10 December 2012

Nigeria: Tambuwal and the Challenge of Doing Things Differently


"Therefore we seek to do things differently and reverse the notion of business-as-usual approach that has been a source of worry to our people. We will be sensitive to what the Nigerian people want and increase our public sensitivity quotient"

That was how the Speaker of the 7th House of Representatives, Honourable Aminu Waziri Tambuwal hit the ground running when the 360- member parliament approved the National Legislative Agenda as a guide for the conduct of their legislative business for 2011-2015.

With those few words, the Speaker and his 359 colleagues sealed the social contract they had with the people to listen to their yearnings and aspirations as their true representatives and above all make laws that would have positive impact on their lives.

The central message to the electorates, clear and precise although it appeared tall and lofty to most watchers, yet , Speaker Aminu Tambuwal meant every word of it to do things differently, which according to him, would be the only way to make democracy more meaningful to the electorates.

This of course, clearly signaled a new dawn as it further solidified and confirmed his disposition and commitment to the protection and promotion of the very tenets of democracy.

As representatives of the 360 federal constituencies in Nigeria, the 7th House of Representatives under the leadership of Aminu Tambuwal could not settle for anything short of good governance and for good governance to take centre stage for the people to be able to reap the dividends of democracy, corruption and other vices that have taken the country many steps backward since independence must be investigated, exposed and recommendations made for onward transmission to the executive arm of the government vested with the responsibility of further actions.

Suffice to say that one of the items that gained prominence in the National Legislative Agenda of the 7th House of Representatives was the need to intensify efforts in the oversight functions of the various committees of the House, which of course is the only way a parliament can track the excesses of the executive, particularly where public funds are involved.

It is imperative to state without fear of contradiction that the 7th House of Representatives under the leadership of Tambuwal has lived up to its promises and the results of this courageous move are now in the public domain, stretching from the monumental corruption uncovered in the oil sector to the inability and seeming complacent position of those charged with the responsibility to take further actions on some of these reports or products of dedicated and committed standing committees of the 7th House of Representatives already transmitted to the executive.

It was also in line with his belief that the people deserve a lot better than what they get in terms of dividends of democracy that the Tambuwal-led 7th House of Representatives reconvened on a Sunday to take a position on the removal of fuel subsidy by the executive arm of the government; it was not to engage any arm of the government in any popularity contest, the decision was necessary because as parliamentarians closer to the people, they are the first to take the heat and because they feel the pulse of the people, they understand their yearnings and aspirations and it behooves on them to take proactive and responsible steps to avert a situation that has the potential to bring the entire country and governance to standstill.

It is therefore the belief of the Hon. Speaker that government at all levels must listen to the people, that any policy of government that can further aggravate the sufferings of the people must be reviewed, that democracy would make no meaning if the people can no longer have a say in the way they are being governed and because the people cannot all converge at all times to state their observations on government policies and programmes, they gave their mandates to their representatives and when their representatives speak on their behalf after due consultations, it is only right that the executive listens and withdraws such policies, because what matters to him most is the word " the people". This was further demonstrated during the peoples public session consultative programme of the House of Representatives which was aimed at ensuring a more participatory, inclusive and transparent review of the constitution.

It is the belief of the Speaker that the consultative participatory broad-based approach to the process of amending the constitution will be more credible and open to all citizens and that it would bring about a greater popular participation where the people of Nigeria spread across the 360 federal constituencies would vote on the items they want included in the on-going constitution amendment process.

However, as parliamentarians, the 7th House of Representatives under the Tambuwal perfectly understood that it would amount to double jeopardy, if as lawmakers they can no longer protect the sanctity of the constitution which contains the laws that they pass.

The Speaker, therefore, believes that the process of the constitution amendment by the House was designed to embrace all segments and sectors of the polity, but above all, Section 4 of the constitution of Nigeria that deals with legislative powers are vested on the National Assembly and that by Section 9 of the same, the procedure for altering the constitution expressly prescribes the way it can be altered.

The misconceptions that most people still have about Speaker Aminu Tambuwal is that the man will someday get tired of his activist posture, but they may be getting it wrong because he (Tambuwal) detests injustice and frowns on impunity, so for as long as the constitution is being observed only in breach by people in government, he will continue to draw attention of those who should know of such sacrilege.

- Oota is the senior special assistant, Public Affairs to the Hon. Speaker, House of Representatives.

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