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Bi-Partisan NASS And Democratic Legislation

Posted: Jun 24, 2015 at 1:13 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By William Igenegbai  –   Lagos


Some commentators have pointed out that the recent position of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on the bi-partisan nature of the Eighth National Assembly smacks of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy, because for the 16 years that the party held sway at Aso Rock members never thought it good for democracy, for our country, to have a bi-partisan National Assembly.

The Eighth National Assembly was scheduled to be inaugurated on June 9, on the floor of the Assembly, the same day the All Progressives Congress (APC) senators also fixed a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the International Conference Centre, to iron out some issues concerning the leadership of the National Assembly. The meeting that was scheduled for 9a.m. never began even at 10 a.m. when news got to the APC senators waiting to meet with President that some APC and PDP senators had picked Senators Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu as Senate President and deputy Senate President respectively.   This outcome has created a seeming intractable rancour in the APC.

Ike Ekweremadu and Bukola Saraki

Ike Ekweremadu and Bukola Saraki

The PDP Board of Trustees Acting Chairman, Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed, during a visit to him by the party chieftains from across the country was said to have described the emergence of Senator Saraki of the APC and Senator Ekweremadu, as good for the nation’s democracy. He was said to have also said that the emergence of bi-partisan National Assembly was a watershed in the nation’s political evolution.

The report also quoted the PDP BoT chairman as saying that “the election of the new leaders of the Eighth National Assembly was a great display by the lawmakers that national interest and collective good of the generality of Nigerians should override narrow, personal and parochial interest and that Nigeria’s unity, peace, stability and development will continue to be on the legislative front burner.”

As correct as this assessment is, it is an appropriate indictment on the party and its members who for 16 years indulged in a winner-takes-all attitude in all their dealings. Even when President Goodluck Jonathan even once mooted the idea of picking ministers from other parties the PDP vehemently resisted it. One now wonders why the PDP has suddenly realised that a bi-partisan system is good for the country just because they have been able to “steal” their way into the leadership of the Assembly.

The only time we have had this kind of situation was in the Second Republic when Edwin Ume-Ezeoke of the Nigerian People’s Party (NPP) was Speaker of the House of Representatives on account of the alliance between the then ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and the NPP. It was as a result of mutual agreement between the two parties. What has just happened is a result of political manoeuvring arising from APC’s intra-party disagreement.

Analysts, nevertheless, see the trend as truly good for Nigeria, but ask why the PDP never thought it a wise thing to do the same to move the nation forward in all its 16 years at the helm of affairs in the country. This, however, is a topic for another day.

The question some observers now ask is, given the present configuration in the National Assembly, how will its bi-partisan nature affect quality of legislation  at, especially, the Senate and, consequently, democratic governance in the country?

Some analysts see it as a healthy situation in that debates on issues at the National Assembly will now be robust and will no longer be done in a “family-affair” and “bow-and-go” manner as we saw in most cases in the last 16 years. They say that bills now need to have serious intellectual input to be able to sail through at the Assembly. They believe that this will lead to better output from the legislature and contribute to the much-needed good governance in the country.

They also believe that depending on the Ekweremadu’s disposition, the situation could mar smooth operation at the Senate, as he may decide to toe the spoiler line with his 48 PDP colleagues in the place. They say that if this happens, the APC government could have problems in governance, which could negatively affect the party’s fortunes in the 2019 elections.

They also see the balance at the Senate as not very comfortable for the APC which has 58 senators to PDP’s 49 and a situation where a two-third majority is needed to see some issues through and considering the seeming understanding between the Saraki APC group and the PDP members, things may not be easy for the APC government in the next four years.

They also see this understanding as a factor that could lead to the return of the New PDP to its traditional fold or one that could lead to a merger that will result in a new political party. They argue, however, that whatever the lawmakers do at the Assembly, they should realise that what Nigerians need at this crucial time is legislation that will result in good governance, and improvement in the lives of Nigerians.

However the issues at the National Assembly are managed, and the effect on the governance of the country, the next four years will tell.