Brigandage in the house
The disgraceful behaviour of supposedly honourable members of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly the other day in the hallowed chamber clearly advertised their political immaturity. By getting into fisticuffs over the simple matter of appointment of sole administrators for local government councils by the governor, Tanko Al-Makura, the legislators displayed the most embarrassing verdict on their poor democratic credentials. Political disagreements are a necessary part of democracy but taking such differences to a level of inflicting injuries on each other in a barbaric way and destroying public property, is not only unfortunate but also unacceptable. Lawmakers ought to be role models and a pride to their constituents.
Nasarawa’s is not a novel case in such disdainful shows in the legislature. Even the Seventh National Assembly treated the country to a similar spectacle of odium. Among other acts, a woman legislator once came to tears as she was thoroughly assaulted by her male colleagues. The disorderliness in Nasarawa should, therefore, be a lesson to the 35 other state assemblies and the federal lawmakers that violent displays in the chamber can only be indicative of immaturity of some supposedly distinguished representatives of the people.
Factions had emerged in a free-for-all on the floor of the House barely two hours after Al-Makura inaugurated the 11 sole administrators. One side said it could not stand and watch the governor allegedly perpetrate illegalities in the state. The faction quoted Section 7 of the Constitution (as amended) saying the document is explicit on how the councils should be run for democratic governance at that level.
The opposing faction said it would not be cowed by a few members on a supposed campaign of calumny and that the security situation of the state warranted the appointments.
Democracy, as French philosopher and author, Bernard-Henri Levy observed, is a passion, a long difficult walk. So, political tolerance and accommodation of other views are imperative in a democracy. What happened in Nasarawa was, therefore, an aberration, a complete desecration of democracy itself.
Indeed, not only does the democratic culture suffer in the face of such behaviour as recorded in Lafia, the sensibilities of the nation’s law-abiding citizens are assaulted. Shortly after the debacle, a factional leader reportedly advised the people of the state to remain calm and be law-abiding. It is left to the imagination what weight the citizens would attach to his charge when he and his fellow lawmakers could not lead by example.
Nigeria may be heading to the end of two decades of uninterrupted democracy but political maturity is literally still at a nursery stage. All the same, operators of the political process ought to advance it. That growth, however, can only be predicated, as a matter of urgent necessity on a leadership recruitment process that can throw up true patriots and genuine servants of the people. Political parties in Nigeria today are run exclusive of many patriotic, interested and qualified individuals and they are like cult groups open only to certain categories of Nigerians with the physical and financial means to dare.
Because the system is populated by too many political touts and rogues, the electorate should be circumspect in the choice of representatives or leaders. Character test is, therefore, imperative. Elective positions must not be reserved only for the highest bidders who turn out to be parasites on the economy.
also calls for a new orientation for the citizens to appreciate that their elective offices should only be given to performers or the best their constituency can offer.
Thankfully, scattered elections in some states have brought some relief and reduced the pressure as a result of the clumsy conduct of general elections in the country. With three years left for many of the elected officials, therefore, regular orientation is needed to keep them inculcated with democratic values. In fact, combative lawmakers such as those in Nasarawa should be given training in decorum and other democratic ethos while the Houses of Assembly should also be self-regulating.
Constituents should also learn to exercise the power of recall as necessary when their representatives misbehave.
The people should jealously protect their mandate and guard how it is executed on their behalf by their representatives.