9TH SENATE: ON THE PATH OF SELF-REDISCOVERY AND REAWAKENING UNDER AHMED LAWAN.
It is not surprising to notice the burgeoning level of apathy and indifference displayed by most Nigerians whenever issues of the National Assembly, particularly the Senate is mentioned. Many Nigerians believe the National Assembly contributes very little or nothing towards advancing national growth and the interest of ordinary citizens. In fact, the popular thought is that the National Assembly may have outlived its usefulness and is overdue for a massive reform. Still, many others believe that the National Assembly is an assemblage of elites who are there to pursue narrow interests and enrich themselves at the expense of National good and their constituents.
This growing apathy towards the Legislative arm of Government have been ventilated minutely through several agitations and verbal attacks against the legislature, the most notable being the nationwide OccupyNass protests aimed at putting the legislature on its toes and possibly forcing the desired reform. Although, these agitations and protests have failed to yield any meaningful results, the scars of years of misrepresentations are still fresh and bleeding.
Every informed Nigerian is aware that the Nigerian Senate has suffered a worrisome leadership gap in the last decade and this sad occurrence has continued to stir a feeling of loss of confidence in the legislature and the legislative process amongst Nigerians, leaving them increasingly hopeless. This no doubt, has greatly affected the scorecard of the Senate and the Legislative arm of government at large before the the masses whom they represent.
In fact, only recently, in the 8th Assembly, we witnessed how the leadership of the Legislature was continually in opposition to the Executive not out of national interest or public good but purely out of partisan and selfish considerations. It was in the same 8th Senate that we recorded severally unparliamentary incidents must of which were a national embarrassment. From missing Budget to deliberate refusal to attend to the 2019 Appropriation Bill to the brazen refusal to confirm those nominated by the President for appointment into several offices to the hijack of the maze to the frequent exchange of fisticuffs and several other occurrences that bothered largely on leadership inadequacies.
All these unfortunate events put together further aggravated the situation on ground and fueled the apathy of Nigerians towards the legislature and holding it in public opprobrium. In the views of most Nigerians, there was nothing more to hope for as long as the legislative process was concerned.
However, despite the low expectations and loss of confidence in the Legislature by some Nigerians, the 9th Senate under the very dynamic leadership its President, Sen. Ahmed Lawan, has shown lots of promise and proven beyond doubt that the legislature can work again. With gentle and gradual but steady strides, the confidence of Nigerians on the Legislature and the Senate in particular is beginning to show considerable upswing as a result of the focused leadership and direction provided by the Senate President.
Every keen and unbiased observer would readily agree that the Sen. Ahmed Lawan-led National Assembly has shown marked improvement in effectiveness, accessibility, responsiveness and accountability to the demands of citizens in many respects.
Under the present leadership, the Legislative machinery is designed to serve citizens needs and demands irrespective of social class. For instance, under the leadership Sen. Ahmed Lawan, we witnessed a swift and timely response towards the EndSars protests that almost engulfed the nation. The Senate leadership did not just relate with the mood of the EndSars protesters but it took the bold step of taking up the issue with the Presidency with a view to addressing the issues and providing solutions.This rare display of empathy and concern to the plights of ordinary Nigerians in the streets truely signalled the dawn of a new Senate in particular and Legislature in general.
No one can truly deny the improved and more cordial working relationship between the Executive and Legislature under the leadership of Sen. Ahmed Lawan. The Senate Leadership has been able to work in harmony with the Executive in the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians without compromising the sanctity and independence of the Legislature. This, it has demonstrated through quick but thorough screening of all Presidential nominees and prompt passing of the 2021 Appropriation Bill. We all know how previous Senates dawdled with the Appropriation Bills sent to it as a tactical way of frustrating the Programmes of the executive and forcing it to concede to their demands
The leadership of the Senate has also be able to effect a high level of decorum and order in the Senate. It is now possible to hold plenary without the usual rowdiness and infighting that characterized it. Even opposition Senators are given the opportunity to carry out their legislative functions and express themselves through bills and motions on the floor of the Senate without the regular political bullying and blocking by the Senate leadership or Senate members of the ruling Party. A clear departures from the known and usual parliamentary practice where minority members hardly had their say.
A clear case in point is the passage of the all important Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Contract Sharing Act despite being sponsored by a member of the opposition Party.
The 9th Senate has also extended its reach into the education sector, Petroleum and Oil industries, the protection of women’s right, and lots more through strategic and impactful bills and motions. Indeed, Sen. Ahmed Lawan has proven to have the grit and charisma to lead the National Assembly and sustain it on its present path of efficient and productive legislation.
If nothing else, Nigerians will always remember that the Sen. Ahmed Lawan-led Senate passed the Appropriation Bill in record time and returned the Budget system to the January to December cycle, thereby, dismantling unnecessary bottlenecks and delays in the Budget cycle and making it easier for the Executive to execute projects and programs provided for in the Budget swiftly.
Marshall Israel is a Federal Commissioner representing Rivers State in the Public Complaints Commission. He writes from Port Harcourt.
26th, March 2021.