By Felix Oboagwina
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has today become the darling of all those in the leadership race of the 10th National Assembly, NASS. Aspiring legislative officers and their lobbyists have turned Aso Rock to another Mecca, making unending pilgrimages there to curry the favour of the new deity in the shrine.
Under former Rivers State’s Governor Nyesom Wike and Oyo State’s Governor Seyi Makinde, the G5 governors of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have visited Aso Rock. They came lobbying for a contestant. Tinubu (BAT) hosted House of Representatives members and senators at the weekend; where he placed the matter before them. Vice President Kashim Shettima has weighed in, telling the senators and House of Representatives to kowtow to the party and the President on their choice of leadership of the Tenth Assembly.
Obviously, the Executive of Tinubu-Shettima is angling to back one candidate and generally dictate the lineup of the next leadership of the Legislature.
This ought not to be so. The choice of who leads the National Assembly is none of BAT’s business. It is not his call. It is not the call of the Executive to say who leads the Legislature. Doing so amounts to a bastardisation of the Constitution and our democracy.
One major contestant for Senate President is Senator Godswill Akpabio, former Minister for the Niger Delta and former Governor of Akwa Ibom State. The man from the South-South is the one the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has anointed and to whom it has micro-zoned the position of Senate President. Accusing the party of failing to create a level playing field, party VIPs have kicked, especially fellow aspirants who are irritated by the micro-zoning to one single individual. Tinubu wants Akpabio as Senate President, and he has not hidden it.
By the way, APC that ran a Muslim-Muslim presidential election finally got it right on the matter of reserving the post of Senate President for a Christian.
For The Presidency to meddle in the election of officers of the twin arms of the National Assembly defies the Doctrine of the Separation of Powers, enshrined to guarantee the checks and balances germane to the sustenance and survival of democracy and among its three arms. This groundwork for the most disingenuous rape of the Constitution and the Nigerian people is being cooked by the ruling party and Nigerians need to rise and save themselves.
The Constitution designates powers for the three arms of our democracy:
- Legislative powers
- Executive powers
- Judicial powers
Concerning the Legislature, it says in Section 4(1), “The legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be vested in a National Assembly for the Federation, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.”
In no way is the Legislature subject to the Presidency a.k.a. the Executive. Legislative powers are only subject to the Judiciary, not and never to the Executive. It says in Section 4(8): “Save as otherwise provided by this Constitution, the exercise of legislative powers by the National Assembly or by a House of Assembly shall be subject to the jurisdiction of courts of law and of judicial tribunals established by law, and accordingly, the National Assembly or a House of Assembly shall not enact any law, that ousts or purports to oust the jurisdiction of a court of law or of a judicial tribunal established by law.”
Constitutionally, what are the role and functions of the NASS? Apart from making laws, the Legislature is vested with the power to carry out oversight on the Executive and all its Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs. On a good day, to the Executive, the fear of the Legislature is the beginning of wisdom. But over the years, the power of the Legislature has been emasculated. President Olusegun Obasanjo did it, overreaching himself to determine who climbed to and fell from legislative leadership. Legislative leaders became the rubberstamp for Muhammadu Buhari. It could not have been otherwise with the way they emerged, and Senators Ahmad Lawan and Ovie Omo-Agege scurrying off to see the President in Aso Rock immediately they were elected Senate President and Deputy in 2019. Their inglorious tenure masturbated Buhari’s excesses and infamy, passing laws most damaging to the country’s socio-economic health, with a N71-trillion debt profile and stupendous corruption. Can we afford that again?
If the Legislature must carry out oversight and scrutiny of the Executive, should The Presidency dictate who carries out that function? Can a student pick his own examiner? Which suspect picks his own Judge?
Tinubu cannot dictate who will check, restrain and moderate him. Allowing him to do so is dangerous to national health. The country can ill afford a chummy, paddy-paddy relationship between the Legislature and the Executive. As the democratic watchdog, the Legislature must stand aloof, watching, barking and biting with alacrity and objectivity.
Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The Tinubu, whom people know, knows power; and he has shown capacity to exploit power. Having ridden into power on the back of Afenifere in 1999, he turned around to use the power to decimate the organisation. Next, he pocketed the State Legislature as Governor and later as godfather in Lagos. What Jagaban has done in Lagos, no man has done with any state in this country. Tinubu knows, lives, loves and uses power. For him, democracy is a tool to acquire power –QED!
Lagos is metaphorical of the looming danger of the people losing control of the people’s representatives. Lagos is proof of the dictatorship of someone who knows the meaning of power.
Such a personality needs to be checked or this country would have a tyrant and dictator in power. Having handed the power of the President to Tinubu, as well as all the instruments of coercion as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, can Nigeria afford to give this man free rein with no one and no institution to check him?
The checkmating duty belongs to the Legislature. The Legislature is the only element missing in other forms of government –Autocracy, Military or Monarchy. Where a dictator operates as the Executive, the courts will sit as the Judiciary. Only the democratic form of government injects the legislative element through the people’s elected representatives. Thus, the Legislature constitutes a vital component in a democracy. Even its budget and resources are by first-line charge and not subject to executive or judicial monitoring. All this emphasises the need for legislative independence.
With a President Tinubu, Nigeria needs an independent Legislature capable of curbing Jagaban’s well-known tendency to dictatorship. Letting him choose and pocket the next leaders of the National Assembly is dangerous for everybody.
Oboagwina is an author and journalist, and may be reached via: [email protected])