When the National Assembly took their annual recess three months ago, it was amidst serious tension within various parties caucuses’ in both chambers. Issues bothering on defections and counter defections made nonsense of the core mandate of the Nigerian legislature.
Threats and counter threats filled the air. Even after the recess began, drama did not cease. The very shameful blockade of the entrance to the National Assembly caused national opprobrium. The Department of State Security, DSS did not come out of that episode without a dent.
For DSS, it was not just a dent. In fact, it was a scar. Hooded officials blocked the entrance of the National Assembly thereby preventing those who sought to gain access from doing so. It was reminiscence of the days of old during the military. But it didn’t take long for the government to get around it.
First, the boss of the secret police was removed. He was subsequently detained. The siege was over. Things returned to normal, but that was after a lot of going back, and forth. Legislators accused one another of being masterminds of the despicable act. Lawmakers in opposing camps dug in and made wild allegations off-the-cuff. Emotions ran riot. Somewhere in between, the legislature appeared to be tending towards self destruction.
Then came the newly elected National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC and his obsession for the removal of some Senate leaders . He said it was his party members that should preside over the Senate and not the other way round. This demand by the party chairman equally caused some tension. But there was just no legal pathway to his demand. It all seemed like motions without movement. Meetings were held but they met in vain. As if that was not enough, the parties primary season presented another torrid time. Most of the time, lawmakers turn out the biggest losers during primary elections our Nigeria.
The high turnover of lawmakers during election is worrisome. It is a national problem to be fair but it is a problem that does not do us right. Since 1999 till date, during each election cycle, lawmakers suffer heavy rotation. Between 60-70% of members, both at the state and national levels don’t make it back. So this leaves the assemblies with green horns each time they reconvened. So, every four years, new faces populate the lawmaking bodies around the country, making it difficult for those experienced to guide the green horns on how lawmaking is carried out. The Nigerian legislative arm is the worse for this. The money used to train these legislators are mostly lost to this queer way of our politics.
The reality of these issues in both chambers of the National Assembly may have changed the tempo of engagement at the NASS. This time around, while Nigerians expected fisticuffs and drama, the whole tension was deflated when they resumed. Some people might have applied for war but common sense prevailed at the last minute such that a lot of Nigerians are left wondering whether the legislators have resumed at all.
This points to a very matured group of people. But more importantly, the mood in NASS, in spite of all, the noise prior to this time confirms a very focused leadership in both chambers. These leaders managed to deflate any talk of trouble in NASS thereby rendering doomsday predictors useless. To be fair, this is good for Nigeria. As previous altercations were affecting not just the polity but our economy. Political instability breeds all manner of negative perceptions, especially in an emerging economy such as ours.
We hope that the National Assembly will continue in this path. It is a win-win situation for them and us. For a stable NASS puts out a good image and favourable perception. Such perception attracts goodwill and makes their work important for the welfare of the people. We equally hope that their traducers will be as matured as the lawmakers in relating with them going forward. The legislature is the king of politics. For among them is where the real wheeling and dealing in a democracy takes place.
We urge NASS members to guard their independence jealously. But more importantly, do their work with faith and shrewdness. Nigerians still expect a lot from their lawmakers. This expectation cannot be filled by politics or self preservation alone. Good laws and oversight are germane areas of interest. As the tenure of the current NASS members begin to wind down, we hope that they use these days to do good and remain calm in the face of intimidation as the real bastions of our democracy.