As predicted by pundits, the political space in Nigeria is both boisterous and rancorous at the moment. Most elections have been held. Some are inconclusive. Others are in various stages of actualisation. Clear winners have emerged. Narrows victories have been recorded. Many results are being contested in courts of law and those of public opinion. As May 29 – the general hand-over date – approaches, different parts of the country, political parties and individual candidates experience varying degrees of fulfillment, frustration, disillusionment and even indifference.
The matter that is gradually beginning to catch national attention is the persons who will fill the top offices in the incoming ninth National Assembly. Already, there are reports, though unconfirmed, that the outgoing President of the Nigerian Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, is scheming to ensure that those loyal to him occupy prime positions in the red chamber in the next dispensation. Those making the allegation believe that Saraki who lost his bid to return to the senate now seeks to have control over the upper house after his departure.
Somehow, apprehension about Saraki’s motives is not misplaced. Flashback 2015. The preferred candidates of the leadership of the newly elevated ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) were already in place when the then strongman of Kwara politics moved against the tide and, even in the face of strong opposition from the party hierarchy, became senate president. That happened at an unprecedented cost. For the first time in the history of democracy in Nigeria, the party with the largest number of legislative members failed to produce the deputy senate president. Senator Ike Ekweremadu of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) became Saraki’s vice.
One man’s ambition had risen up strongly to conquer his party’s wishes. Something similar to the unusual drama that took place in the senate was also recorded in the House of Representatives which produced Hon. Yakubu Dogara as speaker. So it was that from the beginning, line was drawn in the sand between the legislature and executive and also between the APC machinery and the leaders of NASS. It was a matter of time before the adversarial posture of the National Assembly began to affect the running of government. Not surprising that the relationship between the two elective arms of government was largely characterised by mutual mistrust, vendetta, squabbles and a clear lack of collaboration.
With this fresh chance to correct the wrongs of the past, President Muhammadu Buhari and the rest leaders of APC should ensure that such scenario should not repeat. They should be set to intervene in the processes that will produce the principal officers. This might be at the risk of being labeled meddlesome but so be it. No price is too much to pay for cohesion and understanding amongst occupiers of government seat.
For democracy to thrive, a symbiotic relationship between the executive and legislature is non-negotiable. The parliament in particular, being a congregation of the direct representatives of the people, is unique in every sense of the word. That makes its functionality indispensible to achieving stable and productive representative governance.
A 2015 paper titled, “Managing Executive-Legislature Working Relationship for Good Governance and Service Delivery in Nigeria”, written by Chinyeaka Igbokwe-Ibeto and Rosemary Anazodo of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka in Anambra State, adequately captures the potentials and essence of these connections between arms of government.
According to them, “separation of powers is essential for the good and smooth running of government for the benefit of the people. Accumulation or fusion of power in one arm of government has the tendency of leading to tyranny. The theory of separation of power could be interpreted as a different body of persons administering each arm of the government, i.e. the executive, the legislative and the judiciary. Each of these arms should be independent of and from the others in performing their constitutionally assigned roles and function.
“This principle advocated by Montesquieu was included in the Constitution of the United States of America; which went a step further by providing checks and balances. The founding fathers of the United States believed in limited government. Government should be designed so that it would not become a threat to liberty, since the founding fathers believed that power was a corrupting influence and that the concentration of power was dangerous. They believed in dividing governmental powers into separate bodies capable of checking each other in the event that any one branch poses a threat to liberty.
“The legislature and executive can work out a synergy to re-focus and re-engineer the policy making and implementation process to promote good governance. This is based on the fact that both the executive and legislature are vehicles for engineering good governance… While the parliament has been referred to as the “nerve endings” of the polity…, the executive is the conduit for facilitating governance. The legislature can contribute effectively to peace and good governance through the exercise of the instrumentality of its oversight function. Legislative oversight function is the supervisory responsibility that the legislature carries out on the executive and MDAs in order to ensure that they comply with legislative enactments as well as judiciously expending their budgets in order to effectively meet their policy mandates.
“The legislature should evolve different techniques and strategies to strengthen its oversight function, which would enable it to conduct regular and in-depth checks and monitoring on the activities of the executives-ministries, departments and agencies. This will put the executive on its toes and it would also make it more service oriented, accountable and transparent. The executive should concentrate its activities on making policies and implementing same to address the needs and yearnings of the suffering Nigerian masses that are trapped in the poverty circle while the legislature should also focus more on making laws that would promote good governance in the country.”
These noble objectives would be hampered if the National Assembly is hijacked by self-serving individuals. Time has come to have a national legislature that is willing and able to work in concert with the executive to provide for Nigerians much needed fruits of democracy.
By Stanley Chidi Ebube
Ebube, Public Affairs Analyst, writes from Abuja