Let The Lawmakers Move On and Work for Nigeria

By Yusuph Olaniyonu
Tuesday
resumption of the two chambers of the federal legislature resumed after
five weeks suspension of plenary. The recess scheduled for July 21 had
been postponed by one week, obviously to allow more time for the
reconciliatory process going on then among the legislators in both
chambers of the National Assembly.
As a result of the media hype and sensationalism
surrounding the crisis, obviously fuelled from outside the parliament,
many had believed that the resumption day was going to be the real day
of trouble in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. They
expected the lawmakers to freely break the law by resorting to fighting.
Some others talked about the possible collapse of the leadership in
both chambers. The ground for this latter belief was laid by a Senator,
Kabiru Marafa who kept on making incendiary statements. One would have
thought that based on the Senator’s statements, the Senate Chambers
would collapse on the resumption date.
All these negative expectations were against the background
of the efforts by the Governors elected on the platform of the All
Progressives Congress (APC) to mend fences between the groups in the
National Assembly. The Governors met with the various groups but no
solution seem to have been found, at least as presented by those using
the division in the legislature to underscore their own importance and
relevance.
However, what happened in the chambers of the National
Assembly last Tuesday was a positive anti-climax. First, in the Senate
where members sat before their colleagues in the House of
Representatives, the plenary was devoid of any problem. Members came in
and exchange banters and greetings in a manner which suggested the
holiday had cooled tempers. Then, the legislative debates began.
The icing on the cake was a motion sponsored by 81 Senators
expressing a vote of confidence on the leadership of Senator Abubakar
Bukola Saraki. With 81 Senators which when added to the duo of the
Senate President and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, both of whom could not
vote, the motion enjoyed the support of clearly more than two-third of
the legislative house. It therefore, should require no need for voting.
Yet, the Senate President still gave the nay sayers the opportunity to
express themselves. Surprisingly, no single voice said no. This then
made the vote of confidence on Saraki and the rest of the Senate
leadership, a unanimous decision of the 108 members presently in the
Senate.
With that symbolic signal that peace has finally returned,
the Senate was able to return to normal legislative transactions in
which two main motions that could solve the problem of bad roads and
environmental degradation across the country were rigorously debated.
Also, in the House of Representatives, Speaker Yakubu
Dogara successfully announced names of principal officers and the choice
seemed to have finally settled all the hitherto prevailing differences.
The Representatives also went on to discuss motions of relevance to
their constituents. In settling the issues in the House of
Representatives, the meeting President Muhammadu Buhari had with all the
legislators the previous day is widely believed to have played a key
role. the President’s intervention made possible the shift of positions
which led to the return of peace.
Now, where do we go from here? With the return of peace,
the legislators have no option than to get cracking. They need to start
working for Nigeria. They need to start coming out with legislations,
embark on oversight functions, debate policies and programmes which can
form the basis for advocacy work. They must start making creative, out
of the ordinary and ingenuous suggestions which can help the executive
to change the landscape of the entire country for the better. Our people
have suffered from want in the midst of plenty for too long.
This time around, the people voted for change, positive and
progressive one for that matter. That is why the legislators represent
not only the diversity of Nigeria, but also the rich nature of her human
capital. They represented the different professions, men and women with
varied experiences and world views. Fortunately, they have the fortune
of working with an executive led by a determined, courageous and popular
retired army General, Buhari as the chief executive of our state.
What is now required is for the legislators to support
President Buhari in finding solutions to all the problems keeping
Nigeria down. This is where Buhari has a role to play in consolidating
and utilising the newly achieved peace in the National Assembly. The
President should maintain his earlier position not to get involved in
legislative politics. He should immediately send out the right signals
and body language that he is ready to encourage the new initiative by
the legislators to resolve their internal differences on their own. The
President should make it known to those who use the legislative chambers
as a front for shadow boxing to steer clear and allow the lawmakers to
do their work.
A way to send the right signal that he is ready to help the
National Assembly build on the new found unity is for the President to
now openly meet and relate with the leadership of both chambers. He
should be ready to gainfully engage with them on how to prosecute his
war against insecurity, unemployment, corruption and economic recession.
The President should immediately create a platform for exchange of
ideas on the role he expects the legislative houses to play in backing
up his multifarious programmes, policies and projects aimed at
addressing the four-point agenda he has set up for himself.
We need to put behind us the past experience in which the
President travelled to the United States for crucial bi-lateral
discussions on several issues without any member of the legislature.
That was on opportunity missed to give legislative backing to executive
engagements. Buhari was obviously trying to avoid getting involved in
the problems in the National Assembly. However, the gaffe will not be
lost on the host President Barrack Obama who on his last trip to Kenya
and Ethiopia went with over 20 Congressmen.
My advice therefore is for all Nigerians to let the
legislature work. If we give them all the co-operation they need, it
becomes easy to access them as an institution and as individuals on how
far they have gone in fulfilling the aspiration of their electors.
Olaniyonu is Special Adviser to Senate President.

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