July 6, 2015

Ending The National Assembly Crisis

SQUABBLES, even fisticuffs, are considered “normal” in legislatures all over the democratic world. Here in Nigeria, issues of power and money sharing are constant factors behind every open confrontation among our lawmakers.

The eighth National Assembly has been bedeviled from day one  with crises. Clashes between rival factions of the majority All Progressives Congress (APC) in the National Assembly have made it difficult for the federal lawmakers to settle down to serious business. The Party had fielded Senators Ahmed Lawan and George Akume as its preferred candidates for President of the Senate and Deputy President respectively. For the House of Reps, it preferred Hon Femi Gbajabiamila and Hon Tahir Monguno.

The party insisted that having its anointed candidates occupy the principal offices of the legislature would enhance party discipline and enable the APC to deliver on its campaign promises to Nigerians.

However, members of the Party interested in the posts, especially Senator Bukola Saraki (Senate President) and Hon Yakubu Dogara (Speaker of the House) argued that the constitution prescribes that officers of the legislature must be elected by the members in the legislative chamber. During the elections that took place on June 9th, Saraki was elected Senate President while a member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ike Ekweremadu became the Deputy. The House of Reps elected Dogara as Speaker, with Hon Yusuf Lasun emerging as Deputy Speaker.

The fracas in the House on June 25th forced Speaker Dogara to adjourn sitting till July 21st when the House could not elect its Majority Leader/Deputy and Majority Whip/Deputy, a feat the Senate was able to achieve.

The crisis in the National Assembly has wreaked  havoc, setting the APC leadership in disarray and making it impossible for the federal legislature to effectively start work. The period of adjournment must, therefore be seen by the leadership of the Party as an opportunity to settle the differences of its members. Even though President Muhammadu Buhari has appeared neutral in this tussle, he must now wade into the crisis, bearing in mind the need to carry every stakeholder in the party along.

We are strongly in support of an independent legislative arm, which must also be prepared to cooperate with the executive for smooth governance. Undue external influence destabilises the legislature and predisposes it to manipulation and corruption.

The task of fulfilling the APC’s electoral promises is enormous. The terror attacks in the North and high crimes have ballooned since the new government took over. The economy is also waiting to be tackled. The only way forward  is for the party to present a common front and encourage the citizenry to support its efforts.