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Democracy in a cow republic

By Chioma Gabriel

I visited an old friend over the weekend who works in a bank in Lagos Island. We haven’t seen in a long while and the last time we spoke on phone, she was in the United States, then in Canada and just recently, Dubai. She just returned. I wondered why she was junketing all over the world and she said she was taking her kids to their schools. It baffled me she had all the time in the world to be travelling round the world considering her job and she responded before I could ask the question. She was on leave, an extended leave to resettle her kids. Even the ones that used to be in a private university in Nigeria were withdrawn and taken overseas for resettlement.

It soon dawned on me that her four kids have been taken out of the country. Only she and her husband are now living in the country and I wondered how she felt, living alone in their big house in Lekki. It baffled me that after all their struggle to erect their state- of- the- art edifice in Lekki, creating their United Kingdom and United States here as they called it, they have sent out all their children in quick succession.

Glory and Emeka are traditional couples. If not for her work that necessitated occasional travel outside Nigerian shores, a couple like them will have no business taking their children to live outside the country.

But things are longer the way they seemed to be in Nigeria, she tried to explain.    Things are getting out of hand by the day and as far as she is concerned, anything can happen. And as she put it, she and her husband are also ready to go; all their travel papers are updated and an accommodation is set somewhere overseas and at the slightest ‘pim’, she and her husband would take off.

And would you blame her?

Every day, strange things keep happening in our country and our democracy. All we hear about these days are disturbing news all over Nigeria: killings, clashes, ‘war’ and rumours of all manner of things. Insecurity has become the order of the day.

The other time, many watched with trepidation as security operatives invaded the national assembly complex and one got more scared as the security operatives wore masks the way armed robbers would wear and invaded the whole complex. It got scarier to see a female representative; Boma Goodhead dared an arm-wielding DSS official to shoot her and you could hear subtle threats from the security operative.

Indeed, things have gotten really bad. Which way Nigeria?

And then you soon hear about the sack of the former DSS boss, Daura and suddenly, you    heard the politicians twisted the story and placed it on the senate president who decamped recently from All Progressives Congress, APC, to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. A member of the presidential cabal suddenly was said to be working for the senate president. Haba!

Indeed, the Nigerian National Assembly in this political dispensation is the most attacked public institution. The ‘bullets’ are coming from diverse attackers and since 2015,    the apex law making body has been battling with self-survival other than its primary legislative and oversight roles.

In all these, Nigerians are the losers. The federal government agencies under the manipulation of the executive arm of government have taken the national assembly by storm. For the most part, the senate president and his deputy are battling to save their heads from the attacks of the executive and are failing in many areas to deliver to the people, the dividends of a robust legislative and oversight regime imperative in a presidential system of government.

These political office holders feed fat on Nigeria tax payers and yet the bickering are taking tolls on their achievement.

The executive would not allow the legislators to work, yet it would turn around to blame same of frustrating the executive arm of government.

What seem too obvious is the dirty politics playing out as the 2019 general elections approach.

Political lies are peddled everywhere like expired goods on display in the market place.

One does not need any soothsayer to tell that the 8th  national assembly is the most attacked. Before this time though, there have been    attacks on the legislature. Since 1999 when erstwhile President Olusegun Obasanjo held sway at Aso Villa, the national assembly has been under attacks. Former President Obasanjo in his time unleashed the enormous presidential arsenal to cow or compromise them. While the law makers of that era fought back with threats of impeachment, the National Assembly witnessed frequent and disruptive changes of leadership ostensibly engineered by the presidency.

Under the late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua and his successor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, there existed a more robust relationship with the legislature. There was mutual respect and regard for constitutional boundaries.

But President Buhari seemed to be wearing the same toga as Obasanjo. From the very onset, there was no love lost between him and the national assembly leadership. Allegations of forgery, court cases and character defamation targeted at the leadership and select members of the national assembly set the fireworks.

After the way Saraki emerged senate president, there seemed to be a conspiracy to dismantle the legislature. In all these, the people were at the receiving end.

Things have gotten worse by the day. As the most marginalized arm of government, the legislature should be encouraged and supported to effectively play its role. The people don’t need this executive-legislative face-off. From all that is seen and known, it is not healthy for democracy.

The politicians should deliver to the people, the dividends of democracy for which they were voted in and stop taking the electorate for granted.


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