Tony Ademiluyi urges the assembly to give attention to the welfare of the people

Since the inception of democracy in 1999, the National Assembly has been in a battle of supremacy between its members and the apparatchik of the party in power at the centre. The members have been locked in a battle for the selection of their leaders as a way of asserting their independence while the party leaders have always wanted to impose their own stooges on the top echelon as a way of ensuring that there is less friction between them and the executive so that the ‘dividends of democracy’ can be better delivered to the hoi polloi.

In 1999, the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) wanted late Chief Evan Enwerem as the nation’s number three man but the majority of the senators wanted the charismatic late Dr. Wilberforce Chuba Okadigbo as the National Assembly’s Chairman. There was a great altercation between the two elephants with the former carrying the day.

The Presidency of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo witnessed the ascension of five senate presidents because of his desire to control the national legislature. The last of them, Ken Nnamani said he had taken care of the infamous banana peel that led to the sweeping away of his ‘capable’ predecessors. It was the same story in the lower chamber which saw the emergence of Ghali Umar Na’abba as the Speaker after the ouster of Alhaji Salisu Buhari over an age and certificate forgery scandal. The Kano-born speaker was a thorn in the flesh of Obasanjo and he wasn’t allowed to return in 2003 when he lost the primaries in very controversial circumstances. His successor, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari who is the current Katsina State Governor gave Obasanjo less troubles.

In 2015 when Buhari first won the presidential elections, he concealed who he wanted at the helm of the National Assembly leadership. His inauguration speech ‘I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody’ portrayed him as not willing to impose his will on the legislative arm of government. However the party leaders insisted on Senator Ahmad Lawan and Hon Femi Gbajabiamila as its leaders. The duo of Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara outsmarted the party leadership and became the helmsmen to the chagrin of the bewildered leaders.

In 2019, the party leadership still insisted on Lawan and Gbajabiamila. They were determined not to repeat the mistake of 2015 with the anointed ones reaching out to the opposition PDP in order not to leave anything to chance. Gbajabiamila went as far as promising them 60 chairmanship slots. In the end victory was theirs as they both defeated Senator Ali Ndume and Hon. Umar Bago with a landslide.

Now that Lawan and Gbajabiamila have emerged as winners, there is the need to first and foremost extricate themselves from the vicious grip of the party leadership and assert their independence. They shouldn’t allow themselves to be pawns in the hands of the party leadership by being yes men and invariably having a rubber stamp legislature.

Buhari in a recent speech said that he didn’t have a good working relationship with the eight senate. This doesn’t mean that the ninth senate shouldn’t do due compliance in the interest of the masses who elected them there in the first place. There is the need to checkmate the tyranny of the executive through adequate checks and balances which the 1999 constitution duly provides for.

There is the need for the leadership to show magnanimity to their opponents who they shouldn’t regard as foes. The APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was quoted to have said that the sins of the opponents won’t be forgiven so soon. There is no need for this act of vindictiveness as it’s totally unnecessary. There is the need for the leaders to behave like statesmen instead.

The Zulu leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi was giving Nelson Mandela hell on earth as the Minister for Home Affairs. The veteran liberation fighter responded with tact by not only giving him more powers but making him acting president when he and Thabo Mbeki were away on an official visit. The current National Assembly leadership should disregard Oshiomhole and co-opt Ndume and Bago by giving them the chairmanship of juicy committees in order to douse the tension that the election generated. Their supporters should also not be made to feel inferior as they should be gracious in victory. National interest should supersede petty party or personal interest.

There are many issues begging for attention ranging from insecurity to unemployment. We were recently declared the poverty capital of the world and an extremely terrible image abroad as our nationals are treated worse than dogs there. These issues should be on the front burner and the leadership should ensure that they are given the much needed attention that they urgently deserve.

There should be topmost priority to bills that have a direct impact on the lives of the people. Views from the opposition should be heartily welcomed. This is not the time for needless petty bickering along party lines. The needs of the nation should be put first before any other considerations.

The other members of the National Assembly must not follow their leaders sheepishly or merely for the sake of getting chairmanships or memberships of juicy committees. The interest of the electorate must be put first. If the leadership doesn’t act right, nothing stops them from changing them as quality representation must be top of their agenda.

When the dust finally settles, posterity is the ultimate judge. Like death, nothing can be altered when it judges. There will be no public relations specialists or spin doctors to play any mind games. It is the final and harshest judge. I hope the ninth National Assembly members pass its litmus test when it’s finally time to settle scores and the chickens come home to roost.

Ademiluyi wrote from Lagos