It is becoming glaring that internal affairs of political parties are overriding national interest and denying Nigerians, most of whom do not belong to any party, benefits of good governance.
This anomaly was recently demonstrated by the postponement of resumption of plenary to enable All Progressives Congress (APC) members in the National Assembly to participate in the membership registration and revalidation of their party.
The APC-dominated legislature which has been on Christmas and New Year break since December 21, 2020 was to resume plenary proceedings on January 26, 2021 but that was shifted to February 9 for the APC registration which was to kick off on January 25.
However, the exercise did not start as expected and would now commence on February 9 when members of the National Assembly are to resume plenary and there are speculations that there may be further shift in date as most lawmakers are in their constituencies to mobilise people for the exercise.
Nigerians, whose mandate the lawmakers hold in trust, are at the receiving end of all this back and forth situation as the institution of the legislature which is the core of democracy could not perform its sacred duties for too long in the face of biting socio-economic quagmire bedeviling the nation.
Under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), the National Assembly is the organ of government responsible for the making of laws for the order, peace and good governance for the nation or any part thereof.
Section 58 (1) provides that: “The power of the National Assembly to make laws shall be exercised by bills passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives”.
The National Assembly also performs oversight function which is to ensure that laws made by the legislature are effectively and efficiently implemented by the executive through Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and to keep the executive responsible and accountable, to promote rationality and efficiency in the formulation and administration of public policy.
The oversight function is backed by section 88 (2b) which empowers the National Assembly to: “Expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it”.
These functions however, came to a standstill just on account of APC membership registration and revalidation exercise.
The main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) shall start the same exercise in April and there may be suspension of plenary, thereby further robbing the people of good governance.
There are important bills such as the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), Constitutional Review and Electoral Act amendment Bill which hold potential for addressing the country’s economic and political quagmire, are suffering delay because of the time taken out for party affairs.
Also suffering the same fate are Economic Stimulus Bill which aims at providing necessary relief to individuals and corporate organisations in Nigeria negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and Proceeds of Crime Bill.
Another pending legislative activity is
the Constitutional Review, for which the House of Representatives had since October last year inaugurated a Committee chaired by the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase who assured that the House would consider the creation of states, state police, true federalism, local government and judicial autonomy in the review of the 1999 constitution.
Apart from that, there is the confirmation of the appointment of the new Service Chiefs: Irabor (Major-General) Chief of Defence Staff; Ibrahim Attahiru (Major-General) Chief of Army Staff; A.Z. Gambo (Rear Admiral) Chief of Naval Staff; and I.O. Amao (Air-Vice Marshal), Chief of Air Staff which has not been attended to.
Analysts see the recent action of the National Assembly members as self-serving and not in the best interest of Nigerians, considering the present situation the country finds itself.
Christian Okeke, a Political Science lecturer, noted that contrary to the expectations and requirements, the legislators did not place the interest of the nation over their political and personal interest.
According to him: “Those in political authority ought to always act in defence of national interest. In other words, they are expected to always place interest of the country far and above primordial cum party consideration. That is what it is supposed to be. That is the norm and what advanced democracies do.
“So it is wrong when reverse becomes the case. Party matters are important. There is no doubting the fact. But saving the country should come first because if that does not happen, everything, including political parties, will as well not survive. We face trying moments at present in the country. Everyone knows it. And National Assembly must realise that it has critical role to play to save the country and must do so now”.
Solomon Gbenga, Deputy National Youth Leader, agreed that National Assembly members acted selfishly by abandoning plenary for party membership registration, even when the country operates a multiparty democracy without minding the adverse effect on the polity.
He argued that with the growing insecurity and economic misfortunes the lawmakers would have played down party interest and resume to provide the needed legislative interventions to address those issues.
Gbenga said: “It is wrong for the lawmakers, especially those of APC who are clearly rubber stamps acting the script of the executive to abandon their Constitutional duties just for party registration. They would have been there to work on important bills and confirm the appointment of Service Chiefs. They are supposed to raise motions on the security issues in the South/West and many other issues of national importance”.