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May 26, 2024

When will Nigerian legislators work for their people? By Tonnie Iredia

When will Nigerian legislators work for their people? By Tonnie Iredia

The decision of the Kano state government to reinstate Emir Sanusi II some four years after he was dethroned has expectedly elicited diverse reactions from many Nigerians. While some looked at the subject from the cultural point of view and argued that it is in order to restore the traditional institution in its unadulterated form, others are unhappy that politicians have turned the royal throne into a chess game. So, the blame game is on.

Some say it is the result of an unending political rift between two former Kano governors, Musa Kwankwaso and Abdullahi Ganduje. There is a third group that loathes the involvement of the Judiciary which engaged in an offshore interference in the controversy. It is however simplistic to make conclusions about the return of Emir Sanusi II without reference to why and how he was deposed in 2020. The deposition of the Emir 4 years ago was heavily criticised by many political analysts who were convinced that the Emir did no wrong.

Any Nigerian including a traditional ruler has the constitutional right to hold and constructively exchange his viewpoints on any subject. Speaking truth to power should thus not be a basis for victimising a citizen especially Sanusi who always did so to any authority. Therefore, to reinstate him to the throne as has just been done reflects justice. As a result, I am unable to support those who think Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf is the party to blame. In addition, I will patiently observe the regularity of the application of technology to our judicial process before commenting on the exparte orders allegedly issued from above in the form of justice to put the controversy on hold.

The only group whose role I cannot but deprecate is the law-making arm of government whose members permanently position themselves to be manipulated to do wrong. To see many Kano legislators vividly rejoicing today as part of those who ensured that justice was served is annoying because many of them were part of the injustice of the past, they are supposedly correcting now. Were they not the ones who amended the relevant law that gave former Governor Ganduje the power to depose Emir Sanusi in 2020? What was the public good that motivated their controversial amendment which they have now repealed to empower Governor Yusuf to reverse his predecessor?

What step did they take to gauge public feelings either when they amended the law or now that they have recanted? In answering the above questions, many people are free to assume that our lawmakers, as usual, merely prioritised materialistic considerations. Considering the historical assumption that Kano has a highly sophisticated political class,when will legislators in that ancient city take the lead in making themselves and their colleaguesto fully appreciate that they are in office to represent the people? Is it not painful that legislators across the country are often catalysts in any controversy patronised by the executive arm of government?

Put differently, when will our legislators realize that their active connivance has always aided government to hurt many innocent citizens? To attempt to review such cases will be too long for this piece but a few examples will demonstrate the unfortunate negative role of legislators. The story of Simon Achuba former deputy governor of Kogi state is probably the worst. While in office, Achuba drew attention to some irrational expenditures in government. He was immediately blacklisted while the state legislators were mobilized to impeach him.

The number of impeachment processes by which Nigerian legislators have been used to remove deputy governors are quite many but what puts Achuba’s case ahead of all is that at the end of the process, the panel set up to probe him returned a verdict of not guilty. Although the exact type of motivation could not be ascertained; the legislators ignored the positive verdict and went ahead to impeach a proven innocent citizen. But why would any sane person or group punish an innocent person?In later years however, the Judiciary nullified the impeach ment and awarded huge sums to the former deputy governor. If the legislators had appropriately played their assigned role of checking the excesses of the executive, Kogi state would more likely have been better off today. Perhaps Yahaya Bello would have ended up as a friend of the anti-corruption Czar.

In like manner, Taraba State would not have experienced motionless growth some years ago if the state legislators had allowed former Governor Danbaba Suntai who was badly injured in a plane crash to be replaced in line with the constitution. But for whatever reason, they preferred to remain in a match with an injured goalkeeper/captain of the team. Even in matters concerning their own group, personal benefits always prevail. Only last week, Cross River State legislators reportedly removed their speaker,Elvert Ekom Ayambem with a vote of no confidence by17 out of 25 members.

The decision might look reasonable until the real reason for the action is known. As they always did everywhere in Nigeria, the legislators said their speak er was not only incompetent but corrupt having allegedly embezzled huge fundsbelonging to the Assembly. Annoyingly, the legislators said the motion to remove Ayambem was handled as a matter of national public importance without telling us which public project, the missing amount was meant for. It is also interesting to note that, as usual, the only punishment for Ayambem is removal from office as speaker. But then who determined that the accused was guilty of the crime? In addition, is removal the prescribed punishment for stealing?

It is important to interrogate the subject properly because to only remove the speaker leaves the Assembly with a known rogue-member. It is suggested that the Assembly should get the anti-corruption agencies to prosecute the speaker. Otherwise, the 17 accusers may find themselves functioning as accuser, prosecutor and judge. However,history teaches us that the accusations may have been reversed and the speaker hailed by his accusers if he had allowed the money to be shared.

The point to be made is that activities of legislators like impeachment of deputy governors or the removal of speakers are usually influenced by two factors. The first is where the governor is the initiator of the impeachment. The second is where legislators remove their speaker because they find him unable to get the executive to increase their level of comfort. There are also occasions where a speaker is removed because the executive is uncomfortable with him. In all the scenarios, the legislators are never able to rationalize their conduct; they do what the executive desires and leave him to take charge of the damage control.

A good example presented itself some years ago when the Niger State House of Assembly was motivated to remove their speaker some 48 hours after he was elected by them. The explanation the Assembly gave for the removal was poor performance without thinking about when he was to perform. Inevery interaction between the legislature and the executive, the same disposition is what one sees. It is the reason legislators at all levels never scrutinize or ask relevant questions each time the executive is desirous of a loan.

During the second tenure of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, the National Assembly’s argument was its commitment to cooperate with the executive and depart from a so-called antagonistic posture of its predecessor. In due course, many Nigerians observed that the posture was designed to gain huge favours including scandalous funding of bogus constituency projects beyond federal concerns. Can someone tell our legislators that the several failed projects they are setting up panels to probe were destinedto fail because the legislature never functioned as a check during budgeting for the projects?

The legislature is not the only arm of government to be blamed for all the challenges in our nation today; other arms no doubt played poor roles too but as the direct representatives of the people, the roles of our legislators expose them as persons more interested in personal gains. This seems to explain the rate at which many of them jump at executive positions where contracts are awarded. We are however constrained to appeal to them that nothing is more honourable, humane and fulfilling than to work for the people.