The Senate had a rowdy executive session for about two hours on Wednesday as a result of attempt by Senate President, David Mark, to convince his colleagues to give Musiliu Obanikoro an easy passage, in accordance to the tradition of the upper chamber in the screening of former senators nominated for appointment as ministers.
The Senate had over the years adopted the “take a bow” treatment for nominee ex-senators. Obanikoro was a member of the upper federal legislative chamber between 2003 and 2007 on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy. His name is among the eight new ministerial nominees before the Senate for consideration.
Members of the opposition All Progressives Congress in the Senate had, last week, vowed to oppose the confirmation of Obanikoro.
Our correspondent learnt that Mark, shortly before plenary and in a bid to ensure that the tradition of the Senate was not broken, immediately ordered a closed-door executive session to iron out the differences between Obanikoro and the opposition senators before the ministerial screening.
One of the senators from the South-West geo – political zone, who preferred anonymity, told our correspondent that the executive session was rowdy while it lasted.
He said, “The Senate President pleaded with us to respect the tradition of the senate by allowing Obanikoro and two other former senators, who would be appearing before us for screening to just take a bow and leave.
“We told him such gesture would not be extended to Obanikoro because of the two petitions against him that were forwarded to the Senate leadership, which he must address in a question-and-answer session.
“The insistence of the senate president that he would not preside over a chamber where the tradition that predated him would be destroyed led to a rowdy session which lasted for over one-and-a-half hour.”
The senator explained that it took the intervention of the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, to resolve the issue.
According to him, Ekweremadu suggested that the screening and confirmation of Obanikoro should be postponed till a further date pending when the opposition would have a change of mind.
Another senator, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party from the North-Central, who also spoke anonymously, confirmed to our correspondent that the screening of Obanikoro had been postponed till next week due to the issues raised against him.
He said, “The opposition senators stuck to their guns that the nominee must address the allegations levelled against him but the Senate President insisted that he would never allow such things to happen.
“We however resolved to suspend the screening of Obanikoro and three others till next week Tuesday, if the opposition senators would not insist that he must be asked some questions. “
The senator further explained that the leadership of the red chamber resolved to take the former Minister of State alongside three others next week.
However, when the Senate resumed plenary, the senate president did not explain the reason for the closed-door session.
“The senate at the executive session discussed issues of national importance,” he said.
Meanwhile, four nominees- Messrs Patricia Akwashiki (Nasarawa State); Nicholas Ada (Benue State); Augustine Akobundu (Abia State); and Fidelis Nwankwo (Ebonyi State), answered questions from the senators except Akwashiki, who was a senator.
Ada, a professor of education
, while responding to questions, said that lack of qualified teachers was responsible for the production of ill-equipped graduates.
He noted that students from “miracle centres” and those who cheat in examinations, and get higher grades usually constitute a great menace to the society as they would do everything to manipulate the system upon graduation.
He said, “So, what we simply do is to try as much as possible that the teachers training programme for the school system is strengthened because what the teacher fails to do, is an irreparable loss and what he does well gives credence to the entire process.
“I would suggest that we go back to the basics. In the time past, we had Grade Two Teachers Training programme; teachers were trained in specific areas. The totality of the teachers was well groomed and he came out as a very refined person.”
On his part, Akobundu, a retired colonel in the army, said the best way to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency was the introduction of the multi-nations military taskforce, made up of soldiers from Benin Republic, Cameroon, Niger, Chad and Nigeria
“The solution is making sure that we maintain the coalition with our coalition partners to make sure that we rid our nation and their own countries the menace of Boko Haram.
“At the same time, we talk about fighting terrorism through carrot-and-stick. What is going on is the stick. And concurrently, I believe that the Federal Government
through the statutory agencies are doing everything to make sure that these Nigerians who have been displaces are given sense of belonging.”
The screening of Obanikoro (Lagos); Hauwa Lawan (Jigawa); Kenneth Kobani (Rivers) and Joel Ikenya (Taraba) has been shifted to Tuesday next week.