The roles of the legislature in any democratic nation cannot be over-emphasized. From the federal, thru state to the local government, there is always the need for law makers to put the executive arm in check. According to the Nigerian Constitution, the law makers in the National Assembly are representatives, each representing their respective constituencies, the interests of which the representatives are meant to protect. With the executive representing the politicians, and the judiciary making known the position of the law on national issues, the reason for the establishment of The National Assembly is therefore simple- to say what the people are saying.
The US Congress and House of Commons (and Lords) are the legislative arms of the US and UK governments respectively. Members of these chambers are not jobbers, societal miscreants or literate illiterates who lack the full compos mentis and proper comprehension of their saddled duties. They are intellectuals and rare assemblage of brilliant men (and women) who thoroughly scrutinize state and international issues before giving a no or a nod. No wonder great presidents constantly rise from these chambers.
Since 1999 when Nigeria supposedly returned to democratic rule, the representatives at all levels – federal, state, and local governments, have been more of rubber stamps in the hands of the executive arm to perpetrate their acts, even when the Constitution says something else. The Ladoja impeachment saga is a typical example of the typical Nigerian House of Representatives where the interests of the citizens are set aside to sooth the wounds of an enraged Godfather. On the national scene where the stakes are higher, the situation is regrettably the same.
It is an open secret that Nigeria has been unlucky at getting reliable representatives (and senators) to truly pursue the agenda of the masses. From one term to another, the dome- shaped architectural masterpiece has been occupied by individuals who know little or nothing about legislature, are acting the scripts of their Godfathers and political parties or on recess after busy back-to-back tenures as governors. No wonder they keep entertaining themselves with occasional bouts and outbursts to the detriment of national issues.
Another feature that is signatory of the incumbent representatives, like their predecessors, is looking the other way, when they ought to rise to the occasion and carry out actions in the interest of the Nigerian citizens.
There are numerous seat warmers in the two chambers- The Senate and House of Reps, but a handful of them are making waves. These are the ones that Nigerians always look up to for succor. Members of The Integrity Group that kicked out Madam Patricia Etteh were seen, during the Etteh saga, as hopes for the restoration of the legislature to sanity. But as it now seems to be, they’ve joined the bandwagon.
While reading the interview that Farouk Lawan, the leader of the Integrity Group, granted a newspaper over the weekend on the ‘vacuum’ in leadership and other national matters, his words pointed to the notion that he and his disciples have lost the integrity they were once at the vanguard. The question now is- at what expense?
Henry Ward Beecher (1813 – 1887), American clergyman and abolitionist, one of the popular preachers of his day, described integrity as ‘a reputation for good judgment, for fair dealing, for truth, and for rectitude [which in itself] is a fortune.’
Going by Henry Ward Beecher, integrity is three- faceted, encompassing good judgment, fairness and moral uprightness. With the support of the status quo by the leader of The Integrity Group, the basis of their integrity has been compromised.
Talking of good judgment, the resolution of the president and the executive not to handover to the vice president (Goodluck Jonathan) before travelling for treatment, the support of The National Assembly of the presidential action, and the loquacious audacity of Farouk Lawan to publicly declare his support, and that of The Integrity Group, are not good judgments, looking at the facts before us.
The National Assembly’s position is also unfair on the citizens of the Nigerian nation who are now coping with issues that would have been ameliorated if their representatives are up-and-doing. Moral uprightness is another feature that is thrown into the tear-laden, hygroscopy- inducing, and ozone- depleted thin air.
The aborted Mutallab Christmas Present to America further highlighted the complacencies of both legislative houses. It is a Gospel truth that America’s heavy sledge hammer fell on the nation because our reps and other leaders failed to respond well.
To save face, the two chambers ought to show serious commitments to deciphering what went wrong, and accept the blame, on behalf of the country, if the origin could be traced to our shores. Instead, they postponed deliberations till a later date. The US Congress showed what a serious legislative house ought to have done.
The house launched, almost immediately, massive international investigations following the footprints of the bomb boy from birth to berth on the Delta passenger plane. The only person talking in Nigeria is not the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Ojo Madueke) but the Minister of Information, Prof. Dora Akunyili. And as it seems, her voice wasn’t loud enough.
Nigeria would have been taken serious if the two chambers had a joint session without fighting over venue to deliberate on the circumstances. They should have invited relevant authorities and individuals, including the boy’s father who has been called by the US Congress, while their Nigerian counterparts are still confused on what to do.
The old saying that when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers also applies here, although the Nigerian elephant is regrettably a helplessly hapless and toothless one.
Nigerians en route USA and other Western countries in search of the Golden Fleece and in pursuit of the much sought American dream are the grasses that will suffer at the borders, no thanks to a deranged over- spoilt child, and old men and women who were [s]elected to speak for us but who regrettably can’t even speak for themselves.
As the President recuperates in his sickbed and the nation detours, embarking on a precarious journey that is everything but democratic, only God and sane individuals can help redeem the severed image. And at the last check, the redeemer is not in The National Assembly. It’s high time we looked somewhere else, maybe on the boiling streets of Jos.