By Mohammed Adamu
In most presidential systems only parliament constitutionally enjoys full legislative, quasi-judicial and quasi-executive powers and the combined effect of which either serves as an intoxicating force for bad (as is the case with us), or a sobering stimuli for good (as has never been with us).
Thus where there is a largely literate and politically active citizenry, this potentially-power-drunken legislature is constantly either whipped into sobriety by the court of public opinion or –like the present NASS — if it becomes self-servingly cantankerous, is roused out of stupor by the activist revolutionary spirit of the people.
Where that spirit is nonexistent however, –for reason either of illiteracy, apolitics, despondency or mere docility — the legislature is sure to gradually be sold to power-mongering, egotism, arrogance and in the end a sense — benumbing greed of the kind for example that Nigeria now groans and agonises over, — and for which our filthy-rich legislators gradually no longer lose sleep over.
If memory serves right, this legislative potentials became evident during the Ghali NASS which was enmeshed then, in several graft scandals and during which efforts to bring it to book, it became clear for the first time apparent, the systemic helplessness of the democratic due process to bring the legislature to account.
In fact the greatest insult to the intelligence of Nigerians then was the claim by Ghali that even the House was constitutionally incapable of initiating a probe against itself. This was as dubious as it was evasively ironic; because the reverse is actually the case and that is that: outside of the judicial process and a vibrant citizens-court –where it exists_ only the NASS itself –if it so desires — can initiate investigation into its own conduct and only it can reprimand or exonerate itself.
That is how insanely faulty our system is. Again if memory serves right, the Kuta Report should exemplify this. After it had indicted many Senators including the House Speaker, the Report was dumped by a motion of mutual forgiveness and reconciliation passed almost unanimously by the Senate. As was the case with the bribe-for-budget scandal of the Education Ministry at which Senate President Nwabara and co were caught right in the act! Yet in the end tried as they did, not even the courts could bring any member to book!
Truth is: there is not a single effective constitutional modus operandi of bringing the legislature to book by institutions extraneous to it! The office of the Auditor-General of the Federation AGF, which has the express constitutional power to annually audit the NASS Account also, did try once in the Ghali days. And, there was no legal chicanery and legislative adumbration Nigerians were not treated to by NASS members to prove that the audit power of the AGF was a constitutional misnomer. The attempt failed.
And how could it not have failed when the office of the AGF like all other government bodies, knew it stood to gain the generous budget favors or the vengeful payback of a legislature that was, and still is, famed for its compassionate remembrance of friends and its notorious un forgiving of enemies!
To effectively curb the excesses of a dictatorial legislature, three scenarios must not only be constant, they must concurrently co-function: first the existence of radically-progressive judges ready be pro-actively innovative in their approach to judicial interpretation; second, a litigious citizenry willing to constantly avail itself of the judicial process in order to right especially politically-motivated wrongs, and third a firm executive arm ready to enforce to the letter, judicial pronouncements even if they gore the ox of the legislature.
It is the practical un-likelihood of these three scenarios especially in a densely plural society like Nigeria independently synergising to co-function that make necessary the deployment of extra-legal or extra-constitutional means to bring anti-people parliaments to account-either by a mutinous, revolutionary electorate, a strong assertive no-nonsense President or one with a strong moral character that is un approachable by the conspiring mind of a corrupt.
And which necessitate stating that the current inability of public opinion to break the self serving intransigence of our NASS members is not helped by a silent, colluding or maybe nonchalant Executive arm.
It has thus become a monumental irony of our democratic process that the current Public-Parliament stand-off should be between the ‘Peoples Representatives’ and ‘the People’ themselves? Making the doctrine of ‘representation’ itself the veritable victim of the irony!
Because it is inconceivable that this should happen where there is genuine democratic representation; and where the democratic process is effective in its systemic reward for political correctness and its punishment of democratic vice!