the Presidency, knowing full well that the secret police is under the Presidency?
The scenario raises even more posers, including whether or not the siege reflected Senator Abu Ibrahim’s threat that Saraki would have no peace until he resigned as Senate President? Whether or not Daura was the fall guy of power play between the cabal and the Senate leadership? Who are the politicians fingered by Police IG, Ibrahim Idris, for allegedly working with Daura? What next after his sack?
OWEDE AGBAJILEKE, Abuja