BY ROBERT ALABA
The 8th senate is now history. All eyes are on the 9th senate and its prospects. Nigerians are gradually keenly becoming interested in the legislature and its leadership. As Nigerians, we all shall be more than interested in who becomes leader of the 9th senate. The composition of this senate is of people who came from different backgrounds, with vast experience and unprecedented record of leadership. But this diversity can only be of benefit to the nation if the senate is lucky enough to have the right leadership.
Nigerians will not want a repeat of the disagreements between the legislature and the executive during the 8th senate. It stands out that a budget of the federation was delayed for seven months. It was an unprecedented stalemate in the executive-legislature relations, that must never happen again.
Whenever and wherever the relation between the executive and the legislature is not smooth, it becomes something like what goes in the saying that “when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers” – the grass here is the economy, the people and governance generally. The cost of bickering between the legislature and the executive is staggering and must be avoided for any government to fulfill its promises to the people.
As the saying goes, experience is the best teacher – no wonder now that search for a new leadership that will run the affairs of the 9th senate is ongoing emphasis is placed on; getting a senate president who is a ranking lawmaker. Getting a senate president who has no any stain of any misconduct. Getting a senate president who shares the vision of the ruling party. Getting a senate president interested in governance, not power wrangling. Getting a senate president who can build a bridge, not a rubber stamp and not adversarial. Getting a senate president who earns the respect of his colleagues. Getting a senate president who has the knowledge and broad mindedness to protect the independence of the legislature, while at the same time banking on good relations with the executive to ensure that, at the end of everything, it is Nigerians that benefit.
The ruling party APC had come out clearly with a position that; the position of the senate president has been zoned to north east geo-political zone. Beyond that, the party, in strong terms said, its choice is Senator Ahmad Lawan (Yobe North) As an apolitical observer, i can say that this time the APC is keen on getting it right – to avoid the regrettable happening of 2015.
Even though i am not a party man, but i have been keenly following the National Assembly since 1999. From Late Evans Enwerem, to Late Chuba Okadigbo, through to the fall of Adolphus Wabara to date. Those were days of intrigues and pierce competition for power, executive heavy handedness and external influence that saw the senate faltering from one crisis to another. The days of the leadership of Senator David Mark can be said to be the most stable – and for obvious reasons. One of them is that there was mutual understanding between the executive and the legislature. Secondly, David Mark came with ranking experience that is necessary for any person to hold the upper chamber together. This kind of stability is what is needed now. The choice of Senator Ahmad Lawan shows that APC has done its homework. One can say, Senator Ahmad Lawan had seen it all in the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly from 1999 to date. He also come with the distinct record of having being a member of the House of Representatives from 1999 to 2007. His, can be described as a rounded record of legislative experience. This is the experience the leadership of the 9th senate needs to ensure stability.
Senator Ahmad Lawan is better known for being a loyal party member with record of being in the same party since 1999. He has been doing well in attracting projects to his zone, working hard on education and youths employment. He had always been supportive of legislative moves that protect interest of Nigerians. I was motivated to write this after a visit to Sen. Ahmad Lawan’s zone; I was in Nguru, Machina, Yusufari and Gashua. At each of these places I met and spoke with people who said a lot about the qualities of Sen. Ahmad Lawan. There will be no space to explain these things. During this visit I also came across many projects he brought to his people in the areas of health care, education and agriculture.
One of the key indicators that a senate under the leadership of Senator Ahmad Lawan can be responsive to critical issues is his agenda of ensuring that Universal Basic Education Act is amended to educate out-of-school children. Apparently, his priority is education. Let us bear in mind the fact that, Nigeria has over 13 million out-of-school children, according to UNICEF. Over 60 per cent of these are on the streets northern Nigeria.
What is needed now is unity and harmony, within the party to ensure that the priority of making the legislature work – and work for the people, is realized. Though we have to reckon with those who are insinuating that an Ahmad Lawan senate presidency can be a rubber stamp. People are entitled their opinions. But what renders this assumption pointless is the fact that Senator Ahmad Lawan is always known to be a strong protector of legislative independence and has always been on the side of the people. The records of his voting pattern say it all…! On his side, President Muhammadu Buhari has never done anything to interfere or usurp the legislature of its powers. This also renders fears of rubber stamp legislature pointless. The President made it clear that he wants to have a legislator that will support his vision for Nigeria on his last term in elective office. He did not say that he wants a rubber stamp. He only wants a legislature that can work for Nigerians.
Once again my confidence in the possibility of having a strong legislature that is independent, without being adversarial has been restored.
Alaba is a freelance journalist based in Abuja