The Parliament Diary


Roadmapping the incoming 10th National Assembly

Toffa Momoh

Public perceptions of the outgoing ninth National Assembly cum reactions trailing its performance dwell more on criticisms rather than accolades, with many Nigerians tagging the Senate and its leadership as a rubber stamp; by which they slammed the National Assembly’s unwelcomed modality of processing, approving or deciding matters routinely rather than through careful consideration.

In the run up to the inauguration of a new legislature especially at the federal level, it is imperative to review the quality of leadership needed in the National Assembly as well as the expectations of the 10th NASS for the consolidation of national unity, good governance and sustainable economic and social growth.

The choice of the goals to which the NASS should dedicate itself referred to above (as the task before the 10th NASS) is not a choice out of the blue.

This very important arm of government, as the heartbeat of democracy, should be composed of distinguished men and women of character, learning, erudition, intellect, morality, patriotism and abiding in the very essence of democratic governance. If this is the requirement for the membership of NASS, its leadership should be made up of the finest of the finest of nobility in character, thought and learning and literally without blemish, who the older generation of Nigerians can ask their children to look up to. They should be persons whose conducts in society are worthy of emulation and replication. This is very important from our history of systems collapse and democratic failure, where democracy since 1999 has failed to meet the existential needs of the people, but has rather delivered massive corruption, underdevelopment and impunity.

The leadership of the legislature should be persons representing known schools of thought on societal transformation. They should be persons who can express ideas with a sound understanding of the various mischief in different aspects of economic, political and social life. Leadership of the legislature requires the intellectual disposition and sagacity to be in a position to come up with and discuss solutions to various national challenges. The leadership should be able to provide solutions to the upsurge in insecurity and disunity, growing inflation and unemployment, providing alternatives to borrowing for development whilst paying up overdue debts, etc.

The thought of front runners in the race for the leadership of the 10th NASS, especially in the Senate as persons who have questionable backgrounds is extremely disturbing. There is nothing in our laws that states that the President of the Senate or the leadership of NASS must have questions to answer from the anti-corruption agencies or that such persons must have been jailed by the courts and merely escaped jail through the technicalities of the law at the Supreme Court. How can such a leadership be in the driving seat of the anti-corruption struggle? How can such leadership hold the executive to account on behalf of the people?

Nigeria has a president-elect who will assume office on 29th May, and if the tribunals decide the petitions against his election in his favour, we will be saddled with a president with a number of unresolved ethical challenges relating to his previous undeniable conduct especially in its relation to forfeiture of money traceable to drugs. This is a fact that has even been admitted by the legal team of the president-elect. It is not subject to a debate but what his legal team is saying is that this should not in any way disqualify him from assuming office. The president-elect has not been able to come clean with his educational background but prefers to keep mum on pertinent issues. If we therefore combine this quality of presidency with the leadership of the legislature that has questions to answer from their mismanagement of previous executive positions of trust, then Nigeria will have completed a cycle of leadership where anything goes. Pray, what will be the lesson for the young who are looking up to the highest level of leadership for qualities they can emulate? Are we in all honesty asking our children to model their lives after these characters?

It is therefore imperative for elected NASS members to think through in a dispassionate manner the qualities needed for NASS leadership and who they should entrust to lead them. This should be beyond the decision of their party caucus in the event the parties decide to support characters with questionable backgrounds. It is about the conscience of members, their patriotism and ability to see and appreciate Nigeria’s challenges beyond the expediency of party politics. Nigeria does not need the quality of the leadership of the outgoing NASS that converted NASS to a rubber stamp. A NASS that was docile and refused to properly carry out its statutory lawmaking and oversight duties.

The failure of the legislature to perform its duties accounts is partly responsible for the overwhelming insecurity, unprecedented debt and unemployment levels, etc.

By voting in a competent and responsible leadership, the incoming NASS would have made a bold statement which would rekindle hope and trust in the legislature. That first action of electing its leadership will to a great extent determine the success or failure of the new NASS.

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