For a state as dysfunctional as Nigeria, certain things surprisingly occur like clockwork. For instance, you can be certain politicians will catch the slumming bug at the start of an election cycle, taking sudden interests in street food and market women affairs. Or how sometime during the year, you can bet your last Apple Capri-sonne, at least one politician will be fingered for misappropriated funds entering into the hundreds of millions of Dollars.
Yes, like clockwork, it’s almost a given that the mace of a state or even the National Assembly will be snatched (and not in the way your waist in last Sunday’s outfit was) at the first signs of trouble for the Speaker of the house in question.
Now to backtrack a little, the mace is a symbol of authority for the Nigerian legislature. In the past you may have taken it to be a rather intricately designed spear, to be hurled at unruly lawmakers during sessions — or at least my overly imaginative 6-year old brain did. But what it truly represents is legitimacy for any sitting of the Senate; without which, a recognised sitting of the house cannot hold.
As true beacons of respectability in the state, the lawmakers know of and appreciate the power of the mace. It is why, rather than having disagreeable decisions made in its presence, they steal it altogether to ensure the right decisions (as they see it!) are made.
Embarrassing us to no end and adding several feathers to the cap of Nigeria’s most unfortunate events, here are some instances of the sacred mace being snatched by members/agents of the country’s legislature:
1. Stolen In Kaduna
On September 24th, 2013, following a power play to remove the then Speaker of the Kaduna House of Assembly – Alhaji Usman Gangara, and other leaders of the state legislative house for poor and uninspiring leadership, the mace mysteriously went missing.
Well, that is, if you call the speaker, Alhaji Gangara coming in earlier in the day of the 24th to retrieve the mace so no legitimate session would hold, mysterious.
Unfortunately for him, the remaining members of the house, using the mace previously adopted by the former legislature, decided on his removal, and appointed another speaker – Alhaji Shehu Tahir (PDP-Giwa West), as the new Speaker, by 19 out of the 34 member legislature.
2. Whisked away in Rivers State
2013 was a busy year for mace theft. Back then, while Rotimi Amaechi served as state governor, the House of Assembly was divided into 2 blocs in the state – one which pledged loyalty to Amaechi and the other to the present day governor of the state – Nyesom Wike, who was then serving as the state minister for education.
27 members were loyal to Amaechi, while 5 picked sides with Wike.
Those 5 however, announced a move to impeach the speaker of the house – Mr. Otelemababama Amachree; causing a ruckus that saw the very grown, very respectable remainder of 27 members of the house, taking away the mace forcefully, until 3 out of the 5 members were injured.
3. Spirited away in the Senate.
Mr. Chuba Okadigbo served as Senate President between the years 1999 and 2000, before an alleged involvement in a contract scandal led to his impeachment from the office.
But let it never be said that he didn’t put up a fight to retain his seat. Upon word reaching him that a plot to remove him was underway, the Senate President adjourned the house and took the mace away from the National Assembly to an unknown location.
The mace was on one part stated to have been hidden away in Ogbunike, Anambra State. Then there was talk that it was being kept in the safety of a 7-foot python. His private residence was visited by members of the police where he and members of his household present were harassed to divulge the whereabouts of the mace.
However, despite his best efforts, he was voted out on the night if August 8, 2000 by a session presided by John Azuta Mbata, who was acting as Senate President Pro Tempore.
4. Carted off in Anambra
In 2017, following allegations of financial impropriety and gross misconduct, plans were in the offing to remove the speaker of the Anambra House of Assembly – Mrs. Rita Maduagwu.
On April 6, 2017, while present in the house at time motions were being laid in favour of her removal, the Speaker quietly made away with the mace to prevent the plot from going through, surprising the majority present in the house to carry out the impeachment procedures.
Despite best efforts however, her removal was confirmed on November 30, 2018, with a majority of 20 to the 30 members of the House of Representatives.
5. Abducted in Abuja
When you get upset, do you:
a.Throw a tantrum
b.Eat the pain away, or
c. Examine the reason for your dejectedness and find ways out of it?
For Delta State lawmaker, Ovie Omo-Agege, the answer would be none of the above. Upset with his suspension from the Senate on April 12, 2018 for refusing to support the Electoral Act Amendment to re-organise the order for the elections, a perceived act against President Buhari — sitting and sulking away his hurt would not suffice.
Instead, he did what any rational thinking lawmaker would do — invading the National Assembly with thugs and stealing the mace. He denied any involvement with the abduction of the mace despite being seen in full view leading the thugs into the building, and the mace was eventually discovered at the City Gate, Abuja.
For all his effort, Omo Agege is being considered a contender for the Deputy Senate Presidency. Don’t you just love highly unlikely happy endings and things coming full circle?