Nigerians, who have laid their hands on the telephone numbers of lawmakers representing them at the Senate, have declared a telephone war on their senators by bombarding their lines with unending calls and text messages.
Those who have called senators representing their senatorial districts accused the lawmakers of poor performance and corruption.
The constituents, who decried poor representation by their senators, alleged that the lawmakers rebuffed their requests. SUNDAY PUNCH also learnt that some of the senators engaged their constituents in wars of words.
An online news medium, SaharaReporters, had published the telephone numbers of most of the 109 senators in the National Assembly, asking their constituents to express their feelings directly to those representing them in the legislature.
The Senate had attempted to amend the laws establishing the Code of Conduct Tribunal and the Code of Conduct Bureau, a development that drew the ire of the populace before the upper chamber of the National Assembly dropped the bill after passing the second reading.
Criticisms are also trailing a proposed Grazing Bill seeking to establish ranches across the country to stem criminal activities of nomadic Fulani herdsmen.
The Senate had denied that such a bill exists.
Constituents have however besieged the various social media platforms to express their disappointment over the alleged cold responses they got from their representatives.
For instance, Portia Emilia Anthony, in a post on her Facebook page, accused former Governor of Abia State, Theodor Orji, who is now representing Abia-Central Senatorial District, of shouting at her on the phone.
She said, “I just got off the phone with a senator shouting down the phone that I am insulting him with the text I sent to him; that I have no right to tell him to vote against the Grazing Bill.
“The man is so angry and agitated, saying I should go and contest and become a senator. Can you imagine the attitude of our so-called representatives? I told him I am not interested as I don’t want to be corrupt. The man went berserk on the phone. I dropped the phone on him.
“Asking me if I know who he is, I told him that he’s a Nigerian and nothing else. Yet, another (Senator) has replied and politely assured me that it won’t happen.”
“Can you believe that it was Theodore Orji of Abia state that called and shouted at me for asking him not to allow the Grazing Bill to go through? Please, let’s deal with him. He’s on 07082800***; the man is simply pathetic. #ShareAndShout.”
However, Orji also went to his Facebook page, asking Nigerians to disregard the “campaign of calumny” against him.
He posted, “Attention! Please, disregard this campaign of calumny and falsehood manufactured and being shared by one Portia Emilia Anthony, alleging that I am in support of the Grazing Bill.
“I spoke with this lady from Cross River on the phone and even though she was very rude and disrespectful, I made it clear to her that I am not in support of the said Grazing Bill.
“Please, the general public, especially those from Abia Central—Abians, Igbos, and other well-meaning Nigerians — should disregard and condemn this malicious campaign of calumny.”
On its Twitter handle, SaharaReporters reported the exchange of words between a constituent and former Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, Mrs. Abiodun Olujimi, who is now representing Ekiti South.
The report had a screenshot of a mobile device showing a message from an anonymous sender to Olujimi, which read, “Don’t support the amendment to CCT (Code of Conduct Tribunal) and Administration of Criminal Justice Law because of one man.
“Don’t take that car. People are suffering, and you guys want to ride jeeps? You represent me in Ekiti, and we are watching. Ile ni apoti n joko si de idi o! (An idiom in Yoruba used when patiently waiting for someone’s return).”
Another screenshot showing Olujimi’s response sent via 08033141***, said, “Sit anywhere. If you voted, it was not free. I paid every inch of the way. Get a job and earn a living, so you don’t keep issuing threats that you can’t enforce, and you don’t keep invading the privacy of people. Only dirty people do that.”
Another screenshot of a message said to be from an “anonymous senator” had shown how the lawmaker criticised the news medium for publishing the lawmakers’ telephone numbers.
The sender said, “Above are just snippets of the deluge of calls/texts that we’ve been receiving by your ill-considered decision to release our phone numbers to the public. I believe you did not fully evaluate the way Nigerians think and act before you did so.
“My phone rings at least once every minute. Most senators have gone ahead to change their numbers. I don’t intend to do so, but your decision is rather having the opposite effect from what you intended.”
The Nigerian Quagmire, who commented on the post in which the contact numbers of the senators were released on the medium’s website, claimed to have sent a message to the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
The person said, “Just sent a nicely worded message to Bukola to do the honorable thing and vacate the Senate presidency. He’s trying his best to hand over part of the government to his cronies in the PDP. I hope he’ll take my humble advice and do the right thing.”
However, Ralph Adeniyi, said, “They don’t know their job and (they are) very rude on the phone. I have been calling Senate President Bukola Saraki’s mobile #08024544***. He already (switched) off his phone but I will keep trying.”
Babatunde Opeyemi said should the lawmakers change their telephone lines, the new ones should be provided for the public.
He said, “Our senators have activated vexing mode. In case they change their numbers, please get it for us. Dino Melaye, Stella Oduah, (Godswill) Akpabio, (Ajayi) Boroffice, all of you senators should await my call at the right time!
“I don’t know why Nigerian senators should be angry when their people call them! You represent us and can’t talk to us.”
Habeeb Adewale Mustapha, said, “(I) spoke with Senator Kabir Garba Marafa of Zamfara-Central. A man of integrity! He is sticking by common Nigerians, and he has given me his words!!!”
Oluyege Paul Ayooluwa, said, “Mr. Common Sense Ben Murray-Bruce. Your number is switched off.” The senator is representing Bayelsa-East at the Senate.
A screenshot, which did not show the identity of the sender and the recipient who is a senator, had read, “Do you support the amendment to the CCB Act? If you support the amendment to the CCB Act, that means you are a total fake. Nigerians are watching, believe me. You guys (Senators) are just 109 to over 150 million Nigerians.”
Another commentator, Ayo Faleti, had said, “Please call your representatives. Ask how they have been exercising the mandate you gave them. If the answer is em, em, em…, declare your disappointment and inform (them) that you will be calling back in a couple of months. And when you do, you do not want em, em… as an answer. I know most of them will soon change their numbers.”
Similarly, KennBest said, “How grateful I remain to Sahara Reporters for this list. Now they must hear from Nigerians. If they like, let them go (and) change their numbers; we’ll get an updated list.”
Ayodele Emmanuel, said, “I tell you, they will quickly change the numbers. They are not representing anybody or constituency but themselves and their cronies.”
Joel Edionwe equally said, “Good but they are after themselves. Have they ever consulted with their constituents?”
Rum Sodo said, “You want my vote but you don’t want me to have your number. Who is a fool?”
Also, Jude Wilfred, said, “Please, start calling them now to ensure this Grazing Bill before the National Assembly does not sail through. This bill, if passed, will set the country on fire.
Etiemana Ekpo, said, “I believe to hear from the people is the best way not to pass three to four bills in a day, and you can’t hear from people without a phone number.”
SUNDAY PUNCH observed that some members of the public called the senators’ numbers only to frustrate them.
For instance, Hafsah Muhammad Lalo, posted on the news website, “I have N200 (credit) on my Etisalat (line) that I am not using. Let me disturb Jonah Jang.” Jang, a former Governor of Plateau State, is representing Plateau-North at the Senate.
Similarly, Yinka Aina, said, “All you need do to punish your non-performing senator is (to) him forty times daily and don’t forget to share his number with your gateman that doesn’t speak English.”
Investigation by our correspondents showed that some of the numbers tallied with those already inSUNDAY PUNCH’s directory. However, when our correspondents called some of the numbers, those who picked the calls said they were wrong numbers.
Several other numbers called indicated that they had been switched off.
When SUNDAY PUNCH called one of the two numbers listed for former President of the Senate, David Mark, who is representing Benue-South, the voice of a young female answered and, without asking who the caller wanted to speak to, said “wrong number” and immediately hung up.
Also, when one of our correspondents called Barnabas Gemade’s number, a male voice picked the call and said, “He’s in a meeting.” He also hung up before our correspondent could ask when next the senator would be available.
Gilbert Nnaji’s line did not connect. Enyinnaya Abaribe’s line also indicated that it was unreachable, while Bayero Nafada’s failed to connect.
Some senators, whose lines were switched off, include Theodore Orji, Ben Murray-Bruce, Ali Ndume, and Goje Danjuma.
SUNDAY PUNCH gathered that the Senators switched off their phones after they were overwhelmed with calls from their constituents.
A number of senators, including Godswill Akpabio, Shehu Sani and Dino Melaye, cut calls made bySUNDAY PUNCH to their mobile lines shortly after ringing.
Those who did not answer their calls include Andy Uba, Akume George, Sam Egwu, Biodun Olujimi, Ike Ekweremadu, Rabiu Kwankwaso and Adamu Aliero.
When the telephone numbers of Ajayi Boroffice, representing Ondo North and George Sekibo, representing Rivers East, were called, the responses received were “wrong number.”
When one of our correspondents called Boroffice on 08088811***, a voice answered, “Please, wrong number.”
In the case of the PDP senator from Rivers, Sekibo, a call earlier made to phone number 08033122*** was not picked. But, someone called our correspondent back with another line (08186651***) to say he saw a missed call on his MTN line. When asked if he was Sekibo, he said, “My name is Bello.”
Efforts by SUNDAY PUNCH to reach Senate President Bukola Saraki (08024544***), Buruji Kashamu (08160883***), Isiaka Adeleke (08033475***), and Babajide Omoworare (08023045***/08034737***) were unsuccessful as their phones were either switched off or not “available”.
The phone numbers allegedly belonging to Senator Joshua Dariye (08075872***, 08058728***) were said to be unallocated by Glo.
Also, all attempts to speak with Senator Remi Tinubu and Abdullahi Adamu (representing APC Nasarawa West) were unsuccessful as the two senators did not pick their calls. Text messages sent to them were not responded to.
Marafa, who replied the text message sent to his phone, said “Not at all! I have been with this number since the inception of GSM in Nigeria. It was on my billboards during my campaigns in both 2011and 2015. It is the number known to my friends, constituents, and business partners. So, to me, it is normal!”
Recall lawmakers who don’t represent you well – Bishops
The Diocesan Bishop, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Diocese of Egba, Ogun State, Rt. Reverend Emmanuel Adekunle, has advised the electorate to be courageous enough to recall any lawmaker in the National Assembly who does anything contrary to their wishes and aspirations.
He said this in Abeokuta at a media briefing on the 2016 diocesan synod of the church, which began on Friday with the theme, ‘The Beatitudes.’
Adekunle equally said events in the Senate in the past few weeks informed the need for Nigerians to be vigilant, as it appeared that some of the lawmakers were in the legislature for selfish interests and not to make life better for the people.
He said, “It is sad that many of our lawmakers in the National Assembly, most especially in the Senate, were there for selfish interests.
“The recent happenings in the Senate are shameful. I think Nigerians should be courageous enough to recall any of their representatives who are not representing them well, either in the Senate or in the House of Representatives.”
The bishop also condemned Nigerian public office holders for wanting to hold on to power at all cost, even when they were on trial for corruption.
He said, “It is only in Nigeria that public officials undergoing trial will clinch to their offices. In sane societies, once any public official is involved in a scam, and he or she is undergoing trial, he or she resigns and gives room for a fair trial. By clinching to their offices, they are using that to intimidate those agencies trying them.
“Again, on the move to amend the Acts establishing the Code of Conduct Bureau and (the Code of Conduct) Tribunal, I will describe their action as that of shameless people, trying to cover their tracks. They are not doing it to save only one person but to cover their own tracks as well. It is quite shameful.
“I think the constituencies where these lawmakers emerged from, should begin to think of how to recall them back home.”
Similarly, retired Bishop of Akure Anglican Diocese, Bishop Gbolanle Gbonigi, supported the idea of recalling lawmakers found guilty of corrupt practices.
He, however, stated that the process of recalling was difficult in Nigerian democratic system.
He said, “I support the idea of recalling corrupt lawmakers from the National Assembly wholeheartedly. But it is one thing to say that they should be recalled, it is another thing for it to be done.
“It is not only these people that are corrupt, but they also came out from all of us and very many politicians are corrupt in Nigeria. If you say they should be recalled, who will recall them? They bribed the people to get to the House, and they give part of the money they steal to some people in their constituencies. So, it is not as easy as one would think.”
Additional report by Samuel Awoyinfa and Peter Dada