Lessons for Nigeria from Prague, by David Mark

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By Henry Umoru

From Monday to Wednesday,  Senate President David Mark and his team were guests  of  the government of Czech Republic especially the Senate of the country to share ideas on how to improve on the relationship between both countries as well as build on Nigeria’s legislative system.

The visit was also designed to romance the Czech Republic knowing its strategic role in the European Union where it  helps to  champion the cause of  Africa continent and, to a very large extent, that of Nigeria.

Mark and his team were exposed to the old city where the preservation of the peoples historical life and structure remained cherished by the government and people of Czech Republic.  With the Senate President on the visit were Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba, PDP, Cross River Central; Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Domingo Obende, ACN, Edo North; Chairman, Senate Committee on Navy, Senator Chris Anyanwu, APGA, Imo East; and Chairman, Senate Committee on Inter- Parliamentary Affairs, Senator Abdulaziz Usman, PDP, Jigawa North-East.

On ground to receive the team was the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of  Nigeria to Czech Republic, Ms Catherine Okoh.

The first meeting after the team was received at the airport was with the President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, Mr. Milan Stech, and other principal senators of the legislature where Mark told his host that Nigeria would work  to sustain her democracy.

Mr. Milan Stech (left) with SenatorMark

Mr. Milan Stech (left) with SenatorMark

The Senate President, who marked Nigeria high in democratic values, also told his Czech Republic counterpart that the Nigerian government was working hard to  end the nation’s security challenge, especially with the declaration of state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.

Mark said, “The operation is being handled well and, sooner than later, terrorism will be part of our history.

”We are conscious that fighting terror is difficult because of factors that dwell on human rights and collateral damage.  But the operators of emergency that has been introduced in the area will bring it to its end.

”We appreciate the commendation of the international community on the 2011 elections as free and fair. We will continue to build on our democratic institutions and, with the success recorded and democracy in place, military rule has gone forever in Nigeria.”

While inviting the government and people of Czech Republic to come and invest in Nigeria, the Senate President  noted that Nigeria had played the role of ensuring stability in Africa and still playing same role.

He said, “This trend Boko Haram terrorism became escalated by the situation in Mali, Niger, Libya and Chad but the Federal Government tried to curtail this through appeal and carrot approaches but this did not quite succeed until the introduction of emergency rule.”

He told the Czech parliamentarians that the National Assembly will continue to create legislative instruments that will deepen Nigeria’s democracy.

In his remark, the President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, Stech, who  sympathized with the Nigerian government over Boko Haram, promised that his country will partner with Nigeria in the areas of education, economy and culture as well as security.

Mark and his team also had talks with the Chairwoman of the Inter Parliamentary Friendship group for Sub- Saharan African Countries, Ms Dana Vahalova; Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, Ms Miroslava Nemcova; first Deputy Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Mr. Karel Schwaizenberg; Vice President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, Mr. Premysl Sobotka; Nigeria Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Ms Catherine Uyok Okon and Nigerians living in Czech Republic.

One event Mark and his team will not forget in a hurry was the visit to Wallenstein Palace, the seat of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic.  There , the people showed  the need to preserve history through structures, documentation, pictures, signatures, handwritings, souvenirs, among others.

The palace was built by Nobleman Albercht Wenceslaus Eusebius Wallenstein in the years 1623 to 1634. The palace, which has museum, gardens, pictures as well as paintings, is  adorned with sculptures like Hercules with Centaur; Neptum, Horse with Snake; Bacchus; Hercules fighting with Dragon; Appolo; Adonis and Venus; Nymph fighting Satyr; Laokoon and his sons; Venus with Amor, among others.

Moved by what he saw, the spirit of having a Museum for the National Assembly where the past will be reproduced for today and tomorrow, the Senate President promised that the project will soon come on board.
According to him, plans were on by the Senate to reclaim Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos and turn it into a museum for the National Assembly.

Ndoma- Egba, Obende, Anyanwu and Usman expressed some concerns on the need for Nigeria to preserve its yesterday and ensure the spirit of maintenance culture.

Mark, who said Senate Leader Ndoma –Egba heads the committee on immortalization of senators, stressed:‘’Luckily the Senate Leader is here, the chairman of the committee on immortalization of senators and they have worked very hard, visited a number of places, they have been to India and, seeing this place today, I think that heightened the desire to make that committee come out with its recommendations as quickly as possible. We are even going well beyond what we are seeing now to look if we will be able to technically reproduce the voices of the various past leaders of the National Assembly.”

On reclaiming Tafawa Balewa Square, he said, ‘’We have written a letter asking the President to let us take our parliament house in Lagos where the National Assembly used to sit, it is in a  poor condition. We will gradually repair it and bring it to what it used to be. Luckily we have a number of Chairmen and Presidents of the Senate and Speakers who are still alive. We will be able to benefit from them and get some of the things we will put into the museum.”
Speaking on the lessons from the visit, the Senator President said, ‘’You know that they also passed through a process when the  defunct Soviet Union stayed longer than they were expected and they had difficulty entering the current democratic system. Their democracy really took off in 1996 and ours started in 1999, so we are not too far apart.

‘’To have seen them at this level, there are lots we can learn from them.

‘’I think one of the lessons from this visit is that people who are determined, they can preserve things and keep them, most of the buildings here are very old buildings, but going into them, you will see how they have managed them and kept them.

‘’If we also develop the same attitude of maintenance and preservation and very simple respect for rule law, a lot of things will improve. You can see that it is a small city in terms of space, but you see how very orderly the whole place is; people move on the path designated for movement on foot and those who drive cars on road, nobody is driving and meandering through the difficult places.

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