OPININ: BETWEEN BUKOLA SARAKI AND BABAJIDE OMOWORARE: IMPLEMENTING SENATE'S E – PARLIAMENT
Recently, the Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly, Senator Bukola Saraki officially inaugurated the Senator Babajide Omoworare representing Osun East Senatorial District at the Upper Chambers of the National Assembly as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business, one of the most powerful committees of the legislature as its responsibilities being the 'engine room' or 'power house' of the Senate involves the scheduling of the day to day order of motions, bills and other matters of/for legislative deliberations and debate on the floor.
Without any doubt, this as well as other committee appointments made by the Senate President since his assumption of office seem to be a case of precisely round pegs in round holes. Visibly, the choice of Senator Samuel Anyanwu as head of the Committee on Ethics and Privileges and Senator Ibrahim Gobir as chairman of the Committee on Senate Services are pointers. They are indeed without the least political sentiments but rather speak volumes about the confidence in the competence and ability of these distinguished personalities.
The young vibrant lawyer and legislator, Babajide Christopher Omoworare known within the ranks of senators as the 'APC Attacker' due to his strengths in marshalling his arguments during debates while he and his party, the All Progressives Congress served in opposition in the course of the 7th Assembly, is indeed qualified for this position as his legislative experience spans wide having served as an honourable member and subsequently Majority leader of the Lagos State House of Assembly between 1999 and 2007, head of the African Bureau for Legislative Empowerment and Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Federal Character of the 7th Senate under the astute leadership of the late Senator Dawisu Kuta as Chairman.
The new responsibilities of the smart chubby senator is one in which a lot of other senators have to lobby him to include their motions and bills in the Legislative Order Paper and Notice Paper. Personally, I am not surprised at the fact that the committee he leads alongside the Leader of the House, Senate Ali Ndume as Vice Chairman and Senators Uche Ekwunife, Kabir Marafa Garba, Joshua Lidani, Barnabas Gemade, David Umaru, and Clifford Ordia as members have taken on the challenge of the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki to move the 8th Senate towards E – Parliament.
Reports are rife within the Red Chambers that the Osun East Senator didn't lobby for the Committee but only found himself as Rules and Business Committee Chairman based on the Senate Leadership's belief in him as the one with the capacity and capability to see its lofty agenda through. This comes with an advantage; he comes into the chairmanship position with the ears and commitments of the Senate President as well as a free hand to do the right things which might include stepping on a few toes in order to succeed in the assignment.
The concept of an electronic parliament is billed to open up the senate towards an overall easier approach to the art and science of lawmaking, oversight and representation. It is noteworthy to state that the Committee on Rules and Business hit the ground running; collated the emails of most senators and did a test run of sending them the Order Paper of legislative Business of the Day and subsequently, the Chairman met with the Clerk and staff of the Committee on a familiarization visit to charge them up to prepare for the uphill task ahead while also informing them it would no longer be business as usual.
Nonetheless, it should be noted that this new deal will help the legislators and the Nigerian masses in general know and track progress of motions and bills and to also hold perceptions about the attendance, performance and speeches of their representatives on the floor of the National Assembly. It will also put paid to the rumoured legislative practice of using favours to lobby in exchange for having motions and bills included for legislative debate even if it comes late in preparation and submission to the appropriate quarters as now, senators will indeed need to research, prepare and present their motions and bills within the constitutionally allowed time frame or else it risks being differed till subsequent legislative days.
For many a Nigerian, the expectation from an electronic parliament remains very high. The sanctity of the legislature as the true representative body of the people must be protected and as such increased access must be available. In no long a time, I foresee that voting, attendance and votes and proceeding of the house and all such other parliamentary procedures and/or documents will be digitalized even as the Senate Order Book, LFN, Constitution et al are on a device for easy use and referral.
The Senate is indeed laying a major precedence for the House of Representatives and even State Houses of Assembly to copy and develop their plans for an orderly fashion in undertaking house functions through the use of an open electronic means. One day it will go down in the annals of history that it was during the tenure of Babajide Christopher Omoworare as chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business under the able leadership and astute support of Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki that a major feat in the digitization of the National Assembly Rules and Order of Business was achieved.
Written by Demola Adeyeye.