Will this assembly justify its existence?

Senate President Ahmad Lawan presiding over the second plenary of the 9th Senate having been inaugurated on Tuesday, the 11th Of June, 2019. Photo/Twitter/nassnigeria

As the 9th National Assembly is inaugurated, is there any hope that this time around, the lawmakers would work harder to earn the respect of Nigerians before their tenure expires? Or at least try to go beyond the modest gains of their immediate predecessor in terms of asserting the independence and autonomous status of the National Assembly? 

On September 2, 2007, The Guardian carried an interview with Professor Pat Utomi in which he lamented that contrary to expectations that the 2007 electoral exercise would somehow console the nation with some form of improvement in the quality of lawmakers dumped on us at the National Assembly, Nigeria still, sadly, found itself saddled with a class of legislators that was ten times worse than any it ever had.

The worst evil “those who conducted the last election did to Nigeria,” Utomi said, was “to put in place a National Assembly that is 10 times inferior to the one we had before. 

The last Assembly was bad enough, but we were supposed to make progress from there. Most societies would make progress and in the next elections get better. But what we got is a much more inferior National Assembly this time around.”

Although, I no longer fully comprehend Utomi’s political preferences and what really informs the choice of the companies he keeps these days in his attempts to realise his political ambitions, what he expressed in that 2007 interview was exactly my mind on the issue.

Any reader of my articles would easily recall that I have never been able to contain my sorrow and deep pain over the quality of lawmakers we end up with each time, and how such a misfortune continues to sabotage our best expectations for progress and development.

All the Nigerian National Assembly does (except, perhaps, when it is engaged in one of its several self-serving conflicts with the executive) is to extend generous incentive to the executive to celebrate its insufferable ineptitude and directionlessness with indecent fanfare.

As our decadent politics and the mostly base characters that star in it continue to inflict on the country a mass of grossly underweight and light-minded fellows as lawmakers, that is, individuals who clearly lack the capacity to appreciate the gravity of the assignment they are supposed to be performing on our behalf in Abuja, what Nigeria gets in return can only be retrogression and unchecked decay.

What has remained sadly true is that for most of the lawmakers who had diminished our legislative chambers with their uninspiring presence these past few years, the real reason for showing up in Abuja has been to just scramble over dirty naira notes like wanton street boys over balls of akra suddenly falling off the tray of an indiscreet hawker.

Indeed, these were mostly down-and-out fellows dusted off from here and there, easily excited by such little things as a sumptuous lunch with the president, and they emerge each time from such encounters with their false sense of worth so badly bloated that they forget their very important brief in Abuja. In them, therefore, we are inflicted with the best example of a prodigal House in hapless nation!

And if indeed, as Utomi reminded us in that interview, the 2007 set of lawmakers were ten times worse than the others before them, then the future, dear reader, is indeed scary, given what we have on ground today. We are already seeing the signs, aren’t we? 

Everyone can now appreciate my pain and sadness. Nothing seems to change in our National Assembly, whether it is their strange mindset or the way their leaders are always handpicked by external forces and imposed on them. Right now, the only thing engaging them is who occupies what position or heads what committee, and how much each fellow carts away at the end of the day.  

Only recently, Nigerians were shocked by reports that the National Assembly outrageously inflated the 2019 Appropriation Bill to the tune of N90 billion, to create funds to service their lives of outrageous luxuries in an economy that has left many Nigerians so horribly impoverished and in excruciating pains.

Out of this money, they are devoting the whopping sum of N23.6 billion as parting largesse to their members who were not able to win re-elections to their House of Profligates. Imagine the guts!  

The lawmakers are not worried that the money they intend to recklessly squander would further worsen Nigeria’s economic woes as the executive would certainly embark on more debilitating borrowings to realise the about N2 trillion it requires to take care of glaring deficits in the 2019 Budget.

Former Governor of Anambra State and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) vice presidential candidate in the 2019 elections, Mr. Peter Obi, has shouted himself hoarse warning the current regime on what he calls “borrowing for consumption.”

According to him, borrowing is not bad in itself, but it is what you do with the borrowed money that matters. If you borrow to invest, there is every likelihood that the money will yield dividends with which you would service the debts, make some profits and also create jobs for the teeming unemployed population. But borrowing to invest in unprofitable ventures is one sure way of mortgaging the future of your country and inviting her recolonisation.

What is happening in a place like Zambia today where China is taking over some national institutions because of the failure of the country to meet its debt obligations to the Asian country should serve as a lesson to us. But will they hear?  Do they care?  

In decent societies, the National Assembly would refuse to give its approval to the kind of indiscriminate and irresponsible borrowings being embarked upon by the federal government which can only mortgage the future of the country? Instead, they are giving their full support, probably, because they would not mind selling off Nigeria to the lowest bidder so long as their profligate lifestyles are being duly serviced!

So, the president is able to govern Nigeria half-heartedly, passively watch the people being horribly impoverished, or even often ride rough-shod them, because he is merrily aware that the principles of Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances which differentiate a democracy from a dictatorship do not make any meaning to Nigeria’s unprofitable National Assembly (except when their narrow interests are endangered).

All we have are a gaggle of disoriented and misdirected lawmakers, who idle away in Abuja at huge expenses to the nation, while the people whose well-being they are supposed to be safeguarding are grossly brutalised, impoverished and re-enslaved by an unfeeling and wayward executive.

In fact, given the quality of the National Assembly Nigeria is cursed with, we may need to commend the president for resisting the temptation to totally become another Idi Amin, because, from all available evidence, there is just no Assembly with the requisite will and patriotism to scuttle such a vile ambition. So bad!

Ejinkeonye, a Lagos-based public affairs analyst sent in this article before the inauguration of the Ninth National Assembly.

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