REPS: 3 YEARS OF BANKOLE’S LEADERSHIP
On Monday, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole, clocked three years in office. He has led the Green Chamber of the National Assembly for 36 unbroken months.
Three years as a milestone is significant considering that between 1999 and 2003, the House had two Speakers – Salisu Buhari and Ghali N'Abba – and at best, the relationship with the Executive was either frosty or tempestuous, from time to time.
Almost the same was witnessed in the Aminu Masari leadership from 2003 to 2007, particularly when a political parting of ways came between the Speaker and the then president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
This dispensation began in 2007 with the imposition of Mrs. Patricia Olubunmi Etteh on the House as Speaker, a development that most Nigerians did not find edifying. Etteh fell after five months, and on November 1, 2007, Dimeji Sabur Bankole emerged Speaker, through democratic means. It was about the first time the lawmakers were electing their own leadership without external influence.
Three years down the line, how has Bankole fared? Is there any cause for celebration? Mixed blessings surely, but with many silver linings in the sky.
Executive / Legislature relationship is a delicate balancing game. It must not be cantankerous to the point of constituting a cog in the wheel of governance, and it must not be too chummy to the point of reducing the latter to the point of being a rubber stamp of the former. We think Bankole has managed the relationship reasonably well.
The business of the lower house is to make laws. In three years of Bankole's watch, there are a number of such to point to. No fewer than 95 bills affecting national life have been passed. These include three Appropriation Bills, Revolving Loan for Industry Bill, Local Content Bill in the oil sector, Fiscal Responsibility Bill, Tobacco Smoking Bill, among others. There is also the historic Constitution Amendment Bill 2010.
Equally, the house, in its scrutiny of the 2008 Budget Bill discovered and blew the whistle on the unspent sum of N450 billion from the 2007 Budget, and since then, some sanity has been brought into the appropriation process. Quite significant also is the House Finance Committee investigation into the finances of government, which showed that a whopping sum of over N3 trillion was not remitted into the Federation Account by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Bankole belongs to the age group on which Nigerians hinge the future progress and development of the country. He is in the same age bracket as David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, and Barack Obama, the American president. We, therefore, expect him to deploy his charisma and youthfulness to continually make a difference in the fortunes of the country. As Speaker of the House of Representatives, he's in pole position to lead the challenge of making government work for the people, the larger number, rather than a select few.
More than any other chamber, the House has the largest number of representatives of the people, who should work to serve and protect their interests. The onus is on the body to initiate and promulgate legislations that will touch the lives of the people they represent positively. This is a benchmark we expect Bankole to set for himself, even as he marks three years in office.
On the reverse side, this auspicious celebration should afford Bankole opportunity to do some soul searching. Where is the report of the House of Representatives committee that probed the $16 billion allegedly wasted on the power sector during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration? Mired in further controversy.
Equally worthy of deep reflection and introspection is the showdown that ensued six months ago on the floor of the House, when some lawmakers pressed for a probe of the leadership over allegations of financial impropriety. A free-for-all ensued, which wreaked great havoc on the image of the country, as it was beamed across the world via various media. To make matters worse, the show of shame transpired before school pupils, who were on an excursion to the National Assembly. A closure is yet to be brought to the suspension saga that followed, and we urge Bankole to use this occasion of his third year anniversary to get the issues resolved.
Again, the Freedom of Information Bill may be a sore point that will trail the tenure of Bankole, if the lifespan of this legislature terminates without the legislation being passed. The bill, as well as many others gathering dust, should be exhumed and given expeditious treatment. One such other germane legislation is the Tax Reform Bill. Bankole would enhance his political reputation more if he uses his clout to get these proposed laws through.
A lot has also been said about the outrageous emoluments of our lawmakers. As the face of the future of politics and leadership in the country, we expect Bankole to champion a review of the matter. At a time that other countries of the world are cutting down on public expenditure, we are marooned in this sorry and outrageous pass.
As Speaker Bankole receives all the congratulations coming his way, we urge him to continually be in the vanguard of change in our political life.