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Columnists, Espying

The Road To Legislative Independence

Posted: Jun 11, 2015 at 2:24 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

“The corruption of the government sets

in when the people attempt to govern directly and try ‘to debate’ for the senate, execute for the magistrate, and to decide for the judges”  -Baron De Montesquieu


As I write, the inauguration of the 8th Assembly has just been concluded and the members of the Nigerian National Assembly seem very ready to embrace the best tenets of our relatively young democracy.

The elections of the leaderships of the two arms of the National Assembly, the Senate and the House of Representatives have just been concluded. Senator Bukola Saraki of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kwara state was elected the new Senate President.

Against all odds and contrary to permutations, the former Deputy Senate president, Ike Ekweremadu from Enugu State and member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was re-elected as the Deputy Senate President. Former Senate President, David Mark also of the PDP was elected Senate Leader.

At the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, APC, was elected the House Speaker as he defeated Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila of the APC in Lagos thereby putting paid to all permutations and serious horse trading that have been going on since elections were concluded about two months ago.

However, though the elections have been won and lost, it is instructive to note the huge lessons that ought to be learnt from the process.

For over two months, the APC leadership that recently won the Presidential election has been going back and forth trying to influence the emergence of the leadership in both arms of the National Assembly.

It is instructive to also remember that President Muhammadu Buhari had promised to allow for the independence of the legislative arm during his inaugural speech. He is also reported to have indicated his readiness to work with those that would emerge as the leaders in the National Assembly.

Make no mistake about it, democracy allows loads and loads of lobbying. Democracy also empowers political parties to provide the political ‘vehicle’ through which candidates seek for offices. For cohesion and the chance to fruitfully interpret and execute party manifestoes, political parties are constitutionally empowered to guide the internal operations of the party constitution in ways that would be mutually beneficial to the party and the people.

As the elections are won and lost at the National Assembly, it leaves both the political parties and the people with eternal democratic lessons that seem to have been initiated in the 2011 elections of now Governor Aminu Tambuwal and Emeka Ihedioha as Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively.

Their emergence was in defiance of their party, (PDP) leadership’s directives or to put it more mildly, expectations. The House members decided to ignore the directive from their parties and exercised their democratic rights of electing their own leaders.

As the horse trading and the permutations were going on, it seemed the leadership of the APC had a slight amnesia as regards what transpired in 2011 as the move to teleguide the 8th Assembly metamorphosed to borrowing the British style of holding Shadow and Mock elections for the leadership of the National Assembly both of which ended in a hilarious fiasco.

From all indications, it is now obvious that President Buhari that has been accused of not having enough democratic credentials has demonstrated that he is truly ready to embrace democratic ideals. He was somewhat insulated from the horse trading that preceded the National assembly elections having let it be known that he would give the legislature all the support needed for their full independence.

One intriguing thing about the deft lobbying that almost amounted to coercion by the party leadership is that it forgot or rather ignored the fact that for a stable democracy, the independence of the legislature is paramount.

Having fielded candidates that they believe are the best to fly their party flag, the onus was on the party leadership to realize that all members of the Assembly are Stars in their own right and as such, none of them should be projected as a Sun amongst stars.

If then the premise that they are all stars stands, it should then be left to them to choose those who they have confidence in to lead them. As a matter of fact, the fact that the rule of the house is that leadership is for ranking members makes the selection of leaders amongst them easier because the lives and legislative performances of those qualified for the roles are somewhat of an open book to his or her ranking colleagues and new members who are often keen watchers of the process.

It is then the democratic prerogatives of members to elect those who they believe have the requisite leadership qualities that can make their legislative duties much easier.

If then political parties are true to themselves and believe they have sent their best as representatives, it then comes across as awkward to be seen to have preferences and take all undemocratic routes to see the emergence of the ‘chosen’ ones.

Members of the legislature like any group of people with the same interest and goals are in a position to evaluate and know those of them that would make better leaders and while political parties can provide guidance, coercion and force cannot be seen to be democratic tools.

When the members choose their leaders, it is easier to work for the mutual benefit of their constituents because they know that like in marriage of adults, the choice is theirs and they would be patient and see to the success of their chosen leaders which invariably robs off on them also because one part of their tripod duties is lobbying for their constituents and with a leader or leaders chosen by them, they would have done so taking into cognizance the patriotism, knowledge and commitment of those they want as their leaders.

The leadership of the political parties should in the interest of democracy and the people recognize that the architects of democracy understands fully the human flaws when it comes to power before they fashioned the separation of powers between the executive, legislature and the judiciary because according to Montesquieu, “When legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty…”