Reviewing our legislators’ ayes and nays (2)
Just like in that scenario, there have been cases where clearly the ‘ayes have it’ but the presiding officer chooses to do the opposite by declaring that the ‘nays have it’. What is then democratic about this practice that we should still be using it? Should bills or motions affecting the general public be reduced and subjected to the whim and caprices of the presiding officer? Certainly, this type of voting pattern has the tendency to breed lawlessness and disorderliness. Most crises that had broken out in our legislative chambers have been found to be ignited by the outcome of the voice votes of members that are not in agreement with others causing open confrontation. It has been observed that voice vote has led to most violent confrontations and walk-outs in the annals of the National Assembly.
USAfricaonline in its report of May 18, 2010, indicated the effect of such controversial decision-making procedure while confirming the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s nomination of ex-Vice President Namadi Sambo by the National Assembly. In the report, the Senate and the House of Representatives were said to have been enmeshed in controversy over the confirmation of Sambo, who was once the Kaduna State governor. The voice vote, as a face-saving measure, was said to have been adopted to prevent scuttling the confirmation in view of some “contentious allegations”, raised by those that objected to his candidature. While the Senate had a relatively non-rowdy session, the process was said to have even been raucous in the House of Representatives because many members allegedly expressed more displeasure over the method by shouting against the nomination. Hence, the flaws inherent in the approach could be used contrary to democratic tenets.
On the other hand, adopting division as an alternative is commonly used when law makers have the cause to challenge the opinion of the presiding officer and when a particular legislator is unsatisfied with the rulings from the presiding officer, he/she could claim a division. This process involves legislators voting ‘ayes’ and physically moving to one side of the chamber while the nays move to the other side. This could be said to be similar to the open ballot system of voting.
Unfortunately, this approach has a major shortcoming of time wastage. One can guess the amount of time that would be wasted if a legislative house needs to vote on more than one bill a day. Hence, adopting the division voting for all the bills would be time consuming, cumbersome and problematic.
On a final note, the Nigerian legislative houses should be equipped with modern day electronic voting equipment for efficient and effective pursuance of parliamentary tasks. We can realise this if we muster the necessary will to do so.
Parliaments in countries such as South Africa, India, Mexico, Norway, Israel, Japan and Hungary, among others, have embraced the use of electronic system of voting. Using electronic voting should solve the challenges being posed by division and voice vote options that we grapple with.
Developmental process allows for doing things in a better way. Hence, we could give it a trial hoping that it would improve the procedure and quality of the nation’s legislation. This should then be a pending and important task before our federal and state law makers.
Kupoluyi is of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB),email@example.com, @AdewaleKupoluyi