By Emmanuel Aziken
As the life of the eight National Assembly draws to a close today, the question as to its legacy remains one of the most contentious issues in the land.
The contention is a reflection of the division that has marked the polity in the last four years. That division was best captured by the fact that the head of the eight National Assembly, Senator Bukola Saraki was the campaign manager of the presidential campaign of the most prominent opposition political party that aimed to thwart the second term aspiration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The second man in the legislature, Speaker Yakubu Dogara was also a pivotal figure in the campaign to stop Buhari’s second term aspiration. That in itself would convey the political chasm that exists between the two arms of government.
It was as such not surprising that as the term of the legislature came to an end that Buhari in an interview with NTA zeroed in on the Saraki-Dogara legislature as one of the major encumbrances to the realization of his 2015 Change Agenda.
The president described the leadership of the 8th Assembly as unpatriotic for supposedly holding on to the budget of the Federal Government sometimes for seven months into the year!
The allegation of budget delay was a particularly knotty issue that often defined the relationship between the two arms of government.
For many of Buhari’s supporters, they saw nothing wrong in the president submitting the budget in late December and against the framework of the Fiscal Responsibility Act. They also saw no reason why the National Assembly should tamper with figures proposed by the president in the budget.
However, for many others including your correspondent who believe in parliament’s custody of the purse, such assumptions of the National Assembly being a rubber stamp for the executive was anathema to democratic ethos!
However, sustaining the allegation of a deficit in patriotism and productivity is one that would be very hard for the president and his supporters. If the Senate and the House of Representatives were particularly delinquent, why is it that the president and the APC zeroed in on the pair of Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila to be presiding officers of the 9th Assembly.
It is quite an irony that Lawan served as Majority Leader of the Senate for the better part of the 8th Senate while Gbajabiamila was the Majority Leader of the 9th House of Representatives.
And as everyone knows the business of the legislative chamber revolves around the leader.
So, the problem between the 8th Assembly and the executive was not essentially framed by their differences over budgets. It went well beyond that to the opposition by some in the APC to the emergence of the pair of Saraki and Dogara as presiding officers.
So despite the harsh condemnation of the 8th National Assembly in the eyes of some people aligned to the presidency, supporters of Saraki and the opposition, on the contrary, saw the assembly as about the most productive of the various assemblies of the fourth Republic.
Speaker Dogara, in his self-assessment last Thursday, spoke in the same vein, adding that the eight Assembly was also the most persecuted.
Though Speaker Dogara was not known to have been persecuted beside his troubles with the former governor of Bauchi State, Mohammed Abubakar, the insinuation of persecution is one that has resounded very well across the rotunda in the Senate.
For the first time in the history of the country, the two presiding officers of the Senate were subjected to criminal prosecution for actions supposedly arising from political inclinations.
If the assets declaration charges filed against Saraki and the temper of the presiding judge of the Code of Conduct Tribunal could be taken as justice happening perchance, the forgery allegations raised against the same Saraki and the Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu could not be assumed as apolitical.
The two presiding officers were dragged to court for the amendment of the standing order of the Senate.
The legal basis of the charges against the duo of Saraki and Ekweremadu was found to have been so defective that the Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN hired by the executive arm of government to prosecute the charges quietly advised that the charges be dropped.
The consideration that one branch of government would hire a SAN to prosecute a political case was not salutary for the frugal image that had been consistently presented of Buhari.
Ekweremadu was relentlessly hounded by a presidential aide over his “assets” despite the intriguing claim that the hunter was himself in legal deficit on the matter of allegations of forgery raised against him concerning his secondary school certificate.
In the end, it is clear that if the pair of Saraki and Dogara had not emerged as presiding officers, whoever appeared would have followed a near similar path that they trudged in the defence of democracy.