The frequency of legislative and executive spat in Nigeria calls for worry. Ordinarily, where the arms of government disagree especially openly, it is usually accepted as putting democracy to test. Often times, citizens believe that “smooth” working or functioning of all arms of government guarantees productive engagement. But different scenarios have shown that squabbling is part of democracy and this breeds better debate that ensures delivery of quality dividends to the people.
However because of our long years of military rule, citizens often feel that each time there is a misunderstanding between these branches of government then it is symptomatic of a larger malaise. In fact people feel that there should not be any form of disagreement. Citizens misunderstand normal governmental disagreements to mean strife and altercations. It is not necessarily so. And it is incumbent on those arms of government and the media to spend time to educate the rest of the country so that neither of the arms is pressurised into backing off a good cause.
By reading motives into every activity versus the executive, the public makes it look like the legislature is aggressive, therefore must have a hidden agenda to enhance members’ personal agenda. As a result all manners of conjectures are thrown into the public arena which in the end does not solve any problem instead it deepens it. Last week, the Senate and the House of Representatives passed resolutions individually to nudge the executive to carry out or not to carry out certain functions.
The functions include summons to the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola to appear before the House to explain some statements credited to him which the Assembly found troubling. In the Senate motions were equally passed to ask the acting president to rebuff some remarks he was alleged to have made. The Senate also took offence with Mr. Fashola over excerpts of his media briefing. It went ahead to reject and push back further consideration for appointment of nominees of the president.
The refusal to consider nominations for confirmation is sequel to the non removal of Ibrahim Magu from office by the president in spite of the senate’s refusal to confirm his chairmanship of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) twice in the past. The Senate is angry that despite the refusal of nomination, the man still occupies the position in acting capacity. The acting president had agreed to a school of thought which cites a section of the 1999 constitution (as amended) which may not require senate’s confirmation for assumption of office of certain appointees.
For Fashola, the minister had insinuated that the legislature may have gone beyond its powers to insert budgetary subheads. Subheads are projects that are included in the budget estimate for the approval of the legislature whose duty it is to approve government expenditure. The jury is out there to determine who or not overstretched her powers between the executive and the legislature. We acknowledge that the two arms of government are of coordinate importance. Thus, it is only the third arm of government that can resolve this imbroglio once and for all.
We concede that there is a possibility that some of these spats may result in loss of confidence by the people in our public officials which in turns dents the credibility of democracy. This could be dangerous. However, it is equally true that these kind of disagreements help to enrich our public spaces with deeper appreciation of democratic ethos and political development. We need it to help define exactly what we really want and to confirm that democracy is work in progress.
Nevertheless, while we await the executive to take these matters to court it is our considered opinion that while it is true that the courts can resolve these issues, there is also a role that can be played by the political party of the government in power. The All Progressive Congress (APC) must step up to feel the void in our public space. The executive and the legislature are peopled in the majority by members of that party. They cannot out source their role to anyone else. And indeed it can avoid the bad blood going to court may generate if it intervenes and ensures that the sparring parties go home with some wins and some losses.
In politics a winner takes all is dangerous. While the decent thing to do is to have the matter legally decided, political solution is also part of democracy. It is called consensus building.