The term ‘August Visitor’ is usually used to describe the visit of a highly dignified or important person or an unexpected visitor with unusual importance and influence. And such is the only way to term the last month’s visit of the delegation of United States Congressmen to Nigeria.
The importance of this meeting between the US Congressmen and the Nigerian National Assembly led by the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki is one that Nigerians will not forget in a hurry.
What makes the occasion more remarkable is that since the return of democracy in Nigeria 18 years ago, this particular visit had the largest delegation of visiting Legislators from the US; a pointer to the fact that the United States of America and the International Community as a whole are starting to notice the giant strides of Nigeria’s Parlament.
The leadership of the National Assembly has without doubt brought an improved level of Openness, Participation and Transparency to Government decision making, especially in the areas of Oversight and Accountability. This singular act has gone a long way in helping Nigeria earn the trust and respect of the global community.
It is therefore no surprise that with the visit of the delegation of US congressmen, the issue of sales of fighter jets to Nigeria and other human right issues which have since been outstanding will be immediately addressed. The importance of this meeting is such that the global community now has a new found respect for the Nigerian National Assembly, the Nigerian Government, Nigerians and Nigeria at large.
In the past, the US had expressed grave reservations about the sale of arms to Nigeria stemming from the fact that the latter’s leadership was largely seen as lackadaisical and viewed with a certain level of cynicism.
This could be traced to the lack of an active role of the Parliament in key decision making in the past, a view which may have been seen as a step away from proper democracratic tenets and ideals. It is particularly noteworthy that at the time the meeting took place, the Nigerian National Assembly and the US Congress were both on recess but as Chairman of the 8th National Assembly and President of the Senate, Saraki understood the importance of such congressional visit and was able to mobilize and assemble a high level delegation from both chambers of the federal legislature to receive the August Visitors.
The world is a vast place and for members of the US Congress, arguably the most powerful and influential Legislature in the world to see the importance to interrupt their recess to visit Nigeria and the Nigerian Parliament, then it leaves to imagination the ripple effects of this move to the rest of the world. The present National Assembly and in particular the 8th Senate has done well in delivering democratic dividends and mirroring the real values of democracy to the world in general.
Another international feat recorded recently was the visit of a delegation led by the Senate President to Berlin, Germany in March and how the visit kicked off bilateral discussions on alternate power and energy production in Nigeria by German companies in partnership with Nigerian enterprises. This move if actualised, can be a major economic boost to the country, particularly in the area of provision of the much desired stable power supply for a more productive economy.
Furthermore, another pointer towards the recognition of the present National Assembly internationally was the visit of the delegation of over 40 Chinese businessmen to Nigeria. Without blowing the trumpet of the leadership of the Senate, these visits and international exchanges show that the Senate understands the language of business and the grave importance of a strong, viirile economy in a democracy.
These strategic moves did not just begin with the visits of different international bodies and organizations to Nigeria but points to the efforts by the Nigerian Legislature and its leadership to ensure that business in Nigeria is operated in a serene, conducive and less-cumbersome environment.
The visit to the Made-In-Aba Trade Fair and the invitation of the owner of Innoson Motors, an indigenous automobile manufacturing company to the Senate and ultimately, the amendment of the Public Procurement Act all remain visible.
It is needless to state that without doubt, these important legislative interventions by the Senate have won the hearts of international institutions around the world and may have been one of the reasons for the visit of the US Congress to the Nigerian National Assembly.
As the Senate resumes from recess, it is expected that some of the gains and benefits of the meeting with the US Congressmen will be unveiled as the attendant positive effects on the nation’s economy and security cannot be over – emphasized.
Bamikole Omishore is the aide to the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki