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Wednesday, 16 December 2015

The Nigerian Senate: Message like a snake, deliver like a free born. By Kehinde Ayoola

By Kehinde Ayoola.

There seems to me to be a disconnect between the Nigerian Senate and the Nigerian people as far as their aspirations are concerned. This has been the worrisome trend since its inauguration on the 9th of June, 2015.

The Senate is the Upper Legislative House of the National Assembly. The Legislature itself is the fulcrum upon which democratic governance revolves. Since 1960, we have had military interventions in the democratic process on two different occasions (I mean interventions that ended democratically-elected governments). These were January 15th, 1966 and December 31st, 1983. On these two occasions, the Constitution was suspended and military governance was foisted on Nigeria. The ensuing military governments operated the Executive Arm and allowed the Judiciary to function in so far as it suited their whims and caprices (decrees and edicts with ouster clauses, no-go areas and so on). But the legislature was totally erased. The legislative function of law-making was subjugated to that of the Executive Arm. The people had no direct representatives in government.

The Legislature is very important in a democracy. It marks the difference between a democratic government and a dictatorship.

When the foremost legislative house in Nigeria is therefore acting at variance with the yearnings and aspirations of the people, there is need to prick their ears so they may listen, learn and correct their ways.
Kehinde Ayoola JP, Former Speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly
Politics is about interests no doubt. However, for a government that rode to power on the popular imperative for change, Nigerians need to see a lot of proactivity, seriousness, public-spiritedness and zeal from our lawmakers towards matters and legislations that concern their interests. That should be the sole watch of this Senate.

It is still a trending issue that the Senate wants to spend N4.7billion (Four billion, seven hundred million naira only) to purchase cars for what the Senate leadership called ‘Committee Work’.

Nigerians tend to see their Senators and Representatives on television only during Plenary Sessions. However, Plenary Sessions are about just an infinitesimal part of the work of the Legislature. Members are streamed into various standing and ad-hoc committees where the real work is. Committees are an integral part of the law-making process. In the processes leading to the passage of a Bill, there is what is called the Committee Stage where the relevant Committee meets to consider the new bill properly and make recommendations to the House on it. It is also the stage where a Public Hearing could be convened in order that relevant stakeholders could make inputs. In the case of our bi-cameral National Assembly, if a House passes a Bill, it is sent to the other House for passage. If after this is done and there still exists a difference in the versions passed by each House, a Committee of both Houses is empaneled to iron out the grey areas. Committees could also be charged with specific responsibilities such as special hearings, investigations or consideration of any other matter that may be referred to them by the President of Senate or Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Therefore, let no one hold lightly the importance of Committees to the proper functioning of the Senate in particular.

However, the Senate needs to carry out whatever it wants to do within the confines of absolute expediency. It needs to go about its duties with the ultimate aim of serving the people not in a manner that is offensive to the feelings of our people. Yorubas say when you are sent on an errand as a slave, do your utmost to deliver it as a freeborn.

The Senate should please demonstrate absolute sensitivity to the feelings of Nigerians in this period of socio-economic stress and emotional headaches for many families. With all due respect, none of our 109 Senators is a pauper. So what is wrong if, as a sign of sacrifice for our common good, they use their personal cars for committee work until things settle a bit financially for our nation?

It is just not right in my view to shell out almost 5 billion when we are still shell-shocked about the revelations from Dasuki-gate; when the President still issued a plea to those who have looted the nation to return the loots and when virtually all our revenue indices are pointing South such that government, according to the President, cannot easily pay salaries anymore.

Given that the Federal House of Representatives is about thrice the Senate in number that means about N14.1 billion (Fourteen billion, one hundred million naira only) will be needed to buy cars for Committee Work in the Reps! That will set the famished Nigerian treasury back by N18.8billion (Eighteen billion, eight hundred million naira only)

We must not forget that just before this car issue, the other matter about which many Nigerians were unhappy with the Senate was the controversial Bill that seeks to regulate the use of Social Media. Add to that the long-drawn internecine struggle for leadership positions in the Senate as well as the Senate President’s celebrated trial at the Code of Conduct Bureau. What you get is a potpourri of issues that dissatisfy and irk the Nigerian public.

Not for once have we heard a robust debate of issues on education, health, corruption, security, job creation, poverty alleviation, peaceful coexistence of Nigerians and so on. During the Senate screening of Ministerial Nominees, some of them made wonderful submissions on issues that urgently concern Nigerians. Many people still recollect Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola’s brilliant submission on State and Community Policing. Or Mrs Kemi Adeosun’s take on financial governance. Or Prof Isaac Adewole’s suggestions on healthcare. (Just to mention a few). Methinks by now, relevant committees ought to be interfacing with these individuals in both their personal and official capacities on how to make those concrete suggestions become practical realities.

The Senate and indeed the National Assembly ought to make their voice heard loud and clear that they are on the side of the suffering masses of the Nigerian people.

There must always be a nexus between the activities of our Senators/Representatives and the ultimate yearnings of the people of Nigeria whom they represent.

May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Omi Tuntun, Igba Otun.

Kehinde Ayoola,

Twitter: @kehindeayoolajp

Telephone: 08023118487.


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