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Setting Agenda For Nigeria’s Next Parliament

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Like “nwanyi Onitsha”(the Onitsha lady) said “Aga na akanehu ihe aga eme” (we will continue making plans, irrespective of whether we can accomplish them). We will continue to set agenda for our parliament and government in power, irrespective of whether they listen and act on the suggestions.
With the elections by the corner, it is time to extract all the promises from the politicians as much as possible. Even if it means writing them and having them sign before they get into office. I read one of the candidates in Enugu State have run to the Lord of Bourdilion in Lagos to sign such a non-revocable contract like the days of one of Anambra State’s Governors before the Lord delivered the state through Ngige. I guess the labour unions also realize that this is the right time to hold the government at the “scrotum” to extract commitment on agreements signed decades ago.
The first agenda I believe many Nigerians want on the table is restructuring. Every Nigerian has his own agenda in that restructuring. For example, governors want devolution of powers from the centre, something they have not been able to devolve to their local governments. They want autonomy and resource control for states so that more revenue can come to states with viable mineral resources and encourage those that do not have to think out of the box and maximize whatever they have. Whatever restructuring means, Nigerians need to agree and have the next parliament work on the required legislature from the first day they take the oath of office.
A couple of items from a chat I had with a friend recently are on; clarification on budget responsibilities and accountabilities between the executive and legislature, implications of cross carpeting between political parties by political office holders, consequences of executives non-actioning of the resolutions of the parliament, tenure of acting capacity for political appointees not confirmed by the legislature.
The budget issue has lingered for some years now with both executive and legislature shying away from going to sort out things at the Supreme Court. The issue comes up every budgeting cycle, delays the delivery of the budget and keeps investors waiting. Both sides have strong points from arguments I have read. I believe there is no right or wrong answer to the question, but we have to take a position and work from there. Better to have the Supreme Court make a bad decision than not make one at all, and hence keep repeating the issue.
The cross carpeting is another issue that have resulted in the dilemma of the ruling party struggling to leave with the reality of parliament being chaired by the opposition. The wishful thoughts of the chairman of the ruling party that the Senate President will naturally vacate office having cross carpeted dawned on him when he realized that was not going to happen.The framers of democracy believe in checks and balances, hence need for the parliament to have that independence to be able to ask the executive questions. The independence is pronounced if the legislature is of opposite party to the executive. If the legislature is of the same party as the executive, it is expected that they will be more disposed to consider executive bills. This does not mean the executive cannot work with the legislature led by opposition party on bills that are of national interest. However, they may be required to do more lobbying.
The other is the fact that the 109 senators and 360 House of Representatives Members spend the hard earned tax payers’ money in sittings, deliberate on issues and pass resolutions that the executive ignore. Such actions are wasteful and there is no point for the legislature to spend their time doing things that end in nothing. They should rather spend time on bills that affect the nation and add value to governance. The earlier they craft legislation to clarify the issue, the better for our democracy.
Finally is the one about appointments by executives that are rejected by the legislature. There are implications when an individual “acts” perpetually on “acting” status as if we are in a drama theatre. It does not give the person the confidence she (he) needs to perform on the job and leave her (he) exposed to manipulation of stakeholders. This is not in the interest of the country.
There are so many issues like these that the new guys need to tackle immediately to deepen our democracy. Treating everything like family issue will not help us in this case. It is good they start early to avoid “stories that touch” when opposition reads different meanings into them like we have seen recently when legislations are introduced close to election period. Two of such come to mind. The recent electoral law President, Buhari, refused to sign and the six year presidential tenure that past President Goodluck Jonathan introduced but was not supported because the opposition thought he was going to benefit from it. This was partly because it was also introduced too late into his tenure.
We only hope this electoral cycle throws up serious minded people who realize that legislation is not a joke, drama theatre, retirement home or hotel with bedroom on trees. There is so much work to be done guys.
Obidike Peter wrote from www.peterobidike.com and p_obidike@yahoo.com
Sunday 20th January 2019

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