“When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are the legislators.”- P.J. O’Rourke
The reason Nigeria is still in the democratic doldrums is the refusal of politicians and governments to ply the routes already beaten by the advanced democracies. When the separation of powers idea was first conceived, it was envisaged that a despot could emerge someday and it would be the responsibility of the other arms of government to checkmate such a character.
That is why there are checks and balances in a democracy. For instance, if the United States presidency did throw up a Donald Trump to contend with, it shows no nation-state is without unruly characters. But it behoves the other two arms, Legislature and Judiciary, to ensure that ‘madness’ never goes out of hand and disease the system. Not so in Nigeria, where corruption, religion, and ethnicity stand as a huge cog in the wheel of robust legislation at all levels, particularly at the state level.
Here, incompetence combines with similar ills to make legislation near-nonfunctional at that level. That is why Nigeria is seemingly swimming in the political hot soup because its legislature and judiciary, inseminated by religious and ethnic sentiments, have been incapacitated.
If since 2015 there has been a functional parliament, perhaps President Muhammadu Buhari’s obvious lapses would not have been pronounced the way it is today. With a vigorous and youthful parliament, he would have been up and doing or he would have faced the accompanying reprimand to his glaring shortcomings. When reprimand was not forthcoming even in the face of obvious failures, the executive became more lackadaisical, lukewarm and unresponsive. If allowed, no one would want to wake up early to work unless there is reward or punishment. While we all keep bashing President Buhari and his executive team for their failings, we must not forget to extend the same to an incompetent and glaring confused National Assembly (NASS).
That is the story of the ninth NASS of Nigeria. The only good thing is that this NASS is not pretending to be a legislature in the sense of the second arm of government ready and willing to hold the executive accountable. Not at all, from inception, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, made it abundantly clear that his arm of the bicameral parliament under his leadership was going to lead a rubber-stamp body for the Executive because a Senate under his watch was not ready to be an obstacle to a “good and hardworking executive like President Buhari”.
Should we, therefore, be surprised? No, not after we observed how he became the Senate President. Moreover, he was part of the 8th Senate and witnessed at close range how the Executive ensured that the leadership never enjoyed the throne.
This Senate President having witnessed how his predecessor Bukola Saraki spent all of his tenure facing prosecution from the executive,was not disposed to all that and declared from day one the kind of leadership he was going to provide. When your Senate has such toothless leadership, expecting much would be like Judas Iscariot changing his mind about selling Jesus to the Jews for 30 pieces of silver.
The question being asked by some discerning minds is whether in this dispensation being without the Senate would have made any difference? The answer is capital YES Agreed that we may have seen occasional barking from some few select senators and Representatives from both divides of the leading political parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but there it ended. When you have a German Shepherd or French bulldog in your house that barks endlessly all night yet unable to stop the thief from breaking in, does it have any impact as a security dog? Raising the question whether Nigeria really need a bicameral parliament? This 9th Assembly has failed in all ramifications to provide its vital responsibility of checking the executive. Nigerian public and the media have mistakenly fallen into this fault of only blaming President Buhari and his Executive for the nation’s woes.
Yes, we know as a fact that the buck stops on the President’s table, but the originators of democracy knew that somehow an incompetent or incapacitated person or even a mad man can find himself on the president’s position and it would rest on the other two arms to save the situation.
The constitution gives the parliament a lot of latitudes to hold the executive accountable, which of them has this 9th Assembly used to help address the nation’s myriad of socio-political and economic problems? When somebody who can quench an inferno instead of doing that, joins the helpless in wailing, then something is fundamentally wrong. And that appears to be the status of our current parliament. If this NASS thinks that it is being patriotic by approving for a confused executive an endless borrowing, they are lying. If they think that by the “garbage in garbage out” legislation it is being cooperative and patriotic, it’s a lie. Everything is wrong in a parliament that sees no blunder in endorsing ambassadors who are not even proficient, former service chiefs who this Senate earlier agreed had failed.
This is a country with 1,001 competent hands for such jobs! The outcry for a restructuring of the country is not supposed to be allowed to reach a deafening level as it is at the moment if there is or was an effective parliamentary responsiveness to the wishes and desires of the people. In 2010 when President Umaru Yar’Adua died, amidst the “hide and seek” attitudes of some politicians, the then Senate under Senator David Mark took the bull by the horn and created the Doctrine of Necessity that saved the situation. Even without death now this country is in the worst situation, but all the nation is seeing is barking parliamentarians behaving like Nigeria’s civil society and labour activists… all motion but no movement…all talks and no action. In the above analysis, I am trying to resist the temptation of saying that this current parliament has failed or to ask somebody to resign.
By what is happening to Dawusi, Salihu Tanko Yakassai, ex-media aide to Governor Abdullahi Ganduje in Kano over the use of the word, this government and its operatives are allergic to the word resign even though they lavishly used it on their way to power in 2015 when a true and not a converted democrat Goodluck Jonathan was on the presidential saddle. It was safe to say it then, abuse whoever you want because the environment was ripe.
In concluding this conversation, I want to urge Nigerians and the media to beam their searchlight on the parliament the same way they are doing on the executive because, by the system, an effective legislature can wake up an ineffective executive.
To continue to see the legislature as free of our current challenges in the country is to pretend that we don’t know the enormous powers it wields in our constitution. No democracy anywhere in the world grows with rubber-stamping executive bills because such is not the spirit of the doctrine of separation of powers. Overwhelmed by insecurity as a nation, our legislators should see safety as a top priority and be driven by the fact that safety more than anything should be a core function of government. A parliament that glorifies an incompetent executive is as liable and condemnable as that executive. Simpliciter.