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One year of ‘tortuous wait for change’

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor (Lagos) Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi (Jos) and Oluwaseun Akingboye (Akure)
12 June 2016   |   2:26 am
No doubt, if there’s one thing that has gone well in the 8th National Assembly, it is the ability of the legislature to resist external pressure and intimidation...


No doubt, if there’s one thing that has gone well in the 8th National Assembly, it is the ability of the legislature to resist external pressure and intimidation; the second arm of government is still independent of the ‘chicanery of barbarity’ of the executive, especially, as witnessed in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) previously dominated National Assembly.

The emergence of Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki as president of the 8th Senate and Hon Yakubu Dogara as speaker of the House of Representatives, contrary to the wishes of the leadership of the party, appears to have taken the country forward.

Prior to its inauguration on June 9, 2015, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) leaders and governors met to douse the crisis caused by the struggle for top leadership positions in the new Assembly, but could not. Rather, the effort ended up widening the cracks in the party’s ranks, as stakeholders were said to have insisted on having the topmost positions in their zones.

The Senate, under the leadership of the late Senator Evan Enwerem (Imo State), who doubled as the president of the Senate and Chairman of the National Assembly, did not enjoy relative peace, and also leadership stability.

Senator Enwerem, who was alleged to have been imposed on the senate by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, contrary to popular choice in the same Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), suffered for making the senate an extension of the executive arm.

The leadership of the late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo (Anambra State) was also short-lived, because of the unhealthy relationship between the two arms of government. The senate also witnessed leadership succession of three senate presidents within eight years of the Obasanjo administration. These were, Anyim Pius Anyim, Adolphus Wabara and Ken Nnamani all from the Southeast geopolitical zone. Many adjudged this scenario as unhealthy for the National Assembly and a growing democracy such as Nigeria.

In the House of Representatives, the first Speaker, Hon Salisu Buhari, was impeached on account of certificate forgery, paving way for the emergence of Hon. Gali N’Abbah – within six months of Buhari’s reign as Speaker.

Many, sadly, note that months into the Saraki-led administration, the senate was not able to settle down to face legislative business. It was only the screening and confirmation of ministerial nominees by the Senate and the passage of 2016 Appropriation bill (budget) that gave verve to activities of the National Assembly.

Apart from the aforementioned, the 8th National Assembly has not measured up to the expectations of the electorates. Many had believed that with the emergence of an APC government and the reality of Nigeria’s economic challenges, including declining oil revenues and endemic institutional corruption, an institution as the National Assembly, whose transparency has recently been an issue of rigorous debate on social media, would work in harmony, but reverse has been the case.

According to a commentator on national issues, Mr. Momodu Julius, the APC dominated NASS is made up of political green horns, “so we should expect what we are seeing.”

A chieftain of the PDP in Plateau State, Chief Emmanuel Mangni, said the difference between the two parties is quite clear, as PDP, during its time, dominated the NASS and took charge of its affairs, because of maturity, while APC is disorganised and without cohesion.

Mangni said PDP is more experienced, while APC is only trying to learn the rope of legislation and lawmaking. “There is a problem as to who becomes what in choosing principal officers. Because of the experience that PDP had, its tenure in the NASS for the 16 years that it reigned, witnessed peace and understanding. There was peace throughout because there was cohesion.”

However, an APC stalwart in the state, Mr. Audu Onoko, differs, as he does not believe that there is no unity in the NASS dominated by APC. Onoko said that the issues are just challenges as is always the case in a good democratic setting. “In fact, APC’s domination of NASS is a typical example of democracy in action. The executive does not have hand in the election of principal officers of the NASS, both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

“This is unlike what obtained during the tenure of PDP where the NASS was at the whims and caprices of the executive. But now, the executive arm of government allowed the legislators free hands to choose their own principal officers without any executive interference.

Oluwole Ariba, an APC party chieftain from Okitipupa in Ondo State expressed disappointment at the leadership style and the ‘sit-tight’ tendency of politicians in the country, as they have proved undeserving of public offices, alluding to the manner of emergence of the Senate President, contrary to party principles.

“How do you expect a house built with dew to stand,” he said, urging Nigerians to learn from the Iceland experience and the South Korean Prime Minister, Lee Wan Koo, who has contemplated resignation over bribery allegations that have not yet been established.

Dappa Maharajah, the President of Movement for the Survival of the Underprivileged (MOSUP) said, “our Senate, with all form of immodesty and without prejudice to the National Assembly, is a house of comical actors.”

A report released recently by a non-governmental organisation, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), stated that 51 per cent of Nigeria’s current crop of senators has been passive representatives and benchwarmers for the past twelve months.

The report focused on bill charts in the upper legislative chamber, revealing that 53 out of the 103 members of the 8th Senate spent the past one-year without sponsoring a bill of their own.