The senate has scolded Prof Pat Utomi for accusing the senate president, Mr Godswill Akpabio of sarcastically laughing at the poor during the ‘Let the poor breathe’ motion at the plenary last Tuesday (July 25).
Recall that the senate president had last Tuesday July 25 while urging the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and the electricity distribution companies to stop their proposed electricity tariff increment moved a sarcastic motion that the poor should be allowed to breathe.
The manner in which the senators adopted the motion and burst into laughter, was viewed as insensitive to Nigerians.
The next day, a video went viral on social media, the content of which Nigerians translated as mocking the poor using the “let the poor breathe” slang.
“Let the poor breathe” is a line from one of President Bola Tinubu’s June 12 speech which cut up on social media and went viral.
The senate president, was heard chuckling with other senators in the video that after he said, “Let the poor breathe,” before slamming the gavel on the table.
The joke attracted several reactions online, many of the reactions condemning the joke as being in bad taste.
One of those who commented was Utomi who noted that he was traumatised that the lawmakers were mocking the poor.
“I am traumatised by this mocking of the poor by our Senate. In a decent society, we should have had resignations by now.
“To mock the poor is to mock God. I know where Godswill Akpabio was before Obong Victor Attah gave a hand. Better an honest poor than a rich thief politician,” Utomi wrote.
Reacting, spokesman for the senate, Mr Yemi Adaramodu, described the interpretation by Utomi as misplaced and deliberately slanted to paint the lawmakers in bad light in the eyes of Nigerians.
He said in a statement yesterday that the lawmakers were alarmed at the ‘insidious misinterpretation enunciated by some political surrealists, who always leave the causes of their troubles to look for unnecessary scapegoats.”
He said the personal tirades and character assaults hauled at the senate president by Pat Utomi, are misdirected and uncalled for.
The senate spokesman wrote further: “Insinuating that the president of the senate, His Excellency, Godswill Akpabio, was mocking the Nigerian masses with the phrase ‘Let the poor breathe’, is dressing falsehood and mischief in an undesirable garment.
“The senate is an assembly of distinguished men and women, who are sent by the Nigerian public to the hallowed chamber to represent their interests. The public-interest motion to halt an increase in the electricity tariff for Nigerians is one of such instances that test the senatorial responsiveness of distinguished members of the 10th senate.
” With the fire of the fuel subsidy removal still smouldering, the senate opined that any increase in electricity tariff would be suffocating and that whoever is desirous in doing so should allow the poor; all Nigerians to breathe.
“The senate president compassionately, hit the gavel with a stoic warning that any such attempts would be obnoxious, ludicrous and could only seize oxygen from the reach of the masses.
“Despite this open display of patriotism and sensitivity, some political irredentists and turncoats feel they could turn the omnipotent actuality on its head to gain their lost momentum.
“The senate didn’t and would not mock the masses, without who, there would be no Nigerian senate. Who, digging into an extreme partisanship to impugn on the image of the senate and particularly the personality of the senate president, is quite unfortunate and an exhibition of political superficialism, irreverent and opprobrious outburst.
“We believe that whoever is in the court to pursue a self-awarded electoral victory should not labour to assume that running expletives on the Senate and its leadership is the needed elixir to infuse legal blood into the dry veins of their case.
“The 10th Senate, under the leadership of Senate President Godswill Akpabio, has passed many life support resolutions in its short span, including the misinterpreted Senate’s No to Increase in Electricity Tariff.
“We thus advise political rolling stones and pretenders not to play politics with the lives of Nigerians and allow the National Assembly to join hands with other arms of government to pull out Nigeria from economic morass and make life more abundant for us all.”
Earlier, the senate president was hard put to convince Nigerians that he did not make a mockery of the motion.
He said in a release by his media office that it was unintentional to insult the people, adding he was aware of the hardship resulting from the high cost of living.
Akpabio explained that the motive behind the “let the poor breathe” “was to firmly reject any plan of increasing electricity tariffs for Nigerians, considering the ongoing economic challenges that Nigerians are faced with.
“We are deeply concerned about the negative tilting of a very harmless statement by President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, about his deep concern and that of the Senate on the plight of the ordinary Nigerians as a result of the prevailing economic situation in the country.
“The statement ‘Let The People Breathe’ made during the plenary…was made by Senator Akintunde Abiodun while speaking on the motion to halt the planned electricity tariff hike.
“We want to assure the general public that all matters discussed during Senate sessions are of utmost importance and are treated with great seriousness by the President of the Senate and his Distinguished colleagues.
“It is crucial to clarify that the intentions of the mover of the motion and the comments of the President of the Senate were never to make light of the hardships, suffering and economic challenges faced by Nigerians at this critical juncture.
“The purpose of the proposal was to firmly reject any plan of increasing electricity tariffs for Nigerians, considering the ongoing economic challenges that Nigerians are faced with.
“The primary focus of the current national assembly under the chairmanship of Senator Akpabio is on the implementation of effective and well-structured policies that truly benefit the people. He has repeatedly assured Nigerians that the current Senate will work for all Nigerians.
“The President of the Senate deeply empathises with Nigerians and has never considered the current economic crisis in the country as a matter of jest.
“His unwavering commitment lies in serving the best interests of the Nigerian people with the release of the ministerial list and the subsequent screening and swearing-in of the ministers, we have high hopes that the newly appointed officials will promptly address the challenges and bring the much needed relief and succour to all citizens thereby, easing the current hardship and pains experienced by Nigerians,” the statement said.