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Constitutional provisions: Nigeria president and the congress – Part 2

By Okunrinboye Olu
17 October 2017   |   3:30 am
History recalls that a former slave, Abraham Lincoln, became the 16th president of the United States of America.

Nigerian Senate.

History recalls that a former slave, Abraham Lincoln, became the 16th president of the United States of America. He was hitherto an unknown name and also regarded as the wrong man for the job on his party nomination list but he easily defeated his political rivals. He brought them into his political family and benefitted from their expansive experience. His cabinet consisted of people who were better known, highly educated and more experienced than him. His first duty was to reduce the apparent suffering of Americans and as well provided economic discipline for them. With the co-operation of the Congress particularly, the Senate, he was able to provide wealth for the citizens, prevented poverty and returned the nation to the path of economic recovery, financial prosperity and social sustainability; with equitable distribution of wealth to all American citizens.

Based on the above, president Buhari and the Nigerian Senate must co-operate to achieve the Nigerian economic recovery. They must admit that today, high level of inflation has become an economic aberration and is responsible for Nigerians’ losing of faith in the government. This has been evidenced through on-going strikes by various labour unions, sustained call for national restructuring, perpetual scourge of religious extremism and the desperate call for secession by some groups deemed to have been marginalised. Even, the class of educated professionals and elites are worried that they can no longer provide for their nuclear and extended families, train their children in choice schools, look after their aged parents, guarantee safety and security of their lives and properties, pay for good medical facilities and other social services that used to be within their grasps. The president and the Senate must live together in peace and work in harmony to fight and reduce the scourge of inflation down to a manageable level that can galvanise the Nigerian economic growth. Inflation was termed by President Ronald Reagan as ‘Our One Enemy’ and must be brought to its knees before the Nigerian economy can make appreciable progress. This arduous task is that of the president and Congress to lead through the right actions and motivation while other Nigerians emulate their stance.

It will be recalled that in 2014, Lamido Sanusi, the then governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) declared that ‘oil theft became the major flourishing industry in Nigeria and carried out with the connivance of ministers, government officials, the military, the Navy and the Police.’ This report was contained in page 670 of the Fortunes of Africa by Martin Meredita, the author of the Fate of Africa. The then governor of CBN immediately lost his job and Nigerians kept a straight face and their cool because many people enjoyed the fall-out from oil theft. We now read of huge lootings perpetrated in NNPC at the expense of all Nigerians. The present Nigerian economic downturn deserves a collective approach from the president and the Senate in order to identify a lasting solution in timely manner. Ironically, the political differences at the highest level of Nigerian leadership have not helped the matter. Rather, the ‘drum-beats’ of political marauders and sardonic groups have orchestrated diverse rancor, fuelled the divisibility tendency and threatened the national peace and prosperity. Among these debilitating and inconsequential voices are those of Boko Haram, MASSOB, Niger Delta Avengers, etc. These side attractions have fanned the ember of Nigerian disunity and taken the president and the Senate’s aback in their focus for proffering reasonable solutions to our economic challenges.

The time has not come in the anal of Nigerian history that the president and the Senate buried their political differences for building a virile development caucus that can eliminate the nagging Nigerian economic challenges. The political brotherhood stance for salvaging the nation from the precipice of economic quagmire must be fostered forthwith. There must be a forceful unification of principal political leaders at all levels for identifying long lasting solutions to our national problems. A peaceful and united Nigeria is not identifying long lasting solutions to our national problems. A peaceful and united Nigeria is not only the interest of our political leaders but also the enabling grounds for the growth of all citizens. This will be a historical credit and laurels to the sleeves of the president, the senate and members of Lower House if they achieve the above postulated ideals during their tenure that is already fast diminishing. They must remember that what is presently sustaining the Nigerian political system is that people have bottled up their emotions, and silently ‘shopping’ for an alternative that will enhance that will enhance economic growth and good governance.

President Lyndon Johnson of USA was a very successful master of the Senate who said, ‘‘The president can and with the advice of consent of the Senate, collaborate at all stages” while Madison said, “the use of the Senate is to consult in its proceedings with more coolness, more systems and more wisdom than the popular branch.” He went further to say that the Senate should be “An anchor against popular fluctuations.” Thomas Jefferson once asked President George Washington why he agreed to a two- house Congress. Washington replied, “To cool it”. It should be seen that the Fourth Republic of Nigeria (1979) constitution was on the same pattern of the United States of America and there were reasons adduced before its adoption. Such intended constitutional changes today in our nation will be an arduous task. The Senate must be firm and independent as the president cannot be effective in a divided house and must constantly avoid deadlocks or gridlocks. The life of an average Congressman is often painstaking and hopefully, to yield widespread personal benefits and make life easier for millions of Nigerians. Are our congressmen achieving this lofty goal in the present political dispensation? Have they buried their egos and political acrimonies to work co-operatively with the president? The above reasonable questions are begging for on-the-spot answers from our political leaders – a real food for thought.

The Nigerian constitution provides the Congress with the duty to debate and approve all legislations and this is a powerful check on the president. Since the Congress is empowered as the check and balance, proposed bills must be finally ratified by both Houses before they are signed into laws by the president. Therefore, for the president’s duty to pass smoothly, he must have confidence in the Congress and also achieve its support. The president has the obligations to be friendly and work harmoniously with the Congress at all times and particularly, when he needed a vote in support of his actions. It is usual for the president to invite the Senate president and Speaker of the House of Representatives to his office so as to explain pertinent issues to galvanize their supports in passing important laws and actions. There was a time when President Lyndon Johnson of USA made all efforts to provide electricity to a particular state of interest which needed energy to service its growing industry. It was necessary for the president to bend the Congress to his will of achieving this goal and he did just that.

The president must be in a position to transform the entire socio-political and economic institutions positively during his tenure. He must be the master of the ensuing political games intelligently played on the roving chessboard. The Senate must, in turn, ensure that there is a social change that can ease the burden of the people for the employment of democratic dividends.

Conclusively, there must be full co-operation between the president and the Congress as this is most desirable or appropriate for national growth. However, we must expect occasional discordant political tunes in their relationships because the president and members of the Congress are strange political ‘bed-fellows’ that must co-exist in identifying the way forward for the nation. Arguments and counter-arguments, blames and counter- blames may arise but they must not take the steam off the desire to achieve meaningful national growth. Again, such occasional diversities in ideas and approaches are necessary to maintain political balances in the nation and must not be disparaged by political jobbers from either side. In some cases, alternative opinions may align hardliners among political leaders and prevent them from taking unreasonable actions that can undermine the peace and prosperity of the nation. The Congress must not be seen as mere ‘rubber- stamp’ institutions that acts as the stogie of the president. Also, it must not be an autocratic rule. Optimum co-operation between the president and the Congress is desirable for development finesse in Nigeria while minimal ‘development- conflicts’ to reshape draconian leadership actions can also be tolerated. At all times, the common good of citizens must be pursued by our political leaders, whether or not they are towing similar lines of political thoughts and actions.