In Departure from the Past, SGF Solicits Senate’s Support


Mustapha acknowledges Saraki’s role in Buhari’s victory Dogara: N’Assembly, Executive partners, not rivals

Damilola Oyedele and James Emejo in Abuja
In a departure from the frosty relationship between the executive and the legislature since the berth of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, the presidency has commenced moves to smoothen its interactions with the Senate and the entire National Assembly.

This was evident when the newly appointed Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Mr. Boss Mustapha paid a courtesy call on the leadership of the Senate led by Senate President Bukola Saraki on Monday.

In a related development, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara yesterday maintained that there is currently no rivalry between the legislature and executive arms of government, contrary to beliefs in some quarters. Rather, he said both are partners in progress.

The new SGF specifically acknowledged and lauded the crucial role played by Saraki in Buhari’s victory at the 2015 presidential elections.
Mustapha, who was accompanied by the committee of Permanent Secretaries, said the executive and the legislature are not rivals and are not in competition with each other, but rather are joint partners in the Nigerian enterprise.

He earlier held a closed-door meeting with Saraki, which lasted for about 30 minutes.
The move by the SGF is a far departure from that of his sacked predecessor, Mr. Babachir David Lawal, who had famously engaged in a war of words with the lawmakers over their constituency projects.

The events which culminated in his eventual sack were initiated by an investigation of a Senate committee, whose indictment he had described as ‘balder-dash.”
But Mustapha, at the meeting with Saraki extended a hand of friendship to the legislature, and expressed readiness to work with the lawmakers to recover “lost grounds”.

Without the keen support of the legislature, the Buhari led executive would be unable to achieve its promises to restore security, diversify the economy, and fight corruption, the SGF said.
“I bring, like I said, the greetings of the Presidency because as the Secretary to the Government, my responsibility is to coordinate the implementation of government policies and to ensure that these policies are synergised in such a manner that we would be able to deliver to the people of Nigeria the good things of life which they rightly deserve,” he said.

“In doing that, I will not be able to succeed in that task, if I do not get the cooperation of the National Assembly and that is why I am here today to extend the hand of friendship and to solicit for the cooperation of the National Assembly because our constitution is very explicit when it comes to the principle of Separation of Powers,” Mustapha added.

The role of the National Assembly, which includes legislation for good governance and providing oversight to ensure appropriated funds are judiciously used, is quite distinct, Mustapha said and noted that these roles, therefore, place an enormous responsibility on the legislature in the development of Nigeria.

“I will say this and I will say it quite frankly sir, we are not in competition with the National Assembly. We are not rivals with the National Assembly. We are joint partners in this enterprise. If the National Assembly does not cooperate with the Presidency, I am not very sure we will be able to achieve the desired result that we want to see given the mandate that we have freely received from the people of Nigeria.

“ So, this is basically to come and assure you that in every area that you are soliciting for the cooperation of the Presidency, being the Secretary to the Government, I would ensure that the National Assembly receives that cooperation because jointly if we work together, whatever has been lost in the past we can quickly redeem and recover and make progress so that by the time the first four-year mandate that we received comes to an end we can show on our scorecard that these were the promises we made,” he said.

Saraki, in his remarks, welcomed the extended hand of friendship and described the visit as symbolic as it signifies a new phase in the executive-legislative relations.
“Your visit truly shows your intention of ensuring that you use your period as SGF to ensure that we truly work together to mak e Nigeria great. You are very right and I think people like us are not surprised because we know your antecedents. You know that in the presidential system that we are running in this democracy, it is not possible for us to be able to achieve all our goals if the Executive and Legislature do not have – not just an okay relationship – a fantastic and very close relationship.

Relatedly, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dogara maintained that there’s currently no rivalry between the legislature and executive arms of government, contrary to beliefs in some quarters. Rather, he said both are partners in progress.
Speaking when he received the new (SGF), Mr. Mustapha in his office, he described the appointment of the latter as “a round peg in a round hole, or a square peg in a square hole”.

He said the visit to the National Assembly by the new SGF is unprecedented in the history of the parliament.

Dogara who said the president “hit the nail on the head” on the appointment added: “it’s never been done. In those days it was invitations extended to them, then, a discussion on whether they’ll appear at all would ensue. In some cases, some members of the Executive would go to court on the basis of legislative summons.

“That is because powers of every sort usually led to abuses. So the rule that people always use to guard was that: “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. And that is why we have the three Departments of Government, The Legislature, The Executive and the Judiciary, all of us doing the work of democracy. So it was an idea of the founding fathers of democracy that it would take some kind of cooperation and consensus among the different Arms of Government for us to make progress as a people.”

“We want to reassure you of our desire to work with the Executive in order to see that we deliver the goods for the people. As a matter of fact, for us, there really is no distinction in government; it’s just ignorant people who tend to make these distinctions. If the Executive fails, there’s no way the Legislature would be exonerated, we are all guilty.

“I’ve always been mindful of our place in history, that is why we have organized this House with the leaders that you see here and some of the Members of the House of Representatives to always work on the policies and programmes of government with little or no resistance, bearing in mind that if we succeed, we succeed together and if we don’t succeed history would say, you’re a Speaker, you’re a leader and a member of parliament when this government failed.”
However, Mustapha earlier recalled the role played by Dogara in the process that led to the victory of the All Progressive Congress in the 2015 General elections.

He said: “Let me single out not for any reason, the Speaker. I remember when this whole enterprise started, we were asked to serve on the national convention committee with you. You were the nominee of the House of Reps on that committee and we worked for months to put up a convention and a selection process that is adjudged to be the best ever in this country.

You worked with us in spite of your numerous schedules in the National Assembly and what eventually happened in Lagos was a product of your input, commitment and dedication that you had put into the enterprise. So you were part of the process through which President Muhammadu Buhari emerged as our candidate in December of 2014.”
He further thanked the leadership of the House of Representatives for standing with the government of President Buhari.

He said: “I bring you the warm greetings of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and to also extend his thanks to your leadership in the House of Representatives for the level of progress that has been achieved thus far in the area of the primary responsibility.”
He said the National Assembly is not a competitor to the federal executives, but “joint owners of this enterprise”.