National Assembly: Time to move from politicking to governance
BY JIBRIN IBRAHIM
Politicians live and practice politics with the type of passion that is difficult for us ordinary mortals to understand. Once initiated, usually through a process of self-initiation, which they turn round to blame on “their people” who allegedly begged them to go into politics, they pursue power with focus and determination for the rest of their lives. In the process, they realise they need money to hasten the pursuit of power and they chase and obtain money with reckless abandon.
They also realise that rivals might block their path to power and they attack, criticise, blackmail and sometimes kill the said rivals to open their doors to power. Almost no one, once properly initiated, ever resigns from politics. They chase power until death beckons and we the audience often wonder whether it is life well spent. At the end, the issue is that we the people often matter very little on issues as important as politicking, what matters is power.
For the past seven weeks, daily narratives have gripped us over politicking geared to access, to overthrow, to subdue, to establish supremacy over and to install new leadership in the National Assembly. It is beginning to look as if the ruling APC was created to fight to the death on the vital question on which faction within the party will control the National Assembly. No one within the party appears to be thinking about such mundane issues as using the mandate obtained from the people to implement the party programme.
Initially, the show appeared to be interesting, even fascinating but frankly, it has become disgusting. I have examined the actors in the drama and I am unable to discern any side with more integrity, better legislative agenda, and clear superiority in terms of their personal records of legislative performance in the past. It is clearly a straightforward issue of naked struggle for power and the whole country have been made victims of the politicking.
What we know about the politicking is that a rupture occurred within the ruling APC when some “godfathers” decided the time had come for them to enhance their personal power by controlling the leadership of the National Assembly. The rupture appeared to have occurred because these party barons believe it would profit them to position themselves for even greater power in 2019, when the next elections comes round. The rupture is exhibiting toxic testosterone as blackmail, stories of past corruption of actors and family members, alleged drunkenness and/or drug addiction of other actors fill the media.
The struggle ran out of control when the party, which should normally arbitrate in such quarrels, became associated with one faction and could therefore not intercede in a neutral manner. Even the President got dragged into the fray in spite of his earlier caution when a purported meeting between him and some legislators because an opportunity for one faction to rush to the Chamber and carry out their election, which looked like a coup d’état. The summary of the situation is that the trajectory of all the politicking has only one destination. Positioning some individuals to have even more power.
The situation has become toxic for the APC and for the Nigerians who voted for them to get improved governance. This nonsense must stop and if there are real leaders in the party and government, the time has come for them to get the National Assembly return to a governance agenda.
We need to remind ourselves that the National Assembly is composed of legislators who are supposed to be the representatives of the sovereignty of the Nigerian people. The legitimacy they derived from the electoral process is supposed to galvanise them into moulding the views and concerns of ordinary citizens and constituents into public policy.
None of the legislators has mentioned any public policy concerns in the seven weeks of politicking we have witnessed so far. President Buhari has prioritised three issues in the government’s policy agenda – the struggle against corruption, the war against insecurity and job creation, especially for the youth. This important agenda would require important debate in the National Assembly leading to new legislation. The time has come to think about their core functions.
At this point in our national history, there is universal concern about the extremely high cost of governance at both the national and state levels. The Oronsanye report has suggested a path of approaching the issue, which would require closing down many government departments and agencies that are redundant and much of it would require legislation. Relevant committees in the legislatures should have already been working on such issues. Much of our current fiscal crisis is rooted in our management of our oil and gas production system. There has been no comprehensive established framework put in the place for the management of the industry.
In 2000, Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, began the petroleum industry reform process, by establishing the Oil and Gas sector Reform Implementation Committee (OGIC) headed by the late Dr. Rilwanu Lukman. Since then, the numerous attempts to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) have failed. The sixteen separate legislations governing the country’s oil and gas sector, all of which had been adjudged to be obsolete, continue to drag the Nigerian economy backward. Let the Presidency and the ruling APC show some leadership and end this destructive politicking over the leadership of the National Assembly, Let parliament return to law making and governmental oversight.
Jibrin Ibrahim PhD is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Democracy and Development, Abuja.