The Legislative Arm of any free nation-state is the sacred sanctuary for safe-guarding jealously, the collective power of the people pooled together and kept in trust by men and women society looks upon as dependable, honourable and selfless.
In fact, the law-making body, is by all standards trusted the most, not only to make laws, revoke obsolete ones and amend others, it also serves as the people’s surveillance, through regular checks on the likely human excesses of the Executive Arm.
Under the Presidential system of government, which Nigeria operates so awesome and far-reaching are the powers of the Executive President and Commander-In-Chief, yet his fear of the National Assembly, to him, remains the beginning of wisdom because it is believed, and rightly so, that members of the National Assembly in both the Senate and the House of Representatives carry with them the people’s power and mandate.
With such special power and reverence, they determine the type of men and women that should be employed by the Executive, supervise such servants, as part of their oversight functions and even often decide how much of the people’s money should be spent on what.
Men with this measure of pedigree ought, at all times, realise that the power they hold cannot “be a good unless, he be good that has it,” and show good examples in their dealings with others and among themselves. They must see themselves as role models from whom future Nigerian leaders must source and imbibe the culture of integrity, tolerance, public civility, self respect and indeed honour. It should above all else be their sacred duty to emphasise that might is not necessarily right and that there is no amount of conflict that cannot be resolved amicably through dialogue.
So sacrosanct is their brief and reverenced status, that when they assemble, the people expect them to exercise the power entrusted in their care with uttermost civility, representative of the value democracy attaches to the legislature.
The bi-cameral legislature of the Nigerian-type of the presidential system is no less so. In fact, it is even as halloweth as a holy temple or should so be: But recent happenings in the lower chamber of the National Assembly, the House of Representatives question the very foundation of such reverence that its members should enjoy.
Last week Tuesday, members of the House during their plenary, converted their democratic sanctuary into a battle ground of sorts and freely engaged themselves in a free-for-all, the kind one finds market women and council revenue agents demonstrate in defence of their appetites.
That rancorous session led to the indefinite suspension of the leader of a faction in the House, Mr Dino Melaye and 10 others of his ilk, called the Progressive Minded Legislators (PMLs) who had been calling for the probe of the House leadership.
Since then, accusations of impropriety, high handedness and graft against the Dimeji Bankole-led House have reached such frightening levels that force many to ask if the law-makers are representing their people or merely defending their large pockets. It is true that many interested politicians, like all other ordinary men and women are moved to action not so much by their intellect or reason but by their desires and appetites, but that is not what is expected of honourable men, standard bearers and defenders of the people’s powers.
For these avoidable distractions, suspicion and bad blood have been allowed to spill-over and now negatively affect the expected understanding, mutuality and inter-chamber respect of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Otherwise, how for instance are questions now being raised about the harmonised constitutional amendment documents sent to State Houses of Assembly weeks ago?
How can Speaker Dimeji Bankole now accuse the Senate leadership of sending only a Senate version, instead of the harmonised one? In all these, there are very strong doubts that the supposed representatives are acting in tandem with the constituents or merely acting scripts of their whims.
No time is good enough for such disharmony in the House of Representatives or between both chambers of the National Assembly, but it is most inauspicious now, that a lot is expected of the law-makers to right the political, institutional and legislative wrongs of the past.
With the general elections just less than a year away, Nigerians expect the Senate to conclude the screening of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) nominees, further, electoral reforms and constitutional amendment formalities that have dragged on for so long.
So sad was the large contingent of law makers that travelled to South Africa for the on-going 2010 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament, at our national expense but the unrest in the House and the lack of understanding between both chambers of the National Assembly, an even greater disaster. And the way things are , unless the root cause of the matter, which we now know, touches on individual appetites, is fully addressed, Nigeria’s legislative arm will become everything it should not be.
This is why an extensive probe will be necessary. Happily the two main anti-graft agencies, the Economic and Finance Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) are on the matter, and are said to be scooping for leads to unravel the true crux of the matter.
While this is on, there is no telling what Nigerians should expect of the divided House. Is Dimeji Bankole’s recall of constitutional amendment documents actuated by the avoidable malice now brewing in the National Assembly or indeed the need to set facts straight? If the latter is the case, can a divided and highly politically polarised House be depended upon to act right and with the kind of patriotism such national assignment requires?
After such tinkering by the House, wouldn’t the Upper Chamber, the Senate, consider the exercise as a mere ego-trip and seek to prove their own superiority? And where do all these lead us?
It is not enough for the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to condemn the free-for-all in the House at a plenary or the brewing bad blood between both chambers. The PDP should instead, intervene in whatever way possible, to avoid further deterioration of impasse involving both chambers under its control. This is so because, while it is a shame for supposed honourable men to toe the path of social recklessness, it is a bigger shame for the ruling party, still battling with how to address the yawning disconnect between it and the Nigerian people.
My Agony is that the real achievement of many of the law makers, is the greedy application of their so-called constituency votes in the building of personal mansions, accumulation of choice auto-mobiles and addiction to all three W’s and one C, Wealth, Women, Wine with corruption as enhancer.
To include discretion of the Halloweth chamber is one misadventure that should prick both the eyes and the ears. That is why all affected in the free-for-all and the actors whose activities and alleged indiscretion engineered it must be thoroughly probed and sanctioned.
But I have a worry. Bad actions like these attracted very loud in action, nay reprimand and can’t be too sure how and why this will be different.