By 1999, not a lot of would-be National legislators could afford their party’s nomination forms or
political ambitions. But at the turn of 4 years, so many of such had acquired a whooping new wealth to commence a self-actualising political influence. A ride to the heights was relatively easy because of the scaled-down level of competition. At that time, apart from politics being viewed as a volatile venture with its attendant huge financial losses when defeated at the polls, there were other frightening aspects.
The experience of 1979 political players in the hands of the ensuing military regime was far from encouraging. The long-spanned prison sentences, the failing health of those who could not cope with their arduous imprisonment, the resultant deaths, and the vast business empires that crumbled; kept not only the lily-livered, but also the discerning at bay. Added to these discouragements was another tricky side which brought a feeling of introspective cynism and somehow deferred the now noticeable avalanche of participation. It was borne of misgivings
about the sincerity of a transiting military junta to freely entrench a democratic setting devoid of their traditionally dissipating hiccups such as coups and banning of political activities when discovered to be gathering momentum or not swaying towards their stooges.
This again represented an interesting but a deprecating twist in our political progression. The looming standby of a baying over-zealot self-acclaimed military reformers who could also not prove themselves as better teachers or be patient to allow the politicians learn by fits and starts.
Having a mix of these on our political psyche, only a few ‘political investors’ with a definite mindset that politics is a most viable linchpin of the Nigerian society could dare to give the new and beckoning democratic era another shot at participation.
For most of the persons in this category, there was also a new awareness. They were not going to be selfish about what they can get for themselves alone. Their plan would accommodate supporting some new entrants or political neophytes. Meanwhile, the hidden fact was actually to use some of such persons as guinea pigs in testing the sincerity of the transiting military.
Again however, the ‘political investors’ needed a level of surety from their new protégés. This then led to alliances which in most part meant a foreclosure of the protégés’ possibility
to think or work independently without recourse to their sponsors.
With a couple of years into the life of the recent parliamentary dispensation in the country, most of the executive governors who rode on similar influence of such ‘political investors’ have managed to unbound themselves from the stranglehold, save the legislature.This unfortunate situation has been sustained in the main by the same Nigerian legislators who are yet to demonstrate a total resolve that would make Nigerians start regarding them as credible defenders of the people’s interest. Bashed by any attempt to break free from their sponsors; lacking the trust for Nigerians to overrule their sponsors’ will with the people’s defining political mandate was the recognisable challenge which needed a definite preference. The duplicity of serving two masters whose interests are mutually exclusive has been very much a dangerous
But if the issue of how best to develop Nigeria is the main focus, then,there is need to articulate answers to a few questions. Is it possible for the legislature to completely break free or create laws that would stem the tide of overbearing self-serving political party leaders, who use the guise of party discipline or hierarchical structure to become hegemonic? Is it possible for the
legislature to constitute a sound body of checks or draft laws which would curb the president’s or governors’ excesses or overbearing influence? Is it possible for the legislature to define and strengthen the desired kind of change that would make the people’s mandate become guaranteed and loosen the grip of political godfathers on the Nigerian polity? And another resounding question is ‘Does the legislature believe in the possibility and greater benefits of freeing themselves from all of the unfortunate circumstances? The answers to all these is a ‘strong’ yes.
From the onset, the resistance against a usual externally implanted kind of leadership may
just have revealed the 8th National Assembly as having begun the highly needed task of self-redemption. My position all the same is by no means supporting any clandestine method of achieving such within the hallowed chambers. But I call for due regards to the sensibilities and maturity of the legislators in expressing their preferences devoid of external manipulations.
So far, the parliamentary works are gradually being fine-tuned to align with the desires of most Nigerians. The list of the ministerial nominees came. Even against the common expectation that assenting or rejection would become instruments of bargain, it never was. The budget came.
Against the usual allegation of ‘What is in it for us?’ None of such was heard, but a rather ‘Why should Nigerians be paying so much for these proposals?’ The disapproval of an increment in electricity tariff at an all time worsening service was a sheer brilliance. The reduction in JAMB fees was perfect in refocusing some government’s agencies as none-profit making. Or that being self-sustaining is not an opportunity to exploit Nigerians.
The optimism of a much desired National Assembly is being reawakened and expressed as a possibility. Also by way of assisting in agenda setting, it is my hope that the Legislature would timeously make stronger laws against fuel diversion and hoarding. These have very dire economic consequences about which Nigeria can afford to establish a monitoring enforcement unit outside of NNPC’s control. We should also expect stiffer penalties against the vandalisation of our national electricity equipment. In fact, the 8th Assembly can do it if the current tempo is sustained.