It is not because the National Assembly leadership was foisted by the executive, but because it appears to be under the firm control of the executive which is a direct opposite of the 8th assembly that was vibrant and piloted by courageous and determined democrats despite the artificially created periodic challenges of political mass destruction including the baseless allegations of budget padding by AbdulMumini Jibrin and his co-travelers. The former senate president, Bukola Saraki had the roughest time in the political history of the national assembly. There was a clear attempt of sending him to prison but he resisted the attempts with dexterity and courage to forge ahead.
Recently, during his usual end of year economic empowerment programme for his constituents that labored to post him to where he is today, Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila spoke tongue-in-cheek when he gave an impetus to the popular impression that the 9th National Assembly is a rubber stamp of the executive.
Although, reports from the empowerment programme were not detailed to determine whether anyone had asked him what he thought of the allegations of ineffectiveness and cluelessness leveled against the leadership of the National Assembly or whether he simply thought aloud, imagining that the flying allegations are gaining acceptance and worrisome enough to attract his attention for defense. So he probably spoke tongue-in-cheek, but to many critics it was either a gaffe or a Freudian ship.
Hon. Gbajabiamila sounded provoked and said: “People, critics and members of other parties have said the 9th National Assembly is a rubber stamp of the executive”, he groaned by saying, “They may have told you that, too. You know what? It is better to be a rubber stamp and bring progress than fight the executive without progress. When two elephants fight, the grass suffers. The fact is that the national assembly is not a rubber stamp. This is a national assembly that represents the interests of the people. The people of Surulere did not elect me to fight the executive, but to engage and collaborate with stakeholders to bring the dividends of democracy. This is a new dispensation. There will be checks and balances. There will be separation of powers. We will agree with the executive if we have to and we will disagree if we have to. Our watchword is to protect the interests of the Nigerian people. That is the oath that my colleagues and I swore to”.
The quoted statement from Speaker Gbajabiala seems to be a confirmation of the allegations and acceptance of guilt which are enough to give a rating of the legislative arm he presides over and what Nigerians should always expect from that green chamber.
The 9th National Assembly is about six months old since inauguration. Within that period, it has been dogged by accusations of cluelessness and ineffectiveness combined and deliberate subsumption subordination to the executive. There is hardly any month that Senate President Ahmed Lawn himself has not responded to accusations of presiding over a rubber stamp assembly. He has defended himself as robustly as he can manage, but it must be clear to even him that he has not been successful with his defense. And despite whatever feats the 9th National Assembly might accomplish by 2023, it is doubtful whether they will not continue to be regarded as a rubber stamp assembly that only danced to the rhythm of the executive for four years. In fact his recent statements that whatever came from the president by way of bills would be approved even before it goes for debate, lends credence to the flying allegations of being a weak, soulless and rubber stamp assembly presided over by planted stooges of the executive.
Obviously, Sen Lawn and Hon. Gbajabiamila think critics are wrong to dismissively characterize the 0th National Assembly as soulless, and both legislators also unwisely equate robust oversight functions with conflict and obducracy. But Sen. Lawn has made a poor job defending the senate, not to talk of projecting the wrong ideas of what it means to cooperate with the executive, and incompetently defining what legislative independence means. Lately, Hon. Gbajabiamila added salt to injury when he, it seems spoke tongue-in-cheek, and managed in the process to open a window into how his mind works on the controversy. At this juncture, I must commend Gbajabiamila’s deputy, Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase for maintaining his silence and intensifying efforts silently to serve his constituents up there in Plateau state. I learnt from the grapevine that the prince from Bashar has so far secured over 100 federal government job opportunities to his people that has drastically improved their living standards apart from some other goodies scattered within the constituency. But that is not enough as sounded by those in opposition in the constituency who are desperate to disengage him from representing them in 2023.
Gbajabiamila had suggested that if being rubber stamp could nevertheless deliver progress and still be worth it, he gave alarming vent in a dangerous logic unworthy of both his profession and calling.
No, Mr. Speaker, the end does not justify the means. Those who labored to have voted the 9th National Assembly had no illusions about poor democratic records of the executive; they, therefore expect the parliament, which is the most powerful symbol of democracy, to help moderate and mitigate the inexorable excesses of the government. It is a great pity that neither Sen. Lawn nor Hon. Gbajabiamila understands the legislative nuances they have been called upon to inspire, and have inconsequence both leapt imprudently into parliamentary nothingness and outsourced their responsibility to civil society groups and other eminent persons the likes of former president Obasanjo and Gen. T.Y Danjuma who usually entertain Nigerians with folktales for rapt attention from the government in power.
Muhammad is a commentator on national issues