The National Assembly and matters arising

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By Uyi Lawani THERE is no better time than now to call for the formation of a shadow government including all three estates of the realm.

Twenty eight months since its inauguration, the Executive is yet to articulate a sensible plan or programme that would reverse the nation from its path toward the brink, talk-less of outlining an agenda for its implementation. The Judiciary has been so stretched, manipulated and resource-starved, that it is a wonder we have any judge(s) left with independent conscience(s). The National Assembly (NASS), which to my mind is the worst culprit has completely failed to track the pulse of the nation, create a focus for this government, and provide a basis for hope among millions of Nigerians. But the submissions above are all obvious and as they say, flogging a dead horse is an exercise in futility. So, I aim to dwell on the subtle and maybe the less obvious. And for reasons that I will show in due course, I have reserved the most ire for the national assembly. Generally speaking, Nigerians were and still are not expecting much from the National Assembly under the present leadership.

Too often they (the Senate and house leaders) have shown how ill-prepared they were for these offices and how resentful they are of taking sides with the people. To buttress this position, I have picked only three examples from the dozens of contemporary issues that would fittingly explain the need for a sack of the NASS. One - the persistent imbroglio between ASUU and the federal government and the never-ending teaching strikes occasioned by same. Two - the need for action on our electoral laws and regulations considering the fact that several petitions remain pending a few months before the commencement of another election cycle. Finally - the action by the CBN Governor (Mallam Sanusi), its relation with the BOFIA, and how these impact the public (fiscally and monetarily), and our resources/reserves. I should also mention that these three examples bear directly on three core issues that any responsible national government in a democracy should strive to address: the provision and maintenance of physical and social infrastructure necessary for development and growth; the education of the populace (and training of the nation's workforce); and the efficient allocation of resources to maximize return and increase wealth. So, what exactly is my grouse with the NASS? Simply put - their shameful refusal to act as proxies for the people and champions for the welfare and betterment of the nation. Their failure to intervene in the current and indeed previous impasse between ASUU and the federal government is almost tantamount to negligence. Education is a matter of national importance and it deservedly enjoys a sizeable portion of the appropriation act year after year.

The assembly's failure to legislate on this issue is as curious as it is troubling. This never ending circus between ASUU and the government can be put to rest by a painstaking legislative process that should involve committees on education, appropriation, finance, technology, etc. Specifically, the constraints that keep the government from meeting their side of the bargain or the inability of ASUU to perceive any sense of equity from the process can be resolved almost at the committee level in the NASS. Why they have failed to do this so far beats my imagination. Last week, the tribunal sitting to hear the case between Amosun (ANPP) and Daniel (PDP) over the fallouts from the Ogun State gubernatorial election held in April of 2007 finally gave a verdict, albeit 28 whopping months after the elections held. In furtherance of his rights within the extant electoral laws, Senator Amosun has indicated that an appeal of the unfavourable ruling is in the offing. We sincerely hope the court of appeal would give a verdict on the matter before April 2011, at which time, the appellant (if victorious) would commence a four year term that had been hitherto expended by a usurper. If the contrary is the case, however, then Otunba Daniel would finally heave a sigh of relief and feel a sense of legitimacy after so long a time in office. If this does not qualify as absurd, then a pristine definition of the word is apt. As we speak, beyond rejecting a couple of the draft amendments forwarded by Aso Rock, the NASS is yet to do anything incremental and meaningful to the current electoral infrastructure. At the very least, they could have legislated on the continued legitimacy or otherwise of Maurice 'blow-your-own-trumpet' Iwu. Some days ago, Nigerians woke up to the news of the sacking of bank executives of five of the recently consolidated, re-packaged and re-energised banks a la Soludo.

This exercise was single-handedly initiated and implemented by the CBN finding expression in its current Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. In the wake of this event, Nigerians (never the types to lay low) have passed comments of various shades either in full or qualified support of the action or in outright opposition to it. In a vibrant society like ours, such opinionating should not only be expected, it should be encouraged. After all, the best ideas would hopefully evolve out of a fierce but healthy contest in a marketplace and economy that includes some of the best brains in the world. The mystery, however, is that the singular institution in our democracy, the NASS, deliberately organised to provide a framework for such debates has remained silent and docile. Need we remind them that the CBN Governor is an appointee of the President based on their confirmation and is at all times answerable to "we the people"? There are several lingering questions surrounding Mr. Sanusi's action: the basis and standards of the stress test; the completion or otherwise of the conduct of the test across all banks; the implication of bailing out the banks with public funds and whether this was lawful or not; the distortion arising in the securities and money market resulting from this action; the plight of the banks' shareholders (for the publicly quoted); the plight of the banks' customers; public confidence in the affected institutions, and several other questions. The governor has since embarked on a confidence building tour around the world to reassure our 'investors'. It is true that some fringe elements in the House of Representatives have made some noise about the development but so far, the NASS has not articulated any coherent position on a development with such far reaching effects as Mallam Sanusi did a couple of weeks ago.

On the basis of the foregoing, I hereby make a passionate plea for the quick formation of a true 'People's Parliament'. The parliament would immediately convene and commence legislation on several fronts with a view to passing sensible laws and providing oversight to the executive arm of the government. To this end, I humbly volunteer my services as the sergeant-at-arms, whose job it is to usher in the more talented and more knowledgeable into the hallowed chamber. Whither our National Assembly?

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