By Imam Imam
Over the course of the year, many within and beyond the National Assembly have been astonished at the new ideas being introduced in the running of the House of Representatives by the Speaker, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.
It is not as if many were not expecting new ways of doing things when the members gave him their mandate to lead the House in June last year.
Rather, what is surprising to them, and to large swathe of Nigerians, is the frequency with which new and effective methods are becoming the order of the day in the legislative scheme of things in the country.
The crux of the new approach to leadership is encapsulated in the House Legislative Agenda, which was introduced by Tambuwal to initiate a new order that fosters transparency, leading to institutional integrity in the legislature in particular and the country in general.
As enunciated by the Speaker himself, the legislative agenda primarily seeks to restructure the management and functions of the legislature towards adequacy in capacity and improved productivity.
In addition, the Agenda seeks to design and implement the electronic parliament (e-parliament) blueprint that elevates the National Assembly operations to international best practices and ensures public access to parliamentary information and process.
Importantly, the Agenda seeks to review the legislative branch budget in line with the requirements of openness, effectiveness and accountability; review the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in all relevant areas in line with the aspirations of Nigerians; engage actively with other arms of government to restore public order and national security and finally to institutionalize mechanisms that facilitate effective engagement with various stakeholders including constituents and civil society organizations (CSOs).
What are those things done differently by the House leadership to warrant this intervention? Let us begin with the composition of the committees of the House in September 2011.
For all those familiar with how such endeavors were undertaken in the past, they will readily attest to the fact that seeds of discord among members get planted on the day the committees are announced largely because many always felt shortchanged by the outcome.
Not so when Tambuwal announced the committees in the first test of his leadership acumen as Speaker. Not only did it go well, members openly praised the House leadership for taking their view points into consideration, but for placing square pegs in square holes in order to maximize potentials for the benefit of the polity.
Take another example. The rot in the oil sector manifested in the shameful subsidy scam has been considerably unravelled to the extent that government has commenced prosecution of those indicted in the law courts. This did not just happen.
It took the intervention of the House of Representatives, beginning with its historic January 8, 2012 extra-ordinary plenary session, to arrive at this junction.
In spite of the controversy that engulfed the ad-hoc committee, the report of that panel laid the foundation for the rash of committees set up by the executive with the aim of cleansing the Augean stables.
Holding that extra-ordinary session on a Sunday, the first of its kind in the country, set in motion various activites which have today led to stringent calls for more transparency and accountability to be institutionalised in a sector characterised by many underhand dealings.
But for the bold move taken by the Speaker, we would still have been in the dark as to the true nature of the corruption that pervades the sector.
Also of note here is the issue of the amendment of the 1999 constitution currently going on in the country. When the Speaker announced last September that all the 360 members of the House of Representatives will return to their constituencies to hear directly from their people on what they want in the new constitution, many did not envisage the kind of interest the move would generate.
When the Peoples Public Session eventually held penultimate Saturday across the country, Nigerians did not only hail the transparency of the novel process, but identified with its overall objective which is to give the country a document (constitution) that was written with the input of the people.
It is worth recalling here that each of the sessions in the 360 Federal Constituencies was organized by an independent Steering Committee of Stakeholders that included the member of the House representing the Constituency who served as the facilitator, members of the State House of Assembly in the particular Federal Constituency, the Local Government Chairmen within the Constituency and one representative of major trade unions and civil society organizations.
No doubt, Tambuwal’s strong stance on discipline, accountability, and truth, and his penchant desire to do things differently, is now setting the bar and becoming an example for elected office holders in the federation.
As we’ve seen times without number, his apparent willingness not to be encumbered by the political exigencies that had stunted our progress, is quite inspiring. For him, what matters is the nation’s interest. Call that an unyielding idealism and you won’t be wrong.
*Imam is the Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs to Speaker Tambuwal.