Nigeria: The National Assembly On Trial

27 November 2020
opinion

Mon-Charles Egbo, Print Media Aide to the Senate President presents some of the highpoints that makes the legislature an important arm of government

"I'm not here to defend the National Assembly but I'm here to encourage a debate on what the National Assembly means to us as a country or what our legislature means to us as a country and as a people. If you don't like the set of members in the Ninth National Assembly, change all of us in 2023. Get better people but help support the system to function because that is your protection".

With the fore-going, the senate president, Ahmad Lawan, has challenged the Nigerian masses on the enormity of their powers. He has charged them to take due advantage of their democratic vantage positions to bring about the change that would lift them out of their present sociopolitical predicament He reminded them about exploiting their electoral powers to shape the future they desire. He bluntly asked them to stop complaining and look inward for self-rediscovery. In summary, he has placed the ball in the court of the Nigerian masses for national renaissance and economic salvation. So the choice to either score or bungle the opportunity is theirs.

Equally, this is a timely and friendly warning to the legislators. This is a wake-up call to those who would not want to be changed at the fullness of time. So also, the legislators have a choice to make.

It is common knowledge that of the three arms of government, the legislature practically reflects all that democracy holds for the people. It is indeed the essential ingredient for democracy. In connecting the people to governance, the legislature has three major responsibilities. It makes laws for order and good governance of the polity, for the people. The legislature monitors and supervises the other arms to ensure that the people are not shortchanged. And then, it represents the people by being their mouth piece as well as feeling their pulse regularly. So in representing, the legislature embodies the people's overall aspirations, hopes and disappointments.

As such, legislators are statutorily assessed within the context of these three roles. And that is exactly the message Lawan has passed on to the Nigerian masses ahead of 2023, in ensuring that the right people enjoy their mandate, going forward, that Nigeria may work again.

Also writing on "In Search Of The Ideal Legislature", Alan Ehrenhalt had noted that "it's not too hard to define the qualities of an outstanding legislator. This is somebody with the brains to understand complex problems, the creativity to frame solutions, and the personal skill to build majorities in favor of the things he proposes... ... The ideal legislature does all of them (the institutional functions) well, and keeps them in proper proportion... ... Members are listening to constituents, and solving people's problems".

But of those functions, the one that is very critical to the people is the representational leg of the tripod. This invariably is the heartbeat of parliamentary relevance and effectiveness particularly in the third world countries. While the rest require cooperation or collaborative efforts to deliver, representative roles are purely individualistic, though requiring some elements of cooperation from the people exclusively in the area of information and idea sharing. Among others, individual legislators fight for government attentions in favour of their respective constituencies. They consciously seek for opportunities that would positively affect the people through developmental projects and life-enhancing programmes. However, it calls for doggedness and sacrifice to excel in this area. And that is why determined legislators on their own creatively put in place different mechanisms all towards uplifting the community of man, generally.

Yet this representative duty is mostly neglected by the legislators. The reason is not far-fetched. There is disconnect between the people and the legislators. The people have apparently given up their inherent sovereignty. Both out of apathy and ignorance, the masses now unwittingly encourage their leaders to short-change them. By their actions and inaction, the citizens endorse and propagate bad governance. They have been pitiably intimidated into the neo-elitist mentality that demanding for accountability means attacking those in authority. The governed are today mindlessly divided among themselves instructively by the governments they choose for themselves. They rather complain and grumble, only to be placated momentarily and exploited at every round of elections. There is now a vicious cycle.

So succinctly, it is this whole gamut of pathetic trend that Lawan's sermon is addressing. The gap has to be closed up. There is a dire need for truly participatory democracy where the people are the lords and masters in the business of governance. The representatives must recognize where the power truly resides. They have to show proven capacity for independent-mindedness and sound judgement in integrating all the conflicting and complex interests of the constituents. They must realize that a true test of integrity for those in public leadership largely lies in the consistency of their words and actions always.

Hear Lawan again: "If you don't like the set of members in the Ninth National Assembly, change all of us in 2023. Get better people but help support the system to function because that is your protection".

This homily can only come from a leader who is confident that he is an example of what he preaches, and also convinced that he is legitimate because he is walking on the side of the people. Ahmad Lawan has being in the legislature for over two decades consecutively and still counting, through the ballot, of course. So indeed, his record speaks for him.

The prevailing mood among his constituents is that he is routinely- connected with them. His instituted periodic-but-regular interventionist engagements with his people has truly distinguished him as a leader with a difference. His commitment to positively touching lives and providing succor to the deserving constituents has greatly endeared him to his people. His people attest freely that their welfare and well-being are of serious concern to him. He is living out his conviction that economically-empowered, healthy and educated people translate to national development. He demonstrates that viable rural economy is a catalyst for national prosperity. These apparently are the very things he wishes for his colleagues.

And quite remarkably, Ahmad Lawan as the president of the senate has not allowed both the attractions and distractions of the office stand on his way to delivering effective and responsive representations to his people. Ordinarily, the added responsibilities ought to have made his representative roles suffer neglect. But verifiably, because his politics is about sincere service to humanity, he is innately giving back to the society in different dimensions. It is certainly not about the advantages of the office. It is about disposition. It is his desire for the living standards of the masses to improve. It is his expectation for the people to actually have their powers and sovereignty restored to them. He envisions a new Nigeria where people-oriented politics giving rise to participatory and inclusive governance reign supreme. That is why he wants his colleagues to up their games so that they could enjoy the favourable verdict of the people and history.

In short, Lawan is a model of what he wants his colleagues to copy and possibly surpass. And as such he has placed his cards on the table. In the end, the people upon evaluation should change any legislator that did not perform. They should be replaced with those who manifest the capacity and readiness to always seek for the best deals for the people. Nigeria today deserves a legislature that can protect the country and the people. After all in Lawan's exhortation, that is "what our legislature means to us as a country and as a people". So the die is cast!

Egbo is the print media aide to president of the senate

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