A mild drama ensued on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday, between Senators Aishatu Binani Ahmed (APC Adamawa Central) and Seriake Dickson (PDP Bayelsa West), over the formers passing comment on the small size and population of Bayelsa State.
Senator Aishatu Ahmed had in her lead presentation on a bill she was sponsoring on the need for the establishment of a Federal Medical Centre, Mubi, Adamawa State deviated by alleging that the population in need of the facility in Mubi, is more than that of some states like Bayelsa.
According to her, the town with a total landmass of 506.4 square kilometres and a population of 759,045, is neighbouring nine local government areas.
“This, together with the population of Mubi North, makes it 2,089,540 people, (very much higher than Bayelsa State’s eight Local Government Areas, with a population of 1,704,515).
“Nonetheless, this historic town has suffered from government neglect, in terms of federal presence, especially in the area of tertiary healthcare delivery”.
Angered by the submissions, Senator Dickson, quickly raised his hand which the President of the Senate mistook for intension to contribute to the debate by obliging him.
On having the floor, Dickson wasted no time in reacting directly to the alleged smallness of Bayelsa State in population and size, by slamming Senator Binani and other past commentators, declaring that the figures presented, are not verifiable, making such remarks, annoying and provocative. He angrily argued that the size of Bayelsa — the physical landmass and the water bodies — is three times bigger than some states in the country. Binani, he thundered, could make her case without reference to Bayelsa.
“In my Senatorial district, it will take me four days to go round. In my local government, Sagbama, it will take me three days to go round.
“I just felt I should rise to enlighten the sponsor of this bill and by so doing the rest of the country.
“When people talk about population, they should be careful, because if you go deep and ask, who conducted the census, who verified, what and what is counted, who are the residents and how justifiable,” he asked.
In dousing the tension, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, quickly interjected by cautioning Dickson against inputting improper motives to the debate.
“I have to guide this contribution, because you have made your point and, given our standing orders, we shouldn’t impute improper motives on the submission by our colleagues.
“The discussion is not on the population of Bayelsa or population census conducted before, we should rather concentrate on the main focus, which is on the establishment of the Federal Medical Centre.
“I agree that there are many questions people will like to raise, but I think the essence of this debate is to focus on the general principles and the merits of the bill,” he said.
But Dickson reiterated his point that debates and the submissions in this hallowed chamber must be based on justifiable and verifiable facts, arguing that Binani referred to population figures which were not verifiable.
“I only rose to enlighten, without prejudice to the merits or demerits of the bill, that the premise that she has put forward as a reason, or one of the reasons why this bill should be considered is faulty.
“That should be expunged, it should not form part of it. That is not factual, it is incorrect,” Dickson fired back.
Again, Lawan cautioned Dickson against reducing the debate to reactions and comments.
“I’m sure that is the way you rounded up and let me also say that when you have an opportunity like this, what you do is, if you feel and convince that there is an erroneous presentation, you simply bring out the fact, that this is wrong and this is correct.
“We don’t have to come down and reduce the debate to reaction. You were in the House of Representatives before you became a governor. I’m very sure you are very conversant with our processes here. We don’t input improper motives to debates or contributions or interventions by our colleagues,” Lawan pleaded.
The bill was however passed for second reading, after the rancorous debate.