By Mon-Charles Egbo
The basic responsibility of governments is provision of welfare and security of the citizenry while the legislature is to guide the other arms of government, particularly the executive, towards good governance and national development. And instructively, their successes or otherwise in performing these roles largely depend on the responsiveness of the leadership as well as the participation of the masses.
Again and for the purposes of this discourse, responsiveness which begets participation is a product of extensive research aimed at influencing public opinion in favour of an individual or organizations, but in this case, leadership. In other words, participation is achieved through planned and sustained exchange of full information, fuelled by constant research, between the public and concerned entities.
Hence, objective examination of the 9th Senate since inception few weeks ago, leaves no one in doubt as to its deliberate commitment to national interest and public expectations. The leadership is obviously conscious that good governance and national development are sequel to strong institutions driven by people’s acceptance, support and cooperation, implying that this senate understands the huge benefits of employing public relations strategies in discharging its functions.
This was demonstrated firstly by the manner of emergence of the leadership. Without prejudice whatsoever, the event of June 11th 2019 at the hallowed chamber of the Senate was quite reassuring and indicative of how national development and public expectations shall guide the actions of the 9th senate. To a very large extent, religious, ethnic and partisan sentiments were played down, suggesting clearly that Senator Ahmad Lawan was indeed the popular choice of not just his party, APC, but the generality of the Nigerian people through their elected representatives. He now has a pride of place among the league of those who came to leadership on a popular mandate.
It can be said that beyond parading leadership and service credentials holding him up as eminently qualified for the office, there are other unique competencies and capabilities conferred on him which combine to truly distinguish him. Among others, he is today the highest ranking legislator of over two decades standing and has been in the two chambers of the National Assembly with track records of legislative performance. Also interestingly, he was part of the immediate past leadership of the senate, which no doubt bestows on him the capacity to build upon the foundations of commitment to democratic values, accountability and probity laid by the previous Assembly.
As such and typical of a man adequately prepared for the task ahead, he proved instantly that he is equipped with the right mix of proactive leadership mentality and broad mindset for patriotic service. In his acceptance speech, he announced that “today, as we commence the 3rd uninterrupted decade of our National Parliament, we pledge to remake, reform and revitalize the Senate in line with our constitutional duties, the urgent expectation of our citizens and global parliamentary best practices……..Our legislative agenda must focus on enacting laws and strengthening existing laws to facilitate the reforms required to truly take our nation, our people and our economy to the next level. Within us as a Senate, our leadership will commit to partnership rather than partisanship and between us and the executive arm of Government, we will choose unity of purpose over conflict and discord while also working towards further strengthening and guaranteeing our independence and that of the judiciary. We will sustain and strengthen our institutional working relationship with critical stakeholders especially the Civil Society Organizations, the Media and Development Partners within and outside Nigeria.”
There is no better way to provide leadership and express willingness to turn this around!
Meanwhile, he had published his blueprint christened “A Legislature That Works For Nigerians,” projected to: “Reposition the Senate to carry out its constitutional duties of legislation, oversight and representation in an open and transparent manner; strengthen the internal operations and processes of the committees of the Senate towards efficient service delivery; take legislative action to improve national economic conditions including public finance management and national security architecture and to reduce poverty, unemployment and infrastructure deficits; Propose and implement a national planning and annual budget process that fosters collaboration between the executive and legislative arms of government; Continue with legislative action to bring to closure all outstanding legislation including the electoral act and constitution amendments bills; Deploy the use of information and communications technology in the conduct of the administrative business, Provide effective public engagement and collaboration with communities and ensure effective communication with Civil Society Organizations and constituents.”
And in apparent admission of the hostilities the National Assembly has over the years suffered in the hands of the public particularly as a result of the secrecy built around the emoluments of the legislators, the Senate President had stated that “to effectively address the crisis of confidence between the Senate and the general public, the 9th Senate shall adopt a transparent and accountable system that offers full disclosure of its budget in terms of personnel costs, operational expenses and other expenditure.”
Then in appreciation to the communication breakdown that manifested as very low level of public participation which left the conscious constituents frustrated in relation to the number of unasked and unanswered questions, the 9th Senate is poised to make “a conscious effort to build sustained public engagement. This could be done, for example, by increasing the community engagement component of constituency project nomination events. Further, an annual report titled, “Senate That Works for the People will be published.” There will be a concerted effort to reach out to civil society and Non-Governmental organisations to engage them in advocacy and legislative work.”
And of course as a socially-responsible leadership, Senator Lawan declared that “the 9th Senate shall focus on legislative intervention as a matter of urgency, to effect a change of course in Security, Economy, Criminal Legislation Reform, Public Finance Management Legislations, Anti-Corruption, Youth Unemployment and Substance Abuse, improve Standard of Education, Healthcare Services and other fundamental needs of Nigerians………..I commit to giving life to my vision of a united, productive and people centred 9th Senate that is dedicated to the Nigerian people….The Senate, under my leadership, will jealously guard its independence while diligently playing its part in ensuring that the task of national development moves forward with urgency.”
And by way of stressing the empathetic posture of the 9th Senate primarily with a view to changing the narratives through transparency and people-oriented actions, Lawan further stated that “in the laws we enact, in the oversight and representations we undertake, the wellbeing of the Nigerian people will always be our priority. While putting the foregoing into effect, we shall use all available channels to ensure a regular flow of information to the general public and encourage feedback and dialogue so that we remain responsive to the Nigerian people that we were elected to serve. I am confident that, in no time, we shall transform the public perception of the Senate positively.”
For an analytical mind debateably, the Senate President has successfully alerted the public on where the 9th senate is coming from and where it is heading to, for public understanding and cooperation.
And clearly, his colleagues, the law makers, corporately have since affirmed their resolve to walk the talks of their leader with every social, moral and political conviction. This can be validated by the proceedings and general activities of the senate so far. Be it in relation to cases of killing in South Africa of a Nigerian woman, viral video of a senator assaulting a lady in Abuja, Islamic Movement of Nigeria (Shitte sect)’s bloody protests, suspected herdsmen killings, Ijegun Pipelines explosion in Rivers State, SSANU and NASU threatened strike actions, confirmation of Chief Justice of Nigeria, and the manner they over-stretched themselves for screening of ministerial nominees, the 9th Senate is no doubt deliberately committed to national interest and public expectations. This senate has indeed demonstrated that it has the capacity to manage our diversity.
It is an African saying that the signs for a good day are first noticed in the morning, and also that as a man makes his bed, so shall he lay on it. Therefore, there have been sufficient proofs that these senators are ahead of the country in foresight. And one redeeming feature of this 9th senate is its people-oriented stance. Its philosophy recognizes that because sovereignty resides with the people, government must not only be accountable to the people, but place them at the centre stage of every decision-making process. This senate exhibits therefore responsiveness, transparency and accountability as operational guides. And of a particular mention is the professed determination to address frontally the recurring issues of the law makers’ pay packages, which has created huge image and reputational crises for the National Assembly.
Candidly the 9th senate going by this Agenda and activities has so far recognized that participation is the fundamental principle of good governance, and as a result, shown resolve to be responsive to public pulse, remain disciplined and dedicated to the service of the people. It has offered a high degree of mobilization and zeal for followership necessary for a sustainable democracy dividends and national development.
Therefore it is expected of every progressive-minded Nigerian to dispassionately accept and cooperate with this senate at least for having put the right foot forward. The public should develop sufficient optimism that of a truth this is a turning point in Nigeria’s legislative peculiarities. Let this demonstration of resolve to align with national interest and public expectation instigate a more sober attitude in our engagement with the Senate. In engaging them, we should show democratic culture of tolerance and accommodation, fairness and objectivity and above all, let commitment to national interest guide all our activities, moving forward. We should accord them that deserving national acceptability and respect in return. This is imperative to elicit maximum accountability and transparency to ensure political stability, security and welfare of citizens.
Except we unwittingly wish to create potential bases for nonperformance, it is only a wishful thinking to assume that without our close and objective collaboration these representatives of ours could meet the ends for which we entrust them with our mandates or that meaningful development could take place.
The public including the civil societies, the media and other stakeholders should understand that constructive engagements rather than confrontational and unwarranted attacks are what can help keep these parliamentarians on course with a view to delivering on the set goals. Otherwise, beneficial and developmental reasons could have been drowned in the noises of the face-off and in the end undermine the opportunities for critical assessment of policies and programmes of governments by the overall masses. We have to do away with every suspicious or doubtful tendencies, if we must reap the due dividends of our democratic sacrifices.
But if we take to unreasonably attacking or criticizing them unfairly and in consequence become disconnected, then we are only breeding non-performance because we would have distracted them from the lofty agenda before us.
Egbo, a public relations practitioner, can be reached at email@example.com