Following the expiration of the eighth National Assembly consisting of the Senate led by Dr Bukola Saraki and the House of Representatives headed by Hon. Yakubu Dogara, a momentous era of feisty Legislative – Executive relationship came to an end on Thursday, June 6, 2019, as President Muhammadu Buhari formally dissolved it in line with constitutional provisions.
Tuesday, June 11, 2019, marked a new beginning for our bicameral Federal Legislature, as the 109 newly-elected or re-elected Senators and 360 Members of the House elected their principal and other officers.
These included the President of the Senate, the Deputy President of the Senate as well as the Speaker, House of Representatives and the Deputy Speaker. Other officers will emerge later from their party caucuses and appointments.
The emergence of the principal leadership through election comes with arcane but exciting intrigues that sometimes produce surprises as in 2015. The parties with the majority of members in both chambers have always sought to impose leaders of their choice. This session was no different.
Most well-meaning Nigerians concerned for the healthy growth of our democracy, however, preferred strict adherence to Section 50 (1a and b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended), which directs that the above-named four principal officers of the Senate and House of Representatives “shall be elected” by members “from among themselves”. It not only throws the contest open to all members but also gives the power to choose to the membership, not their political parties.
We are gratified to note that since 1999, the membership of both chambers of the National Assembly has established a strong track record of independence, even when the ruling parties commanded overwhelming majorities.
This independence of conscience is responsible for the National Assembly refusing, at any time of our 20-year renascent democracy, to become the rubber stamp of the Executive Branch.
Sadly, the same cannot be said for the Legislature at the State level, and that is why corruption and impunity reign supreme at that level. It has enabled the governors to transform into quasi-emperors with the power to go unchecked.
The day this ugly syndrome makes landfall at the national level our democracy is doomed. The President could turn into a monster and manipulate the NASS membership to grant him unlimited tenures.
That will finally sweep away our hard-won freedoms and turn Nigeria into the proverbial “Banana Republic”.
We call on the Ninth Senate and House of Representatives to remain true to their consciences and refrain from betraying their constituents and the Nigerian people over ephemeral selfish gains or fear of intimidation.
For the Ninth session of the National Assembly, it should be Nigeria first before anything else.