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National burden for lawmakers

By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa
29 August 2022   |   4:33 am
Time is running out, and it is running fast. Unless something is done urgently, the 9th National Assembly may fail the nation in the discharge of their most important legislative assignment for Nigeria...

National Assembly. Photo/facebook/TopeBrown/NigerianSenate

Time is running out, and it is running fast. Unless something is done urgently, the 9th National Assembly may fail the nation in the discharge of their most important legislative assignment for Nigeria, in the amendment of the Constitution. So much money has been spent on this project, so much time has gone into it and so much human resources have been amassed such that it would be a great disservice to our dear country should these efforts go down the drain. The National Assembly owes us the duty to perform in this regard and not to dash our hopes for a new Nigeria even before the 2023 elections, in the same way that was done with the new Electoral Act, 2022.

It should be part of the low hanging fruits that the National Assembly can give us whilst we work towards achieving the ultimate goal of restructuring. We cannot but commend the legislators for their courage and determination towards achieving a smooth, efficient electoral process, which we witnessed with the Ekiti and Osun States Governorship elections. They should do the same with the amendment of the Constitution and write their names in gold. But if the things that we now hear and see are anything to go by, this may just be a dream. Let me share with you the present mindset of the National Assembly as encapsulated in one of the statements credited to one of their leaders.
“The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has rued the delegate system used in conducting political parties’ primary elections to elect candidates to fly the flag of their respective parties. Mr Gbajabiamila said this at the resumption of plenary on Tuesday in Abuja. He said that it was rather unfortunate that the process went the way it went, adding that “I make bold to say here that the legislature has once again suffered losses.” According to him, the loss really is not for members who lost, but a loss to democracy, to the institution and to the country. “If it means anything, I know and I am aware that many of our members did not lose their primaries because they were rejected by their constituents. “Many of our members lost because of the process, the process which we foresaw in the House of Representatives. The delegate system which unfortunately is not what a delegate system is supposed to be,” he said.

Mr Gbajabiamila said that the past two months had been dominated by political pursuits across the country as political parties carried out various activities to nominate their candidates for the forthcoming general elections. He added that some members who sought the nomination of their parties to return to legislature had not gotten it, while others who sought nomination to contest other positions had also fallen short in that quest. He said that many members lost because they were not given a fair shot, adding that the House of Representatives had good legislators.

He added that the legislators abound both in the chambers and back home, who would not be coming back because of the delegate system. “When we fought for direct primaries in this house, we knew exactly what we were saying. It pains me very deeply that the process has gone the way it has gone. “We will continue to push and continue to fight for our members, for democracy, for the institution and this country. “I have experienced political loss and I can speak to the feelings of loss and disappointment that arise as a result,” he said.”
Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as Amended), sections 4 (1) & (2):
(1) “The legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be vested in a National Assembly for the Federation which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.
(2) The National Assembly shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation or any part thereof with respect to any matter included in the Exclusive Legislative List set out in Part 1 of the Second Schedule to this Constitution.”

Deliberately and without mincing words, the framers of the Constitution established the Legislature as the First Arm of government, because law is needed to define all other aspects of human existence. It is thus expected that through its additional powers of approval and oversight functions, the legislature will work to curb the excesses of the executive arm of government, especially in situations where retired military men have hijacked the democratic process, having in their prime usurped power through the ignoble strategy of coup d’etat.

In the build up to the 2015 general elections, it was a matter of time upon the declaration of APC as the winner of the election, for Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila and Senator Ahmad Lawan, to mount the saddle as the 9th Speaker of the House of Representatives and Senate President respectively. In fact, there was already jubilation in their camp, until the day of inauguration of the National Assembly on 9th of June, 2015. In what was a clear political masterstroke, the Bukola Saraki group played a fast one and snatched power from the anointed ones. But it turned out to be one of the best National Assemblies ever, at least in taming the monstrous executive arm.
To be continued tomorrow
Adegboruwa is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).