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Nigerian National Assembly Elections and the rest of us...

It seems to me that we tend to allow minor struggles for power among the ruling elites to becloud our wider judgement and shift our focus away from the big pictures until we forget what our problems really are.. Isqil Najim

Nigerian National Assembly has not really been known to be pro masses neither has the citizens tried enough to upset them and call for their massive recall as they follow the chamber's systematic and legalised looting system over the years. The best the citizens have done was to get enraged at their mountainous allowance and salary which gulp substantial part of national resources. They did nothing but complain and curse in public. Of all the three arms of government, the Legislative arm seems to be the only one that has yet come to term with its primary responsibility in democratic setting. Whether in States or at National level, it has been at best, extension of executive arm and sometimes, a mere rubber stamp of the executive. 
The most determined and concrete  action step toward ensuring transparency at the chambers of corruption came from Nigerian authentic financial  transparency compass, Budgit and its partners who started a campaign  for opening up of national assembly finance  on public scrutiny and even went as far as invoking FOI Bill. The rest of us just complain and not many found the campaign worth circulating as we competed to circulate "oga at the top" an "diaris god oo" comedy thrillers. That is not surprising, we are a nation in love with frivolities and the majority of our people only care about joining issues and not adding values or workable solutions. Any wonder why we keep dancing from one crisis and critical national discourse to the other without any cogent resolution or action. Even the political class are now more comfortable watching our dogs bark while their caravan simply pass with smile (credit to Jose Mourinho).  They know that our people would soon move into discussing another crisis and forget the older one.

The recent National Assembly election of its principal officers generated so much noises and I wonder what the noises are really about.

To begin with, the two chambers have become a cult of sort with rules and regulations which does not make sense to many of us but which are however, legal and binding upon the lawmakers. It was their collective agreement and it is their standing rule. They have maintained a sort of strong internal bond uncommon among other arms of government. Unlike the executive and judiciary however, bringing them to account is hard and in most cases futile as the house have mastered the art of protecting their members' interest even though they have no immunity like the executive: The different party affiliation notwithstanding.

So strong is their bond that ex-lawmakers appearing before the chamber for scrutiny as ministers are often given more respect, preferential treatments and told to "bow and go," while others are grilled like undertakers being considered for the task of nursing Ebola patients . A classic example is the manner the ex minister senator Obanikoro was screened for ministerial position during the dying days of ex President Goodluck Jonathan. And if anyone thinks  he has seen the last of such absurdity, he just have to watch the standing ovation given to  Senator Buruju Kashamu who is wanted in USA on drug charge, when he was sworn in.

Senator Bukola Saraki may have been a morally bankrupt politician in the eyes of the "puritans" and "saint" political analysts, he is nevertheless well positioned to win the Senate presidency on three grounds... One, he has the backing of all the PDP members in the house; two he has the financial clout to get his way and he did his lobbying job very well; three, he is the representative of the last of the four groups that made up the present APC, all other groups having shared presidency, VP and SGF slots.

The only area of my reservation with Saraki victory is that he did so at the exclusion of the 51 senators despite the fact that mathematically, he would still have won if all the 51 voted for Lawan, as long as his group remain compact. There was also no election, it was just a motion, which of course is allowed under their standing rule. The rule of the Senate accorded Saraki the victory and there is nothing anyone, including the president of federal Republic can do. He is the Senate president and only the senators can say otherwise.

The outcome of the election in the House of Rep however was a direct fall out of the election in the Senate and many members who already pledged allegiance to Femi Gbajabiamila changed their minds. While the senate faction brought in Saraki unopposed in absence of opposing senators, the house election was free and fair and the loser, Femi Gbajabiamila, was a good sportsman as he hugged and congratulated the winner, Dogara after the election. He has (obviously) moved on with his life and has started a process to return to what he does well.

Outside the "Fuji House of commotion" that the Chamber has become however, the only person that should feel more enraged is the president whose policies and programmes would be subject to the house scrutiny and the house will have the last say in some of them. The president accepted the outcome though he opined that he would have loved his party's will to prevail. He then expressed his readiness to work with anyone the lawmakers elected and charged them to focus on delivering good governance to the masses. This is classic. Perhaps if he had been the ex president, he would have been called a statesman, a hero and nominated for Nobel Prize. But the most surprising part which his critics are reluctant to point out is that this is a Buhari they never know. They were expecting a dictator, a leader who would ride over all to get his way but this Buhari is a democrat, at least from this outing so far, and he beat both president Obasanjo and the outgoing president in this direction. What happened to Tambuwal when he decamped to APC and still held on to his seat as Speaker is still fresh in our minds. I am even surprised to note that the police perform their work without the president interference when the president could have easily withdrawn the police as the ex President Jonathan did during the Amaechi saga, or simply deploy police behind the group of 51 to elect Lawan at anytime they like. We very well know that if the president has done this, hell will not fall. After all, it is in this country a governor sacked 16 lawmakers and allows 6 to function as authentic law makers... I do hope President Muhamad Buhari keep this up.

So to the people out there, taking the battle of the lawmakers all over the places and siding by one faction or the other, I daresay the joke is on you. These men would fight only when they need public pressure and sympathy to intimidate one another to surrender but they are nevertheless, comrades and cults of mutual interests. They are loyal only to one another and the country is tertiary on their agenda, though I have my doubt on whether the masses are ever on their priority list, yet.

Like it or not, aggrieved APC senators and Reps would eventually find a way around it and get back to business as they knew it. The question then is, what is in it for you after making so much noise and dancing or fighting one another in public, depending on whose side you are?  Will the Senate and House of Reps suddenly begin to revise its members’ salaries equal to Civil Services’? Will they stop apportionment of privileged fund to themselves? Will Saraki and Dogara’s position bring yam and eggs to your table or stabilise electricity supply in your house? These are the questions and more that I think Citizens should really be more concerned with. I am yet to see or recall any meaningful work done by any of the previous Senate Presidents and Speakers that touched directly the masses. They are all known for their fire-brigade approach to tackling serious issues. Often, acting after public outcry and not before, mostly by setting up expensive public hearing and passing useless resolutions afterwards.

All things being equal, we would soon forget their disputes until they open another can of worms and create a new crisis again, for which we would begin a new cycle of talk and more talk with no action. I do not really feel anything about the lawmakers’ election since I have lost faith in them long ago. It is up to you (people) to set your priority right. But don't forget to remind them to cut their wastes and perform their statutory duties as Legislators. They should stay clear of executive duties and abolish the Constituency Allowance among other corruption infested activities of the lawmakers.

The funny part is that when economy is bad or people are at the receiving end of unpopular  government policies, no one remembers the roles played, directly or indirectly, by the lawmakers in the nation's rot. Only the executive takes the blame. This is why we have many men in the legislative Chambers who have never presented a successful bill and yet are being re elected again and again and rewarded with political titles and ridiculously high allowances.

It seems to me that we tend to allow minor struggles for power among the ruling elites to becloud our wider judgement and shift our focus away from the big pictures until we forgot what our problems really are.. until the problems rare their ugly heads again... 

I like the words of Gore Vidal, “The genius of our ruling class is that it has kept a majority of the people from ever questioning the inequity of a system where most people drudge along paying heavy taxes for which they get nothing in return.” 

I am on twitter @isqilnajim 

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