For Hameed Ali, Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, it was a sweet revenge. The Senate was battered than they could have imagined. The bitter memory would linger and may not be forgotten in a hurry.
Few days ago, Senate at committee level confronted the Customs Chief in an oversight function. The venue was the conference arena of the Nigeria Customs Service in Abuja. The original mission of the committee was to interrogate the economic waste in the Nigeria Customs. But true to its character, the Senate drifted from the crux to the frivolous.
Dino Melaye, leader of the Senate Committee, drew the first blood. In his repugnant attitude, Dino began with a tutorial on moral etiquette. An action that was clearly intended to disparage the Customs boss before his subordinates. He said, “Mr. C.G, rather than meeting us here at the conference room by way of courtesy, you were supposed to have met us at the ground floor on arrival into the premises. That had been the practice of statutory bodies headed by Chief Executive Officers like you…”
Considering existing acrimony between the Senate and Hameed Ali, the response of the Customs boss was easily predictable. Many that followed the trajectory were not disappointed. They knew the speech connotes trouble and the committee got more than they bargained for.
Hameed Ali was not economical in his vituperations. He did not pretend to be diplomatic either. He returned fire for fire. The customs chief implied that the Senators were obviously ignorant of existing protocol in the Customs. He said explicitly, “our protocol is our protocol and should be allowed to be”. And with finality, he added, “the Agency would not allow itself to be dictated to on matter of etiquette or protocol”.
A discerning mind would have no difficulties seeing through the thinking of Hameed Ali in his lecture to Dino & Co. His principal intention is to humiliate the Senate. And he delivered with military precision. To drive home his point, the Customs boss jettisoned the group photograph session that is usually the norm. He left his guest stranded in utter rage. Hameed Ali was very pragmatic about it. The humiliation was classical and total. It was a jolly sweet revenge.
Sometimes between 2016 and early 2017, Senate injured the dignity of Hameed Ali at the Senate meetings. More than once, they walked him out of the hallowed chamber. Senators insisted he must appear before them in full insignia of the Customs uniforms. Hameed Ali saw that as an attack on his ego and a debasement of his most cherished military profession. But for the Judiciary, Ali would have been demystified. Clearly, the Comptroller General did not forgive the Senate.
Ali waited for his time and the oversight duties gave him that opportunity to pay back. He did not hesitate. He pulled the trigger and dealt a decisive punch that sent the senate to the “monkey room”. Some blamed him and viewed his action at the meeting as disrespectful. Such insinuations will not border him. Revenge is a form of justice usually assume to be enacted in the absence of norms of formal law and jurisprudence. For bruising his ego, the senate must taste the bitter pills. That is how we roll in Nigeria. It is do me, I do you.
My worries: the consistent frictions between government officials at all levels over non relevant issues undermines good governance. Until elected or appointed persons in government better understand their roles, the search for harmony between institutions will continue to elude us.
Hameed Ali’s summons to the senate was to explain a directive on import duty payments. An action the senate described as “anti-people policy”. This very pertinent issue was relegated to the background. Instead, senators dwelled on frivolous issue of uniform. Consequently, the policy decision was largely left unresolved.
Again, the committee were on oversight to investigate economic waste in the customs service. And again they went doggy with the matter of protocol and achieved nothing that would advance good governance. It was best an exercise in futility.
This guys must put sentiment aside and rise above personal interest. This virulent animosity has afflicted logical reasoning. The kind of harmonious relationship expected of officials of government to enhance good governance is completely non extent. It shows that many of them lack the capacity to lead or serve in public offices. The rift is a cover to distract the public from the real issue.
The gladiators take the conflict to higher pedestal to involve the institutions they represent. Sen. Dino Melaye was quick to harass the customs boss by saying that the committee meeting is more or less that of Senate. He made it look like a conflict between the National Assembly and Executive. Dino would have hold the meeting and report whatever observations he had to the senate plenary. That is the logical thing to do. But he allowed ego to take over his sense of reasoning.
Dino gave the protracted face-off between the senate and executive a life of notoriety. And there is no doubt that the conflict is affecting governance in the country. Delays to pass budget and refusal to endorse nominees for key positions are consequences of the fight. Baron Montesquieu’s principles of separation of power does not accord arms of government absolute independence. It also emphasized the importance of harmonious relationship between the elements of government.
Politicians must understand that good policies rely on the extent of cordial relationship between officials and institutions of government. Personal and percuniary interests should not overide public interest. The stakes are high. It is therefore imperative that government is run primarily by men with a modicum of consicience.
Nigerians must be united as a people to remove irresponsible characters from our public space. Until we replace them with good men of impeccable character and capacity, we will continue to wobble in a vicious cycfle.
Ikese is a Columnist at thenigerian.news and a Political Analyst