The assault on Senator Anisulowo
ONCE again, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is in the news: for the wrong reasons. The other day, Senator Isa Mohammed (PDP, Niger South) dealt a blistering slap on the face of his colleague, Senator (Mrs.) Iyabode Anisulowo (PDP, Ogun West) over an alleged misappropriation of N1.2 million of Committee funds.
According to the story, Senator Mohammed had accused Senator (Mrs.) Anisulowo of withdrawing the sum of N700,000.00 and N500,000.00 at different times without reference to the Senate Committee on States and Local Government Administration of which she is the Chairman, and Senator Mohammed the Vice Chairman. Piqued at the alleged reluctance or failure of Senator Anisulowo to inform other members of the Committee before withdrawing the said sums of money, distinguished Senator Isa Mohammed unleashed a fierce blow on the face of his chairman and female colleague, outside the Senate Chamber, and in the full glare of passers-by and other Senators.
Quite naturally and expectedly, angry protests against the sad incident by various women organisations and others from Mrs. Anisulowo's federal constituency in Ogun State began to erupt menacingly, almost everywhere in the country. When confronted, the distinguished Senator Isa Mohammed first gave the lie to the allegation that he ever slapped Senator (Mrs.) Anisulowo or any other person for that matter. That spirited denial notwithstanding, the sordid story of a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria slapping his colleague, especially a female, continued to rankle with many Nigerians. Then, all of a sudden, a few days after the slap and the subsequent denial, Senator Isa Mohammed showed up in the Senate with a coterie of supporters, including representatives of his (Niger) State Government, some members of the Niger State House of Assembly and three of his children, to express his regrets.
In his language, "events of the past week has (sic) generated so many things, and you know in this world, there is no human being, anybody that says he has control of himself other than being controlled by the Almighty God is a liar...", adding that "in the life of every human being, one is bound to see some trials and temptations, and what really happened last week is unfortunate..." Senator Mohammed then melted into apologies: "I, Isa Mohammed, hereby in the name of Almighty God, apologise to every citizen of Nigeria, especially our mothers, that I should be forgiven... I have to thank my distinguished Senator Iyabo Anisulowo... the devil can always find a way; I am very, very sorry for what really happened..."
We appreciate the wisdom of Senator Mohammed who plucked up enough courage to own up to the shameful act and to confess the error of his ways. We, however, couldn't agree more with the Acting Senate Leader, Jonathan Zwingina that the incident was "most unfortunate". It is difficult to imagine a distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria condescending to the level of dealing a dirty slap on a lady, a fellow Senator and Chairman of his own Committee. If Senator Mohammed had exhibited that behaviour within the four walls of the Senate Chamber, it would have been egregiously insufferable and unacceptable enough; that the sad incident happened outside the Senate chamber, and in a public-place, makes it dismally nauseating.
The ascription of the ungentlemanly act to the devil, the swan-song of tortfeasors and the customary ululation of wrongdoers under the pressure of cross-examination, was least expected of a lawmaker, a gentleman, who knows or should know what to do. What he did (assault and battery) was highly tortuous and capable of subjecting him to liability under the principles of the law of torts, as well as to criminal prosecution under the Penal Code Law.
We believe that there ought to be a code of conduct for all members of the National Assembly and that each member ought to have some standard of behaviour. For the avoidance of doubt, we believe that Senator Isa Mohammed or any Senator for that matter, has the right to ask questions on the finances of the Senate, but that a Senator, a gentleman, with the epithet of "distinguished", gratuitously slapped a colleague, let alone a female colleague, is ignoble, and represents an indictment on the National Assembly. We dare say that no gentleman would slap a woman, even at the domestic level, under whatever provocation or excuse. Nigeria, it should be noted, is a signatory to the International Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and its Optional Protocol. We consider the attack on Senator Anisulowo by Senator Mohammed an assault on womanhood.
Which explains why the matter ought to have been referred to the Senate Committee on Ethics and Public Petitions for adjudication; for even if the attack on Senator Anisulowo took place outside the Senate chamber, the fact remains, first, that both the attacked and the attacker are members of the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly, and secondly, that the reason for the attack is directly related to the sharing of Senate funds.
However, in view of the fervid apologies of Senator Mohammed, particularly the interventions of the Niger State House of Assembly, the Niger State Government and of other concerned citizens, and, more particularly, in view of Senator Iyabo Anisulowo's reported forgiveness of her erring attacker, we commend the Senate's handling of the matter so far, except for the fact that the punitive measure taken " a two-week suspension foisted on Senator Isa Mohammed " is grossly inadequate.
This is because Senator Mohammed's offence is dual in nature: he slapped a fellow Senator, a woman, in a public place, and he originally forcefully denied the offence, a clear perjury. In some other democracies, someone like Senator Isa Mohammed would have handed in his notice and taken an early retirement; but this is Nigeria.
Be all that as it may, we believe that this slapping incident presents an opportunity for the leadership of the Senate to get all the various Senate committee chairmen to account for the funds allocated to them on a regular basis. This way, the sad incident involving Senator Isa Mohammed and Iyabode Anisulowo would have been obviated.