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Egbe Omo Oduduwa: Legislature Throws Down the Gauntlet!

By Shenge Rahman Akanbi, Femi Odedeyi For and on behalf of Egbe Omo Oduduwa
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Finally, the groundwork has now been laid for the manifestation of Change through the separate and different conceptions of Change by both the Legislature and the Executive. While the executive is surefooted in its approach, with its economic diversification anchored on the necessity to drive Nigeria away from her rentier economy and changing the paradigm whereby almost 80% of Nigeria’s income are utilized notably for political structures; security of lives and property; tackling unemployment among other issues as propounded by Babafemi Ojudu, the Special Adviser to the President on Political Affairs; the legislature, through its Senate President, made known its own understanding of, and expectations about the Change Agenda via the senate’s president’s narrative of his travails in the criminal justice system by asserting that he is not only on trial but the entire legislature anchored on the senators’ commitment to the principle of separation of powers expressed in their right to freely choose their leaders without external interference thus showcasing a manifestation of the independence of the Legislature just as he claimed the entire judicial system and anti-corruption institutions as well as his “party’s promise to depart from the ways of the past, a promise that Nigerians voted for” are also on trial.

Yes, it is true that Nigerians voted for the promise of Change and if it is true that all members of the Senate subscribe to their president’s narrative, it means the entire legislature has thrown a challenge to the Change Administration and to the Peoples of Nigeria; for not only has the Legislature is now admitting its being part of the Change Agenda, it has also gone ahead to propound its understanding of it.

This understanding is reflected in the senate president’s assertion to the effect that his party’s promise to depart from ways of the past, being a reflection of the Change Agenda, is on trial with him; yet he failed to acknowledge the fact that he is continuing with a major way of the past while trying to identify with the needed Changes in the present where the past is in the lack of morality in our public officials in their not only personalizing their public offices but also failing to abide with the first rule of political morality, to wit, resigning their offices while under indictment or trial.

Forgetting for the moment the fact that all of the allegations against him were not based on his activities as senate president, his attempt at situating his criminal trial within the Change Agenda necessarily throws open the legislature’s perception of the Agenda itself. In this instance, what would be expected of a leader of his status within the party is to set the pace for the actualization of the Change Agenda by creating a moral standard, to wit, resigning his office and establishing his innocence in the court of law, especially when he also said the judiciary is on trial.

The judiciary is on trial precisely because the legislature had severally attempted to manipulate the judiciary through its extant powers by its attempt at retroactively amending anti-corruption laws; the attempted intimidation of the judiciary as well as judicial officers through what it called “legislative oversight” functions as well as a complete disrespect for the Supreme Court of the land with the active collaboration of “senior” members of the Nigerian Bar and a defiant violation of the Constitution via the legislature-enabled budget padding crisis; all of which constitute the core of the Legislature’s “Change Agenda”.

To make matters worse, the senate president contradicted himself by his reductionist theory where, on the one hand, the senate has the “independence” to choose its leaders while on the other claiming that such an exercise is on the basis of “separation of powers” when it is obvious that there is no “independence” but inter-dependence, since none of the three branches can operate outside the Constitution which already mandates separate structures and operating procedures. Furthermore, “separation of powers” is not simply about choosing legislative leaders but a reflection of various routes to governance where one branch will not have overarching authority on the other thereby mandating mutual co-operation.

This fundamental gaffe necessarily calls into question the legislature’s claim to be part of the Change Agenda and plainly shows its commitment to the sustenance of the status quo ante.

The Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters made a statement stating the following: “That the President believes that Nigerians, must change our old ways of doing things. There is an urgent need to communicate across to the generality of the people the mantra of change.

The change we advocate is not a forced change from the top to the bottom. Rather, it is the government’s position that meaningful change has to come from all angles – from the bottom to the top, the top to the bottom and everywhere in between! Every Nigerian, and not just the leaders, must eschew corruption; inculcate the culture and habit of doing the right things in the proper manner at all levels in all segments of society”.

This is in direct conflict with the suppositions of the senate president both in his attitude towards his criminal trials as well his attempt at situating it within the context of Change, for all the legislative shenanigans could not have been predicated on “doing things in the proper manner”; just as it is known the “budget padding” or its manipulation is one of Nigeria’s “old ways of doing things” which even the senate president admitted his party is against. Which again shows the legislature’s “Change” is a conceptual negation of the Change Agenda in every material particular.

Where then do we go from here, from these antagonistic and contradictory understanding of the Change Agenda but for “We, the People” invoking our sovereign rights via utilizing the suggested “Regional Town Halls” as our formal platforms not only for the expression of our Change paradigms but also as the political expression of the Change itself.

In other words, the “Regional Town Halls” must become the “Peoples Parliaments” whose decisions the Change Administration must commit to execute if we, the Executive and the Peoples are to establish a solid foundation for Change, otherwise, the executive would be failing in its Change Agenda by not utilizing these “Regional Town Halls” as the platform for the Peoples as the driver of the Change process.

This is achievable in the sense that all current State governments are products of democratic choices hence coordinating the establishment of these “Regional Town Halls” and their transformation into “Peoples Parliaments” would suffer no democratic deficit and without prejudice to existing State Houses of Assembly.

It is in this context, that the following general suggestions are made and upon which further details can be developed:

(1) It is generally agreed that economic diversification is paramount if any form of Change is to manifest.

(2) A successful diversification cannot be made to continuously sustain extant political structures otherwise, it will be of no effect.

(3) Hence, “political diversification” must be pursued alongside economic diversification.

(4) The current Legislature, as represented by the senate president, has shown its lack of comprehension of Change, and going by the senate president’s reductionism, the Legislature’s re-Formation becomes a necessity.

(5) Part of this re-Formation with its added economic and anti-corruption value is in the Federal legislators’ remuneration being borne by their Constituents however defined, Regionally, Ethno-Nationally or Zonally, in order to make them more responsible and transparent in their representations as well as ensuring the exercise of the Constituents’ existential paradigms on the Legislature.

(6) The Federal Legislature to be unicameral alongside a Federal/National Council made up of equal members from the Federating Regions with specific functions, notably, selecting or electing a Federal president in conjunction with the Federal Legislature, with the Council’s remuneration also being the Regions’ responsibility.

(7) The Change Administration cannot allow itself to be hamstrung by the extant Constitution in the sense that the Change Agenda necessarily implies Constitutional Re-Formation without which no Change will be possible.

(8) The legislature, by this affirmation from its senate president, has shown that its legislative capabilities does not envisage any Change as manifested in its self-entitlement on the budget.

(9) A Referendum (Zonal/Regional/Ethno-National) is the only possible and peaceable way for the Peoples to manifest their aspirations without being subjected to legislative manipulation under the guise of some Constitutional provisions, as is certain with the current legislature.

(10) The Peoples of Nigeria will have to be the ultimate decider of this contest for Change between the Executive and the Legislature. The platform is the “Regional Town Halls” transformed into becoming the Peoples Parliaments. We deserve no less.

Shenge Rahman Akanbi, Femi Odedeyi
for and on behalf of Egbe Omo Oduduwa

( [email protected] )