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8th Senate: Bogged down by Catch-22?



8th Senate: Bogged down by Catch-22?

The principles of a free constitution are irrecoverably lost, when the legislative power is nominated by the executive. – Edward Gibbon




The confidential report sent to the Senate on the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, by the Department of State Services (DSS), concluded that the EFCC boss has failed the integrity test and is therefore most likely to be a liability to the commission in carrying out the anticorruption fight of this administration.

As unlikely as the report might be, it provided enough justification for the Senate to reject him even if his performance had been above average at the floor of the upper chamber more so that DSS is of the same Presidency that brought Magu.

But I would want us to imagine if the same DSS were to write a confidential report on the 8th Senate, it’s most likely that such report is going to say that the 8th Senate as constituted in the last 22 months cannot scale even the most charitable integrity test and indeed may have been a liability and a drawback to the change programmes of President Muhammadu Buhari. And such report would not be challenged or scrutinized by Nigerians as is the case with report on Magu.

Rather, most political watchers would almost agree with such report. Why because most Nigerians feel that the 8th Senate is not on the same page with the President on his anti-corruption battle.

This perspective that is strong among a cross section of Nigerians has however been carried too far by those in executive who are now blatantly deflating the authority of the Senate. Even as one is not in agreement with the embattled enfante terrible of this 8th Senate, Senator Dino Meleye who said a fortnight ago while moving a motion for the invitation of the Customs Comptroller-General, Col. Hammeed Ali (rtd), that this Senate is the most vibrant in Nigeria history, its underwhelming performance neither match that assertion nor does it warrant the flagrant disregard of the authority of the nation’s Senate.

What is at stake is the country’s parliament and the executive arm ought to know that the parliament is the engine of every democracy. The Senate’s Tuesday tough stance on the executive over the obvious undermining of its authority is an action long expected. Despite President Buhari’s statement early in his administration that he would not like to intervene in the affairs of the parliament, evidence on ground shows a reverse.

This Senate and its leadership have been grossly embattled by the actions and inactions of the President. A development that has made this Senate the most integrity challenged of all the previous seven Senates in the country. Even as Nigerians are aware of certain political undertones that engrossed this Senate from outset, they are worried that it has been unable to shed it off apparently because of its own internal contradictions. Regrettably, available news cuttings in various media libraries show that this Senate has been more in the news for negative purposes than it has been positively.

Their activities in the last 22 months have been bedevilled by issues far removed from their  primary functions of law-making and acting as a watchdog to the executive arm of government. Why not when at some point, all the leadership of this Senate from Senate President, Deputy Senate President and leader of the Senate were in court facing one charge or the other.

While the President and his deputy were facing the contrived document forgery case cooked up by the executive in addition to the President’s code of conduct matter, the Senate leader until recently, Senator Ali Ndume is still in court as a suspected Boko Haram sponsor.

Just early this week, the Senate President is again enmeshed in yet another scandal over Paris Club refund fund which could be Magu’s own way of getting back at the Senate boss, but Nigerians are not ignorance of the age long country saying that there is no smoke without fire.

Just as Senator Meleye’s certificate story that started like a fiction and has thrown up many other issues that even the embattled Kogi Senator may have forgotten that surround him even with clearance from the ABU Vice Chancellor. The garrulous Senator’s profuse celebration of his clearance has left many watchers wondering if he was expecting otherwise if he actually graduated from the university.

This Senate has been so battered in such a way that any attempt to search on the Internet for the name of the Senate President or the 8th Senate, what you would get on images would be the Senate President in the dock. Other pictures of the 8th Senate would show a cross section of the distinguished Senators crowding the court room with flowing agbada in show of solidarity to their beleaguered President.

The corollary to all these distractions is that for almost two years into the regime, this Senate has not been able to come up with any concrete legislative work to help a nation in recession aside the appropriation bills.

Even the two budgets submitted to it by the executive, has not come out of the Senate without an attendant controversy over padding. Not being oblivious of the circumstance that brought this Senate, the crisis over its leadership from day one, June 9, 2015, an action ostensibly engineered by an obviously incoherent, confused and unforgiving political platform, but observers had thought that the Senate deriving from its envious enormous powers as guaranteed by the constitution would have overcome these disruptions after nearly two years.

The truth that cannot be overlooked in this instance however, is the fact that this Senate is bogged down by its own contradictions. It’s a victim of its own imperfection. Each time they try to play their statutory watchdog role on the executive, they are mischievously reminded that they are throwing stones from a glass house, an unwise act to do. Fact is that this Senate is neck deep in a paradoxical situation from which they cannot escape because of their contradictory characters, a similar situation Joseph Heller called in his novel 1961, Catch-22.

They appear to have boxed themselves into a difficult circumstance for which there is no escape route because of the conflicting conditions. It goes to say a lot about our system of picking leaders, the extent of scrutinizing before giving responsibility. Our background check system is faulty and this is traceable to our vanishing value system that makes us all glorify material things at the expense of integrity and reputation.

It is a clear statement of fact that this }14 Mike A. Wilkie Hameed Ali and his arrogance Senate is integrity challenged and are already holed into a corner where it hardly can bite. The implication is that the 8th Senate is not only weakened but that it’s losing in all spheres, the legislative powers which is usually the envy of those in the executive.

The other day the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, said the distinguished Senators were talking balderdash for accusing him of corruption, another time he bluntly said he was not honouring their invitation. Already, the Comptroller-General of Customs has ignored the Senate directive to appear before it in Customs uniform.

And the boss of the anti-graft body that this Senate rejected Magu is left on the job from where he has been busy unearthing the dirty cupboard of the senators to the media, ditto the Custom boss. What an affront.

The value of this Senate by the executive can best be measured in these words yesterday by the Chairman, Presidential Anti-corruption Advisory Committee, Prof. Itse Sagay while reacting to Senate suspension of confirmation of INEC RECs.

“That action is childish and irresponsible. Do they think Buhari is a man that can easily be threatened? My God! How can people of such character occupy the highest legislative office in the country? Nigeria is finished,” Sagay was quoted.

These are signs of devaluing of the parliament which the 8th Senate is liable and should be shameful about because they created the flaws. Every democracy is anchored on the parliament; a handicapped parliament is a handicapped democracy.

The question is, are there any hope of regaining the lost glory of our parliament? Former British Prime Minister John Major has an answer, and to him, the only way to get the respect and power of parliament back when it derails, is for the government and the opposition to be frank and serious. In our case, are there signs of any seriousness from these two? God help us.”

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