By Tonnie Iredia
When democracy was restored to Nigeria in 1999, one of the first issues the nation had to deal with, was an exuberant legislature. Across the country, those who emerged as legislators looked more like petty traders than law makers. For quite some time, Nigerians tolerated them as they were said to be passing through a learning period. Almost two decades after, there are still scenes in some parts of the country where legislators throw chairs and dangerous weapons at each other, making it obvious that many of them are yet to drop those unacceptable old traces of immaturity.
At other times, the executive simply pockets or divides the legislators. Kano state is one location where legislators are still acting like over-grown school children who are not prepared to embrace political adulthood. For the people of the state, last week, witnessed a heated polity only because legislators wanted to change their leadership. It is difficult to understand what concerns the average citizen with the desire of legislators to change persons they had willingly elected to lead them and why such a change cannot take the same simple and peaceful pattern by which the leaders were first chosen!
As we heard, Kano, lawmakers were reportedly resolved to impeach Speaker, Abdullahi Ata due to what the aggrieved members called incompetence. No one was quite sure of what constituted the said incompetence because as usual, it was a nebulous charge capable of containing all manner of offences. One of the aggrieved members reportedly said things were not moving well because the Speaker had localized the House with his alleged scheduling of activities to start as late as 2pm daily. Some other sources imagined that the recent party congresses in the state did not ‘favour’ some legislators who decided to heap the blame on the Speaker. By Sunday night, 21 members were reported to have signed to remove him from the position.
While plans for the removal of Speaker Ata, were at conclusion stage, the police were put on notice that the proposed show down in the House could lead to a likely breakdown of law and order. The police swiftly acted by sealing up the premises thereby making it impossible for the legislators to meet. How did the police know and who invited them in? Those who think the Speaker has been serving as a willing tool of the executive see the police involvement as the handiwork of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje. They believe that the presence of the police was merely to stall the Speaker’s removal. Against that backdrop one would have thought the legislators would carry out their plot at all cost.
Rather, the same governor successfully mediated in the crisis leading to the emergence of new principal officers of the House. Was that the goal of the struggle? Again, part of the agreement was for the embattled ‘incompetent’ speaker to retain his seat. If so, it is difficult to see what the aggrieved members gained from the crisis. Could it be that the speaker suddenly became competent during the negotiations? Well the information available was that the aggrieved lawmakers reportedly decided to allow peace to reign as a respect for the governor and the party. How the governor that was in office when the crisis began became the same one that the legislators now chose to respect is curious. It is either the governor was never the instigator of the crisis or some inexplicable development such as material settlement played out.
Besides, the aggrieved legislators were not only led by a former speaker of the House, Alhaji Kabiru Alhasssan Rurun but now elected him to serve as deputy speaker. It would be recalled that the said new deputy speaker left office less than a year ago as Speaker after he was accused of corruption. Now that he is back to office, has he been cleared of the alleged corrupt practices? Otherwise, what has happened to the allegation that he collected N100 million from business mogul Aliko Dangote to stall the probe instituted against Emir Sanusi II? The House was at the time not amused by the statement of Dangote’s spokesperson that such transactions never occurred. Could it be that the amount has now been recovered from him and shared to all? Except the legislators take time to fill these gaps, they would remain on record as a group of people who are wrongly in the business of lawmaking.
A year ago, the State House of Assembly set up an eight-man committee to investigate the allegations levelled against the Emir of Kano, Mallam Muhammad Sanusi II, bordering on the misappropriation of funds belonging to the Kano Emirate Council. The probe was dropped supposedly because of pleas from several quarters to let peace reign. When this is added to how the latest attempt to remove speaker Ata has ended peacefully, it becomes obvious that Kano legislators are in the habit of raising an alarm solely for the purpose of attracting persons who then rally round to appease them. The danger here is that very soon other institutions may start to emulate the practice whereby criminal offences are compromised rather than prosecuted. Besides, undue exuberance of our legislators may encourage the politicization of the nation’s development.
One area where this would easily manifest is security. With the argument that we do not have enough law enforcement personnel to police our nation, it is obvious that as of today, Nigeria is under policed. Under the circumstance, it is unfair for some privileged citizens to create issues that compel the nation to divert the police from areas where they are really needed to artificial security problem areas like our Houses of Assembly. It was indeed a case of wasted resources last Monday, when the armed operatives which included men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), were reportedly brought to the assembly premises in 10 vehicles. Another area of concern is the diversion of attention from state duties to cosmetic matters. As revealed in the unnecessary kano House of assembly crisis, the state governor, Abdullahi Ganduje spent sleepless hours of the night from 9pm on Monday to 6am the next day meeting with the legislators.
Law-making is itself a victim of the development, so also is the other function of the legislature to serve as a veritable check on the executive. What Nigerians want from our legislature is effective oversight function that can make public policy better implemented and not legislators that are permanently seeking material benefits and self-interest.