Nigeria: Senate let down on Iwu

Daily Trust Editorial

The Senate of any country is usually a respected chamber of legislature consisting of experienced people who have served their country well and are able to put the nation above their individual selves. It is for this reason that the constitution gives it exclusive hearing on a number of issues. Its pronouncements on issues may not be enforceable, but

 they carry a strong moral force, reflecting the unspoken words of the majority of a country’s silent electorate. 


The Nigerian Senate is no exception, though smaller in size than its counterpart, the House of Representatives. It has exclusive powers to screen ministers and top government functionaries forwarded to it by the executive. Its votes are decisive in constitutional amendment. If it rejects a nominee, that nominee’s fate is sealed only to be reversed by superior logic and argument. Unfortunately, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has discharged its functions in this regard in ways and manners which leave room for suspicion, preferring and institutionalising the culture of ‘bow and go’. It is a chamber that heckles members bent on scrutinising the identities and standing of people who appear before it and rubberstamping nominees with questionable credentials.


It therefore shares in the general ineptitude and inertia that characterise performance at various levels of governance today. It has hardly taken a decision that reflects the currency of popular opinion. Indeed, it is a house on its own. Only last December, it passed a budget presented to it in a shoddy and sloppy manner, leaving the core job of scrutiny to its counterpart, the House of Representatives which outshone the senate for its scrutiny and thoroughness. Yet, this Senate is engaged in a needless battle over legislative superiority.


As a fully ‘elected’ chamber, the Senate cannot claim not to know that the last general elections were fraught with manipulations at all levels which rob it of its legitimacy. Indeed, only a fraction of its members returned. The courts have confirmed no less, with the number of slush votes and flawed mandates it has upturned and the ones it is still reviewing. Before his judicial endorsement, Mr. President confessed and concurred that the elections that brought him and others had failed the test of free and fair polls.


A few weeks back, the Senate was forced to review that exercise and to determine the culpability of the head of the electoral body, Prof Maurice Iwu. Most Nigerians looked forward to the upper chamber to help rid it of the man heading an organ which has inflicted unparalleled and unpardonable injury on democracy through the institution constitutionally empowered to midwife it. But the Senate disappointed Nigerians with the shameful way and manner it conducted this all-important assignment. It hounded, heckled and shouted down every member bent on giving a strong perception on the issue. It refused and rejected the views of Nigerians and their call for the sacking of Iwu and went ahead to confirm, what Iwu himself has said – that he is above the law.


We are not calling for a rubberstamp senate, even if such rubberstamp is popular, instead, we would have preferred a Senate that can take decisions impassionately and in sync with popular opinion and national mood. To pass a vote of confidence on a man whose acts are daily lampooned by the law courts is, at best, legislative subterfuge, demonstrating a chamber at variance with the people’s views and desires.


We call on the Nigerian Senate to wake up from its slumber and borrow from the proceedings of its counterparts in carrying out its benign assignment. This latest display of insouciance has dragged the Senate in the mud and calls into question the popularity and authenticity of the mandate which the Senate may want us to believe it has. A people’s parliament must think, work and act on the side of the electorate and not against them. We long to see a Senate that reflects the thoughts and aspirations of the people from whom it derives its mandate, not one which acts in connivance with the status quo even when it is antithetical to progress.


We remind our senators that the survival of democracy hinges on the ability of its component organs to discharge their duties and responsibilities without fear or favour, and in consonance with the wishes of the people that elected it.