This crisis-prone National Assembly!
In the last three odd weeks the National Assembly, the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Presidency have been locked in a battle of political attrition over what most Nigerians consider to be non-issues. The peak of this inanity was the invasion of the National Assembly on August 7 by hooded men from the Department of State Services (DSS). The treasonous action ostensibly orchestrated by the hierarchy of the ruling party was roundly condemned by the Presidency. Although it cost the Director-General of that increasingly notorious agency, which carried out the illegal operation his job, the reverberation of that action is still being felt across the land.
The APC, led by its rather garrulous Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, is on the warpath. He has issued threats of impeachment to the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara. His actions are reminiscent of his days as Labour helmsman under the aegis of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). Internal matters of the APC have become front-page news, thanks to the curious political activism of the governing party’s new chairman who has no respect for Nigeria’s federal legislature as an arm of government.
There is gradual descent into anarchy. Nobody can with any certainty say at this time which party controls the National Assembly. The APC has not only called on Saraki to step down as Senate president, it has also boasted that his impeachment is a matter of urgent national importance. Saraki has firmly rejected the call. But as this political war is taking its toll on normal governance, Nigerians are worried that the fierce struggle in Abuja is not over the welfare of citizens. It is an arrogant and insulting display of the lust for power by a few men who are less than five per cent of the population. This is another face of disservice to the nation!
In a sense, hostilities began from when the APC could not have its way over who emerged as leaders of the National Assembly in 2015. Against the machinations of the party, two legislators in the persons of Saraki and Dogara emerged as President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively. It was then regarded as a slap in the face of the powerful forces within the party and indeed the presidency. Sadly, for three years, the hierarchy of the party and the presidency could not reconcile the warring parties in this battle for control of levers of power at that significant arm of government. That too is another systemic failure that has cost the nation some benefits including good representation from the National Assembly.
What is worse, appropriation bills have never been passed in good time – since 2016. Besides, there have been too many unscreened presidential nominees for key national offices, pending at the Senate whose leadership has been facing curious prosecutions for corruption charges. There is no question about it: the governing party sabotaged itself a great deal.
Which was why observers got the impression that political vendetta controlled most actions of the ruling party. The result is that less than six months to the 2019 general elections, the APC appears to be tottering. There has been a rash of defections led by legislators and two sitting governors from the ruling party. It would seem that the APC is imploding from the inherent contradictions that produced the alignment of forces, which drove out the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 elections. This is a tragedy the nation cannot afford at this time.
Don’t get it twisted: The people of this country who are in the majority are not interested in who leads the National Assembly. All they ask for is good governance. They simply want to get on with their lives in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. They are patiently waiting for the general elections of 2019 where they will cast their ballot and determine the leadership of the country from next year.
It is for this reason that we call on the National Assembly to reconvene as a matter of urgency to consider the INEC elections budget. Although we are at a loss over the late submission of the INEC budget, the National Assembly is duty-bound to perform its constitutional duty to the Nigerian people. The ad-hoc arrangement through various committees is not enough. The elections budget is too important to be left to committees alone. It is indeed a sign of shoddiness and gross irresponsibility that budgetary provisions for the 2019 elections were not captured in the 2018 Appropriation Bill. Considering that fact that INEC is mandated constitutionally to conduct elections once every four years, why the sloppy arrangement that is making budgetary provisions like an after-thought? In the President’s belated letter to the National Assembly, where will the ‘virements’ being requested come from? Whose budgetary items should be vired for elections and why?
In all of this, the President who has given the unfortunate image of aloofness should not raise up his hand as an innocent bystander. At the height of the friction in the National Assembly, he conveniently travelled out of the country on vacation for 16 days. He has not been in control of the party even though he is its presumed leader. The internal affairs of the APC should neither by design nor default be allowed to impact negatively on the polity. The events in the First Republic from 1962 and the experiences of the Action Group (AG) are still fresh in our national history. For those who do not know, the internal conflicts within the AG ultimately snowballed into a national conflagration. By the time we came to ourselves, we were already at war. The citizens of this country are far more important than the ruling elite. This they must remember.
Therefore, our politicians in Abuja should put their acts together. Enough of the absurd drama that has characterised this administration. The National Assembly should convene immediately, debate and pass the virement bill for the 2019 elections. Nigerians expect a better deal from the government. Crossing from one party to another is not the solution to our problems. We expect the political class to find lasting solutions to the fundamental problems, notably insecurity, dilapidated critical infrastructure, substandard education, inequality, unemployment, energy crisis, etc that the country is facing at the moment.
Finally, the public is disenchanted with the political class. There is hardly any redeeming feature in their engagement with the polity. The average Nigerian now sees politicians as a bunch of indulgent fat cats feeding on the national patrimony without anything to show for taxpayers’ funds they daily waste on only themselves. Enough should be enough, please!
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