BY JOHNSON MOMODU
It is of course globally accepted that the legislature is an essential arm of the presidential system of government. In fact, to many scholars, of all the arms of government in a democracy, the legislature is considered the most critical for effective governance. The reasons for this assumption may not be unconnected with the fact that of the three arms of government, the legislature is the most democratic in its process of decision making.
Yes, unlike the executive, a good legislature, not the Bukola Saraki-led type, always takes its stance after an exhaustive deliberative process by hearing the opinions of all interested members on the issue. Second, the legislature is also considered the most democratic of all the arms of government because each of its members represents one constituency in the country.
Agreed, as critical as the federal legislature or the National Assembly is to our democracy, especially in the area of lawmaking and over sighting, for such an institution to be useful to the people in day-to-day governance and long-term national development, it must develop the capacity for carrying out its constitutional assignments. Unfortunately, because of our chequered experience with democracy – no thanks to the military – our country, as much as we cherish democratic rule, has not really developed its legislative institution.
If you recall, of all the arms of government, the legislature is always the first casualty of every military intervention in the nation’s political life. Whereas the executive subsisted and the judiciary was tolerated in military regimes, there was not even a disdainful consideration for the legislature. The consequence is that we have less and less of a political class imbued with the nuances of legislative behavior. While we have developed politicians who can bark out instructions, we have less of those with contemplative dispositions required for lawmaking!
To bring the facts home, from 1999 till date, David Mark, is the only senator who can boast of 19 years of cumulative legislative experience. This fact runs clearly against the intendments of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), which did not impose term limitations on the legislature. The framers of the Constitution understood that the nature of lawmaking is so tedious and painstaking and requires experience, maturity, higher intelligence quotient, clarity of thought, fair-mindedness and of course trustworthiness.
While it is difficult for one individual to come completely imbued with this skill-set, it is, however, possible to acquire them over time, by experience, capacity building, showing passion for the job and of course by encouragement. Sadly, the primordial nature of our politics, the unfortunate influence of godfathers and godmothers, non-ideological nature of our politics and, of course, partisan miscalculations have combined to cause high turnover of our lawmakers every four years – after the general election.
You may wish to ask: where is Senator Victor Ndoma Egba (SAN), that highly-gifted and intellectual lawmaker who marshaled his points on the floor of the Senate with such a passionate fervour to the admiration of friends and foes? Well, he has reportedly been cleared to contest for the senate seat again on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Where is Senator Bassey Ewa-Henshaw, whose strict and meticulous oversight eyes the ministries and government agencies dreaded?
Besides, where is Senator Ayo Arise with all his knowledge and eloquence? Where is Professor Oserheimen Osunbor, the great teacher in the Senate? Where is Joy Emordi, “the joy of the Senate”, according to Senator David Mark? What of the penetrating voice of Chris Anyanwu and her concise presentations on national issues? Where is Senator Abdul Ningi today? What about the flamboyant Patrick Obiahagbon, who made a lot of sense in spite of his obsessions with grandiloquence? Again, he too has been reportedly cleared to contest the senate seat this time round on the APC platform.
On the contrary, in United States, Senator Robert C. Byrd served for 51 years, 5 months and 26 days from January 3, 1959 to June 28, 2010; Senator Daniel K. Inouye was in the American Senate for 49 years, 11 months and 15 days from January 3, 1963 to December 17, 2012; Senator Strom Thurmond was a senator for 47 years, 5 months and 8 days; while Senator Edward Kennedy was in the Senate for 46 years, 9 months and 19 days, from November 7, 1962, to August 25, 2009, just to mention a few. Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah (January 3, 1977 to present) is the longest serving senator still in office.
So, when you are glued to your television sets with mouths open marveling at the competency exhibited by American lawmakers in their congressional hearings, remember that was not achieved overnight by one simple flight. It took years of learning and experience to hone those admirable capabilities. And that is what Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the national chairman of the APC wants to replicate in the National Assembly.
Oshiomhole is on a patriotic journey to bequeath to Nigerians a legislature that is worth its name both in competency and love for country. He dreams of a legislature that will truly represent the wishes and aspirations of the Nigerian people by weeding out all manner of stragglers and mercenaries masquerading as lawmakers while building an institutional memory by retaining the lot who have demonstrated high capacity, competency, patriotism, a great passion for lawmaking and oversight functions and, also, importantly, loyalty to the party.
In the real sense of the word, Oshiomhole is not giving out automatic ticket to anybody. He is simply encouraging the APC and the National Assembly to retain their best for the greater good of the country. Therefore, when APC gives senatorial tickets to the like of Senators Robert Boroffice, Tayo Alasoadura and Yele Omogunwa from Ondo State, and Senator Shehu Sani representing Kaduna Central, the party is not waging any war against anybody at all. It is all in the national interest, which is even greater than but almost always consistent with the party interests.
If truth be told, Shehu Sani, for instance, represents an oasis of hope in this 8th Senate that is hated and derided, as it is, by the Nigerian people. He has at all times stood with the Nigerian people, no matter the issue of debate on the floor of the Parliament. He has, through his exposé, given a hint of the obscenities going on in the Senate in the name of “allowances for senators.” He, together with the other senators mentioned here, has remained loyal to their party APC in spite of the provocations of their state governments. And above all, they have stood firm in defending President Buhari’s interests in a very treacherous senate.
It is important that some state governors like Nasir el-Rufai and Rotimi Akeredolu understand that it is in the national interest to build a patriotic, strong and virile legislative institution for our democracy. And so they must put aside personal battles and vendetta for the good of all. Oshiomhole and his National Working Committee (NWC), are not out to undermine the authorities of the emperor-governors, after all, he was once in the saddle as Edo state governor for all of eight years.
In all of this development, the disposition should be that nobody has been deliberately victimised, let alone a governor. It should be understood that Oshiomhole is only looking out for the interest of the APC, the federal government and the country. His action will eventually be salutary to keeping the number of the Senate APC caucus that he seeks to accomplish his remove-Bukola Saraki-as-senate president campaign.
- Momodu wrote from Kaduna via firstname.lastname@example.org