“Democracy depends on strong institutions and it’s about minority rights, checks and balances and freedom of speech.” Those are the words of former US President Barack Obama when he visited South Africa in June 2018.
Now a quick question. Is the system of government practised today in Nigeria a democracy? I’m not sure how you will answer that but let me zero in on the national assembly – symbol of democracy as it is called – and highlight some disturbing trends.
Straight to the point. Some of us are now convinced that Ahmad Lawan, president of the senate, is leading many lawmakers who are just “thirsty” to do the bidding of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Shortly before the inauguration of the 9th national assembly in June, many had already branded Lawan a “rubber stamp”, but I was one of those who felt the senate president should be given a chance to prove himself.
In August, Lawan, while speaking at a town hall meeting in Gashua, Yobe state, proudly said the national assembly under him would not fail Buhari.
“There are pockets of opposition from other sides, I assure you all that we won’t fail the president,” Lawan had said.
Not minding those words, I still had hope because a true Nigerian patriot would not want the legislature to have unnecessary confrontation with the executive arm of government, even though the lawmakers would be expected to stand their ground on certain issues. But I started getting worried when the senate held its confirmation hearing for Buhari’s ministerial nominees. The country witnessed a charade that has now been dubbed as the “bow and go” process.
Some of the senators who ought to have been grilling the nominees at the time were seen protecting them. It appeared that Lawan made sure that none of the nominees was disqualified. A “gender sensitive” senate president hardly even allowed the women among the nominees to speak.
When I finally gave up on this senate president was when the finance bill sent by the executive seeking to increase the value added tax (VAT) from 5% to 7.5% passed second reading without the senators having details of it. Despite protests from some lawmakers, Lawan insisted that debate on the bill should hold.
Six months later, we have seen a senate president who appears to only live for the next “order” of the president.
Are Lawan and the senators representing the people or working for the president? What has happened to separation of powers and checks and balances that are the characteristics of a democracy? It is heartbreaking to hear Lawan say that any request that Buhari sends to the national assembly will make Nigeria a better place. How is that? Is the president infallible?
Before they do the bidding of Buhari, they should be reminded that the people elected them to serve them – NOT the president.
Shibayan tweets @justdyepis