The Legislature, one of the three arms of government exist in all democracies, even though their structures may be different, however, there is one thing for instance that runs through the British House of Commons, the American Congress and the Nigerian National Assembly, and that is the fact that they are arms of government saddled with the hallowed responsibility of creating legal framework for processes, spending and execution of government operations in these various democracies. In 51 countries of the World, the legislature act in executive capacities. These countries are said to be running a Parliamentary system where the executive head of government is a member of the Legislature and all ministers are from the ranks of the Legislature. Nigeria as a country once ran a Parliamentary system of government between 1960-1966 and many are of the opinion that the Country fared better in those era than the current presidential system of government which was foisted upon us by the Military. A structure where though the Legislature holds its own ace, so much power and attention is concentrated on the executive as you would ordinarily have in a regimented military regime.
The Nigerian Legislature which as currently constituted and deriving all its powers and privileges from Section 4 of the Nigerian constitution, is made up of a lower house consisting of 360 members, otherwise called House of Representatives and an upper house made up of 109 members known as the Senate. Both houses are presided over by a Speaker and a Senate President respectively. At joint sessions of both houses, the Senate President presides and in his absence the speaker of the house of representative. The number of honorable members at state legislative houses vary from state to state depending on the number of local government councils. The Legislature is vested with so much powers to design and determine the pace of a government. They are even saddled with oversight functions for probity and accountability yet as a country with a bicameral Legislature whose operations gulps so much from the countries pockets, we are still faced with issues of unaccountability, non-performance, jankara justice, constitutional lacunas, poor policy thrust, massive infrastructural deficit, insecurity and glaring failures in almost all aspect of governance. It is expected that with a functional Legislature with the will to perform their duties as enshrined in the constitution, some of these ills that have plagued us for decades would have been substantially resolved. What we have rather seen in this dispensation spanning 1999 till date, is an act of collusion between the Legislature and the Executive who they were meant to checkmate. In as much as a healthy relationship between these two arms of government makes a good read in the pages of newspapers, it is only important that such relationships do not water down the role of the legislature in ensuring the people get the best from the Executive arm of government.
In furthering this cordial relationship with the National Assembly, the Executive have mastered the dance steps of the unholy duet and will always quickly make moves to de-capacitate a Legislature dying and willing to be silenced by ‘brown envelopes’. By the books, the three arms of government are independent but in reality, the independence of the Legislature is usually traded off to the detriment of the people whom they represent. For this reason it may seem that after the election, the people barely turn to the elected legislature for developmental issues since most of the time, they only echoe the voice of the executive. Ask most Nigerians to place a value on the legislature and I can guarantee that most of them will place the Legislature on the far left of their Value Scale. Legislative chambers are said to be hallowed but I wonder how much of this ‘hallowedness’ is left of the Nigerian Legislature; for governance over the decades have consistently performed below average on account of an extravagant legislature. It may interest you to know that just as the Legislature designs what the Judiciary will work with, approves how the executive will work, neither the Judiciary nor the Executive have oversight functions of monitoring the Legislators; making them tiny gods.
They are even empowered to override executive assents by simple two third majority in event that the executive rejects a bill proposal. The Legislature is also powerful enough to even unseat a president through an impeachment or remove a Chief Justice, Auditor General and other kitchen cabinets of an incumbent President. It will therefore not be farfetched to say that the report card of a government is in most cases directly proportional to the quality of its legislature and legislators.
At the heart of x-raying this age long collusion between the Executive and the Legislature, is the quality of individuals who we elect to represent us in those hallowed chambers; how knowledgeable are they about the role they are being elected for; there are so many legislators who just believe that their business in the National or State Assemblies, is just to be present to qualify them for statutory allowances and entitlements. They never openly support or criticize motions, neither do they bring issues to the floor for debates. If we continually elect people who practically have no idea of the crucial role the Legislature plays in the advancement of any Nation, then we obviously are not ready to join in the league of developed nations too soon. A nation is as good as the quality of its legislations and legislature. The Legislature sets the tone for the Executive and the Judiciary such that irrespective of persons who occupy these offices, performance and accountability becomes the hallmark. This is how the United State have been able to build a great Nation, it’s not just about those great ideas of the executive but about those congress men doing their jobs as contained in the constitution; ensuring accountability and performance for the interest of all Americans. The beauty of the legislature is the inclusiveness of all political players; the majority and the minority which resonates balance in government.
It is against this backdrop that I advocate that we as a people should begin to pay very keen attention to persons who we elect to legislate on our behalf due to the enormity of responsibility and power ceded to this arm of government. Young people especially in a country like ours where we are convinced that our laws are practically moribund and do not align with realities of today, should make attempt to populate the legislature at both states and federal levels to ventilate, reform, advance and add fresh ideas to our constitutional framework in line with current global realities. We need accountability at all levels of governance, we need credible processes that do not discriminate against citizens, we need development of human resources and infrastructure, we need to join the rest of the world in the race for technological and scientific advancement, we need clearer border lines on our rights and a justice system that is efficient and trusted, we need social security and many more welfare schemes, we need credible elections, strong defense and security. All these fall within the whims of the legislators who in times of extreme failure on the part of the Executive and the Judiciary can strip both them of their powers and leadership. It remains the only arm of government that is not checked by other arms ‘technically’ speaking.
The eight assembly has shown a glimpse of the true powers of the legislature, may be for reasons of their mode of emergence. In many occasions they have acted within their enormous powers to regulate government excesses and given some direction by their bills to the executive. The revolution we seek is right before us but many cannot see it. I look forward to a 2019 election where the electorates will pay more attention to persons elected into legislative seats. The more we care less, the longer our revolution tarries; for the Nigerian revolution will not be that of cutlass, guns or bullets but that of ideas engineered right in the recesses of that hallowed Red and Green chambers of the National Assembly…A new Nigeria can rise!