By Tonnie Anele
The law-making body of a nation more technically called the legislature is regarded as the first of the 3 branches of government. Without it, a nation cannot be described as democratic. The legislature has a 3-pronged role in society, namely: a) Balancing power; b) Representing constituencies and c) Law making. It is the expectation that a given legislator would serve as a check on the executive branch by not acting as a rubber-stamp to executive proposals, effectively represent the interest of his constituency and actively participate in making laws for the good governance of society. The ability to accomplish these tasks rests squarely on the capacity and quality of each legislator and the established ethical values of the Assembly. If the legislative arm of government is that strategic, one would have thought that such an arm ought to attract the very best of a nation’s political class. But this is hardly so especially in developing societies such as Nigeria whose democracy has remained stunted for long. Why must Nigeria continue to have misfits in its legislature? Those who are bothered by this question would no doubt support the call for an end to the trend.
Only last week, the media was replete with reports of a senator, who brutally assaulted a nursing mother for whatever reason. As we hear, the senator concerned, Elisha Abbo representing Adamawa North has apologized for his action. Not many including his own political party are impressed either by his demeanour or diction. Instead, while some think he should immediately be thrown into jail, others have been rational enough to first call for his arrest. As for opposition politicians who are condemning the man, we know they would have been silent if he belonged to their party. But to us Senator Abbo, should not only be immediately forgiven, we should also thank him for letting the nation know enough of his traits. We should now encourage Adamawa North senatorial district to recall him not as punishment but for proper placement. There is no doubt that Abbo would be more useful to his state and indeed the Nigerian nation if he is enrolled into boxing. Within a short while he might come back from a tournament with a gold medal. Our confidence in him is premised on his visible prowess in the recorded video of the incident at the sex toy shop where he engaged in a vandalistic deliverance of blows on a lady as supervised by the police. We also noted that Abbo is not a first offender according to an account of a photojournalist who claimed to have been assaulted by him sometime in 2014.
Senator Abbo is not alone in the list of fighters in our legislature. Apart from legislators in our Houses of Assembly in the states that appear to have hooliganism as a permanent item in their legislative order paper, there are examples of unwarranted fighting in the legislature at the national level especially the House of Representatives. Just some few days ago the nation was lucky to have avoided a free for all fight in the House over the appointment of the Minority leader. We were not so lucky in 2010 when eleven members of the House who were dissatisfied with what they saw as corruption of their leadership decided to raise a motion for the impeachment of the Speaker, Hon. Dimeji Bankole. They were not only suspended for the attempt; they were all physically bundled out of the House. SAHARA REPORTERS aptly captured it “House of Commotion: Free for All Fight At The Nigerian House Of Representatives.” The Senate on the other hand, has not recorded such ugly occurrences but we are unable to give them kudos over the incident in the 8th Assembly in which dissidents and thugs invaded the Hallowed chamber and removed its symbol of authority. Many senators believe the thugs were led by one of them which was never rebutted. There is indeed, a public view that perhaps ‘alcohol allowance’ is among the items in the remuneration of our legislators
We have had more than fighters in our legislature. As one analyst put it long ago, there are too many undesirables in our National Assembly. Painfully, each time an allegation capable of confirming the perception is raised, it is quickly covered from within. In 2008, Senator Nuhu Aliyu, Chairman, Senate Committee on Security and National Intelligence, announced on the floor of the senate that some of his colleagues in the National Assembly were among those he investigated for Advanced Fee fraud (otherwise known as 419) while he was Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police in charge of Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Although Senator Aliyu wanted to release the list of federal lawmakers who are known criminals, he was abruptly and inexplicably disallowed by the Senate leadership. According to reports, the list was later submitted to the Presiding officers of the national legislature who did not make it public.
Much later, it was former President Olusegun Obasanjo who told the nation that our legislature habours criminals. As usual, many critics who have different reasons for being anti-Obasanjo changed the topic. Thus, we never got to know what Obasanjo knew and how the knowledge could help us to sanitize our legislature. We were similarly dislodged from knowing the truth when the former Chairman of the House appropriations committee, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, accused the speaker, Hon. Yakub Dogara of padding of the N6.06 trillion in 2016 budget. The other day, Presidential aide, Lauretta Onochie, alleged that the problem President Buhari had with the National Assembly was that each time he sent the budget to the legislature, it was usually imprisoned for 7 months because he did not as, his predecessors allegedly did in the past, ‘ferry GhanaMustGo full of dollars to oil the passage of the budget.’ Perhaps a more concrete evidence that so much is wrong with the legislature is observable from the broken-hearted observation of former Chief Whip of the Senate, Olushola Adeyeye. The Senator disclosed that the 8th Senate failed in strict adherence to the rules guiding the chambers, saying as parliamentarians, they did not live by example, as they often extorted monies during oversight functions.
Against this backdrop, it makes a lot of sense for Nigeria to urgently stop our materialistic legislators from adding to their numerous vices, the idea of fighting within or outside the legislature as the Adamawa senator-fighter recently sought to do. Indeed, Senator Abbo has successfully thrown ample light on the need for Nigeria to quickly clean-up its legislature. In doing so, let’s be mindful of the persuasive words of a learned former Attorney General of the Federation, Olu Onagoruwa who once said, the most sanguine feature of any lawmaking process is the quality of the lawmaker. In truth, Nigeria is in dire need of seasoned and reputable legislators that Albert Einstein said should be “ready to live their lives for others.”