Bullying, a behaviour more common among school age children, was recently elevated to legislative heights with none other than Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ahmed Idris Wase, emerging as the poster boy of legislative bullying.
The parliament is a gathering of representatives of the people of a country and when they carry out their legislative duties, they are deemed to be representing the people of their constituencies.
It is very unlikely that the people of Wase Federal Constituency of Plateau State are proud of the bully their representative, who doubles as deputy speaker, has become – one who intimidates, embarrasses, shuts down and does not allow his colleagues to exercise their legislative duties.
Wase, who presided over the session of the House on March 10, exhibited unwarranted highhandedness, hostility and ignorance when he refused to allow Rep Mark Gbillah (Gwer/Gwer West Federal Constituency) to present a petition by the Mutual Union of Tiv in America (MUTA).
In a move that smirks of a premeditated assault, barely had Gbillah, who was presenting a petition on the plight of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Benue State, finished reading the title of his petition than he interjected.
The way I see it, Wase set out to bully, intimidate and embarrass Gbillah. He displayed high level arrogance, contempt and disregard, not just for his colleague, Gbillah, but by extension, the people he represents and the petitioners. This is highly condemnable.
As far as Wase, who must have just come out from under a stone and does not know that the world is now a global village and people do not necessarily need to live in a geographical location to know what goes on there is concerned, people living in America have no business writing petitions about goings on in the country and on the strength of that, Gbillah didn’t deserve to be heard. He didn’t budge in spite of efforts by Gbillah to explain, insisting he was not convinced about the propriety of MUTA’s petition, as the House whip asked Gbillah to be guided and sit down.
The likes of Wase are dangerous, not just to our democracy but the gains the country is making from Nigerians in the diaspora and actions such as this, by his ilk, should be roundly condemned.
Those familiar with legislative proceedings know that there is a procedure for reading petitions on the floor and the petition by MUTA must have gone through that process to have been listed on the order paper for the day. Why was it shut down in such a manner by the same House leadership that initially approved it?
In case the deputy speaker does not already know, members of MUTA are Nigerians and the people affected by the issues they are petitioning about are their family members and relatives. Does he mean that because they do not live within Nigeria’s geographical space, they have no say in and must not show concern about issues involving their kith and kin?
Many of these people have been unable to visit home and be with their relatives in their villages as they have no villages to return to. Their relatives are in IDPs camps all around the state for many years now, with no government intervention but this does not matter to Wase.
The same people the deputy speaker was so vehement in denying a voice are currently serving as a buffer for the nation’s economy.
At a time the country is in dire need of foreign exchange inflows, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has churned out policy after policy to encourage diaspora remittances through official channels to the country. Between December 2020 and March 2021, there have been two policies which the apex bank says are already yielding results.
At the time of the December policy, CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, while underscoring the usefulness of diaspora remittances to the economy, said the current annual inflow of about $24 billion could help in improving the balance of payment position, reduce dependence on external borrowing and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on forex inflows into the country.
Since the two initiatives, weekly diaspora remittances to Nigeria have increased by 500 per cent to $30 million from $5 million.
Data from the CBN shows that Nigeria received $17.57 billion in direct diaspora remittances in 2019, signifying a 56.4 per cent increase from $11.23 billion within the same period in 2018. Remittances in the last 10 years have increased by up to 210.3 per cent as remittances grew from $5.66 billion in 2010 to $17.57 billion as at November 2019.
Conversely, portfolio and other investments dropped from $20.7 billion in 2014 to $16.8 billion in 2018.
The policy initiatives by the CBN and the positive results are a testimony of the World Bank’s position stated that in the period of the financial crisis, remittance-receiving countries with a more dispersed migrant population enjoyed more than their counterparts.
Diaspora remittances will continue to subsidise the economy for a long time to come. A recent report by PwC disclosed that remittances from abroad could strengthen the economy with an estimated $34.8 billion by 2023.
It is for this and other reasons such as protecting the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms to associate and express, which are the fulcrum of democracy, that the dangerous bullying antics exhibited by Wase need to be put in check, lest he intimidates and cows’ other representatives into silence.
It is, therefore, heartwarming that the Chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has written to the speaker of the house, requesting his intervention in the issue which rightly, has inflamed tension and caused significant uproar amongst not just the Nigerian diaspora community but those at home as well.