Life returned to the polity with the eventual resumption of plenary by the National Assembly. It goes without saying that the plate is full for the federal legislators, as much is also expected of them from Nigerians. More than the legislative niceties, the lawmakers knew that as they settle down to the legislative business, they have politics of survival to contend with and plots to contain the unpredictable dance steps of the presidency, which started retracing its egocentric withdrawal in belated attempts at rapprochement. Aside politics and the constant look out for banana peels; the lawmakers seem to be fully aware of the enormity of work ahead of them. There are certain crucial issues that must engage them fully.
Despite the glaring frosty relationship between the President Muhammadu Buhari-led executive and the leadership of the Eighth National Assembly, the immediate past legislative session passed the highest number of bills since the return of democracy in 1999, numbering over 300. The Eighth National Assembly, under the leadership of Bukola Saraki as Senate President and Yakubu Dogara as Speaker of the House of Representatives, also, unfortunately, recorded the highest turnover in terms of rejected bills, put at over 40.
The poor rapport between the two arms of government during the period also saw the abandonment of over 100 bills on the table of the President as of the time the leadership of the Eighth National Assembly ended its legislative tenure last week. Observers and close watchers of developments at the nation’s parliament since the inauguration of the Eighth Assembly in June 2015 have stated that Nigerians were denied the desired representation as critical bills that would have affected their lives positively were either rejected or abandoned by the Presidency.
However, with the emergence of the Ninth National Assembly leadership, they no longer have excuse not to perform because the party has taken control of the federal legislature. In as much as Nigerians are not expecting a rubber stamp legislature, they are looking forward to a robust relationship that would translate to early passage of budget, clearance of appointees for appointments, and initiation of bills or motions that would assist the government to tackle security challenges and improve the economy.
The Ninth Assembly must focus on passing critical bills that will turn the country around for better and impact the lives of the citizens significantly. Another task which comes to mind of many Nigerian is the much talked about issue of restructuring. All shades of opinion on restructuring across party lines should be considered, amalgamated, packaged and sent to the executive arm of government for consideration, scrutinization and implementation.
Furthermore, Nigerians are clamouring for an #OpenNASS. Transparency and public accountability is one of the key principles of good governance. The #OpenNASS campaign has 3 goals:
It is hoped that the Lawan and Gbajabiamila-led 9th Assembly will turn this demands into a policy document which will be binding on subsequent National Assembly leaders.
Meanwhile, in his acceptance speech during the inauguartion of the 9th National Assembly, the new President of the Senate, Lawan, had pledged that the Senate under his leadership would be united in its commitment to work for the Nigerian people.
He said, “Working together, we will begin the urgent task of rebuilding our institution and renewing the Nigerian dream. As we commence the third uninterrupted decade of our National Parliament, we pledge to remake, reform and revitalise the Senate in line with our constitutional duties, the urgent expectation of our citizens and global parliamentary best practices.
Similarly, the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said the Ninth House of Representatives under his leadership would not be business as usual because “we will be shaking the table just a little.”
He said, “We will be introducing various reforms that will reposition this institution but please rest assured that they will be for the greater good. On our shoulders lies the responsibility of working together as a House to safeguard the future of our great country.
How these promises by Lawan and Gbajabiamila would translate to a better country is still in the realm of the imagination. However, the next four years will show whether those words were meant or not. Meanwhile, Nigerians are waiting and watching.