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Ninth N/Assembly: How independent will it be?

National Assembly

Even before its inauguration at the termination of the life of current Eighth National Assembly in June later this year, the forthcoming Ninth National Assembly has already been to an unflattering stigma as an institution whose middle name shall be compromise. As if smarting from some irreparable personal losses which must be atoned for under the auspices of the Ninth National Assembly, some of the returnee legislators, who were fortunate to be voted back into reckoning for another term of office have ignited rather prematurely – as some will say, a contest for the leadership of the two chambers of the Senate and the House of Representatives. So far some of the names mentioned as having expressed or expected to express their aspiration to take control of the chambers include for the Senate its present Majority Leader Ahmed Lawan (Yobe North), and other ranking Senators like Ogie Omo-Agege (Delta Central) and Francis Alimikhena (Edo North). Just as well the House also has among aspirants to its leadership prominent members like House Leader Femi Gbajabiamila (Lagos Surulere1), Abdulrazak Namdas (Adamawa), Ahmed Idris Wase (Plateau), Mohamed Umar Bago  (Niger) and Babangida Ibrahim (Katsina).

Meanwhile, all of these posturing by the foregoing and others not mentioned here, is without prejudice to the possible advent of some political game changers who even as fresh hands on the legislative terrain, could make significant impact on the leadership calculus of the Ninth National Assembly. With the expected coming to the Senate of governors like Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, Umaru Tanko Almakura of Nasarawa State, a returnee to the National Assembly like Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State who was in the Senate for two terms (2007 and 2015), before his two terms again as governor of Ogun State, whatever permutations that may rage now on the leadership politics of the National Assembly remain purely speculative, as the final word is yet to come.

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However, while there is nothing wrong in the seeming interest of any aspirant in occupying the leadership positions of the Senate and House of Representatives, for any of them to do so without regard to the tenets of statutory provisions, democratic norms and the wider context of national interest, remains deplorable as such falls within the ambit of incontinence as far as the democratic aspirations of the country are concerned. Yet such is where the recent advocacy credited to ranking Senator Ogie Omo Agege falls into, as he conceded the emergence of the next President of the Senate to the personal choice of President Buhari. He was recently quoted to have said “Anybody who is going to be the Senate President in the Ninth Senate must be somebody who is loyal to Mr President, the party and the Constitution”. “The Senate President will be determined by Mr President, who will indicate through the party whom he wants to work with”. “I am very hopeful that this time around, Mr President will step in and decide not only the zone that will produce the Senate President and the leadership but also who it will be”.

Without much equivocation, Omo Agege’s advocacy clearly envisages no autonomy for the National Assembly, as clearly provided for in the country’s Constitution, leading to the possible enthronement of a docile, ineffective and anti-people Ninth National Assembly that will be at best a rubber stamp facility for Mr President. It therefore constitutes a tacit recipe for bare faced dictatorship for the next four years of the Buhari second term in office.

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If Mr Omo-Agege had made the foregoing statements as an ordinary citizen, he could have been excused as expressing a personal opinion that amounts to nothing more than beer parlour gist, or more seriously another public enemy of the Nigerian nation. However, being a ranking Senator, a law maker, and even an aspirant to the coveted seat of a presiding officer of the Senate, the least that can be made out of such utterance is to dismiss it as unfortunate. In fact, in a practical sense he needs to return to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in order to be re-acquainted with its provisions as far as the statutory provisions for the independence and inter-dependence of the three arms of government are concerned.

However, the general flow of developments and events in the country’s political terrain clearly indicate that Omo Agege may not be alone in this school of thought. And the subscribers have on more than a few occasions demonstrated their willingness to match their words with work.

Perhaps for the purpose of highlighting the essentially perfidious import of this line of thought in this discourse, it is necessary to clarify that the Constitution provided for the three arms of government to act independent of each other, under the principle of separation of powers in which context they should check each other. In specific terms the Constitution even confers on the National Assembly the powers to regulate its own business without let or hindrance from any other authority. On what legal basis then should the President be eligible to dictate who pilots the affairs of the National Assembly?

The primary intention of the constitutional provision is to minimize the abuse of political power by the executive arm to which all the levers of executive authority are conferred by law. The functions of the legislature are to represent their respective constituencies, make laws and oversight government business, in particular the operations of the executive arm. Where the President as the head of the executive arm dictates who leads the legislature, how can the latter check the former? That is why the advocacy by Ogie Omo-Agege constitutes a political ill wind that is unlawful and therefore remains a path not to be traveled by the incoming Ninth National Assembly.

However, a more insidious angle to Omo-Agege’s advocacy is the fact he is not alone in this unlawful subservience of legislators to the whims and caprices of the powers that be in the executive arm. Experience has shown that it is wide spread in the entire legislative establishment across the country, as generations of legislators virtually deify the leadership of the executive arm at the various tiers of governance namely the President, state governors and even chairmen of local government councils. With respect to the provisions of the Constitution, this condition remains the most potent retardant to the country’s development as the legislature perennially fails to deliver on its statutory role of matching the deployment of public resources in line with the public weal.

With the benefit of hindsight it is easily recalled that the same Omo Agege has been severally associated with circumstances that question his commitment to the sanctity of the autonomy of the legislature.

 

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