By Rudolf Okonkwo
“Unless a miracle happens, when Nigeria’s obituary is written, the name of Ahmed Lawan will be at the top of the list of the undertakers.”
What if tomorrow, the Senate President initiates the impeachment of President Muhammadu Buhari on the floor of the National Assembly for failing to uphold the terms of his oath of office and fulfil his constitutional responsibilities to Nigerians? How would that change Buhari’s lackadaisical attitude to leadership and the overall topography of Nigeria’s political scene?
Most politicians use the first part of their lives to destroy the last. For Ahmed Lawan, the president of the Nigerian Senate, nothing in the first part of his life showed that he has anything to offer a desperate nation in search of heroes to save it. Mr Lawan’s manner of ascension to the position of the Senate President ultimately sealed his fate – and the fate of a nation on the verge of death.
To begin with, if you show Nigerians on the street the picture of Mr Lawan, most of them will not be able to identify him. Though he is third in the line of succession, his national profile is low in the eyes of the public and abysmal in the views of those who understand the importance of the constitutional role that he should be playing in an endangered democracy like ours. From his first beginning, Mr Lawan chose the role of a self-confessed lapdog of the president that he is making all past senate presidents since 1999 look like heroes of democracy who deserve the “profile in courage” award.
For those who have not forgotten, Ahmed Lawan’s emergence as Senate President was deeply soaked in corruption. The compromise that brought Lawan in was a critical indication that President Buhari’s anti-corruption stance was mere lip service.
After being out-manoeuvred in 2015 by Bukola Saraki for the position of Senate President, Lawan licked his armpit and went back to the backbench. When APC’s victory in 2019 presented another chance for the North East to produce the senate president, Mr Lawan was again a candidate. As a candidate, he faced an inevitable defeat from Senator Danjuma Goje of Gombe State. In a compromise that President Muhammadu Buhari struck with Goje in Aso Rock on Thursday, June 6, 2019, Goje agreed to step down for Lawan in exchange for a total wipeout of all the corruption charges against him from his days as governor.
President Buhari got the senate president he wanted, but it was the wrong Senate President that Nigeria needed at this crucial point in its existence. Nigeria is a critically ill patient in an intensive care unit of a teaching hospital. A patient in the intensive care unit deserves the best doctors and medical professionals, not mediocre. To call Mr Lawan, a mediocre senate president is to demean all the other mediocre senate presidents we have had since 1999. Not only is Mr Lawan not the brightest crayon in the box, but he also does not even deserve to be one of those pulled out when we were considering potential senate presidents.
In his two years as senate president, Mr Lawan has done nothing to improve the quality of governance in Nigeria. In trying to avoid conflicts with the executive, he abdicated his responsibility to hold the executive accountable and ensure accountability and government transparency. With little understanding of the importance of the parliament in overseeing the executive and the judiciary, he has failed to meet public expectations or even reflect the public’s concerns. Instead of establishing democratic norms, Mr Lawan has only become an accomplice in lowering the democratic IQ of the nation and the consequence crippling of any progressive reforms.
Mr Lawan got a doctorate in remote sensing from Cranfield University in the UK in 1996, three years after the school started awarding degrees. Before then, he graduated from the University of Maiduguri in 1984 with a degree in Geography, and in 1990, he obtained a master’s degree in Remote Sensing from the Ahmadu Bello University. Mr Lawan was a lecturer at the University of Maiduguri before his election in 1999 to the House of Representatives. That is the extent of Lawan’s public life experiences. There was not a moment of brilliance anywhere. And as senate president, we have not seen any either.
But Mr Lawan does not need to show brilliance to serve the Nigerian people he represents in the senate. He only needs to show a basic understanding of the role of the parliament in a representative democracy. And that fundamental is something that he lacks. And Nigeria is paying a huge price for it today. If these were ordinary days, it would not have mattered so much. After all, he was not the first mediocre senate president in Nigeria and won’t be the last. Unfortunately, these are extraordinary days when Nigeria needs its best eleven to have any chance of surviving.
Every public utterance of Mr Lawan is a display of an unending cringe-inducing show. Where will one begin? Is it his reaction to Southern Governors who met in Asaba and demanded the restructuring of the country? The best Mr Lawan could offer was to knock the governors for not starting the reforms at the state level by granting independence to the local governments. Or was it is the bizarre argument that elected leaders should not champion agitations. This was coming from the man leading a national assembly that is supposedly overseeing a constitutional review.
And if this is happening in an era when there is brilliance up or down the Nigerian succession line, Nigeria could have endured such misfortune and hope for better luck next time. But in this critical time when everything is at stake, a senate president of Mr Lawan’s calibre is a death knell for Nigeria.
Unless a miracle happens, when Nigeria’s obituary is written, the name of Ahmed Lawan will be at the top of the list of the undertakers. History will remember Mr Lawan as a bad carpenter who was brought in at the dying minute to keep the leaking Nigerian boat afloat. But due to bad workmanship, he inflicted the deadly hole that finally sank the boat. On Mr Lawan’s tombstone, it shall be written in bold letters: Here lies the man who killed Nigeria to death.