SATIRE SATURDAY: Why Saraki-led Senate is the best since 1999

Nigerian senate chambers where senators attend plenary
Nigerian senate chambers

The Bukola Saraki-led eight Senate had its valedictory session earlier in the week. Every Nigerian who watched the session must have been intrigued by the spectacle as senators after senators took turns to speak about their experience and contributions. A day after the session, I watched the clip as our senators, all selfless Nigerians working day and night to better our lives, dissected the eighth assembly and its many defining moments.

SATIRE SATURDAY suspects that the emotion-laden session must have been defined largely by the melancholic mood of a significant number of senators that lost their re-election bids and will not return to the chamber, notable among whom is the Senate President himself, Mr Saraki. Hence, who knows, one would not be too sure of the actual basis for their emotion-laden speeches: it’s perhaps located somewhere between the pain that comes with an end to service to motherland and the equally tragic end to a juicy thirteen-point-something-million-naira monthly (bank) alert. For, in the end, as politicians in this clime have shown us over the years, there is a thin line between service to motherland and to pocket.

In any case, that’s beside the point. Very few people would worry about the uncertainty that clouds their political future after at least four years of thirteen-point-something million certain alerts.

To be sure, the turbulence that defined its emergence and tenure notwithstanding, the outgoing leadership of the Senate is by far Nigeria’s most productive since 1999. By the end of May, the Senate had passed 293 bills, a record-shattering number that towers far above the numbers passed by both the seventh and sixth Senate—-which passed 128 and 72 bills, respectively. Many Nigerians who celebrate this feat do not care about the quality of the bills but that’s fine.

In any case, a rigorous analysis of the bills, if juxtaposed against the past, would only paint a sad reminder of how much has been wasted funding our k-legged governance structure without commensurate results since 1999.

I am afraid that a dispassionate look into the activities of this senate may not necessarily show the enormity of works done, quite alright, but the uselessness of previous assemblies. But then, it is not for nothing that we were once named the world happiest people; we dramatise our happiness by refusing to look into a sad past. That’s fine too. Aside that, this senate also takes the glory of opening up the NASS budget—–without really opening it up. That’s fine. It also told us how much its members earn without really telling us. That’s fine too.

But what defined the eight assembly was not the small, inconsequential matter of the record number of bills passed or disclosures made. Already, that’s the least of the achievements recorded and, perhaps, the least of members’ concerns. What defined it were its understanding and application of the principle of checks and balances in a democracy. This much was evident, first, in its cat-and-mouse relationship with the executive.

Between 2016 and 2018, Nigerians were treated to all sorts of executive-legislature dramas—-from the petty to the ridiculous through the outright farcical.

At some point, it was as though there is a constitutional requirement that made it criminal for both arms to work in unison for the growth of the nation. In the end, it took very little to see through the gimmick: that both arms were everything but selfless in and on their respective actions and positions; it was all politics in its most unpolished form. There was an executive which would rather have a subservient legislature and, on the flipside, a legislature that would rather spite the executive (even if Nigerians suffer), masquerading as promoter of democratic independence.

But more importantly, and still on checks and balances, what made the Saraki assembly tick manifested in the turbulent years of Nigeria’s self-inflicted recession: while the Buhari-led executive finally unleashed a looming recession on the country via its do-nothing posture especially in its first year in office, the senate provided checks and relief by throwing up interesting characters who made life less Hobbessian for Nigerians.

First, there was Dino Melaye, the famed pop artiste from Kogi West. Mr Melaye it was who dropped hits after hits of pop singles across Nigeria’s social media. He also danced, screamed, twerked and even allegedly jumped off a moving vehicle. For God, country and selfless entertainment.

SATIRE SATURDAY celebrated him in a piece titled “Dino in the Monkey’s Shadow”, and correctly predicted that he would survive his ordeals in the hands of Nigeria’s Transmission-General of the Federation. And Dino did. Ironically, the former IGP is not around to witness Dino’s glory. One hopes that details of Melaye’s triumphant victory in Yagba would be “transmissioned” to him anyway.

Sadly, Mr Melaye, given his record of outstanding performance, is being literally begged by the people of Kogi to come rescue the state with his deep gubernatorial vision. If he wins, without doubt, his exit would create a huge lacuna in the senate and Nigerians will miss his deep, rigorous, cerebral dissection of Nigeria’s issues.

As he returns to Lokoja for campaign in the coming weeks, Mr Melaye would be following the footsteps of another indispensable member who made the eight senate tick, Ademola Adeleke.

Mr Adeleke, a super talented dancer, is a strong pillar of the senate in its checks and balancing role. If Melaye owned the music studio, Adeleke monopolised the dance floor; together they gave Nigerians the best of moments to cherish during those tortuous periods. Sadly, he is also expected to return to Oshogbo in pursuit of his mandate. What a loss!

Ovie Omo-Agege, the one who enjoyed a cameo when attempts were made to kidnap the senate mace also deserves a worthy mention. Since he showed up with that street cred-inflating drama, Lagosians have learnt to dread Agege boys (Omo Agege) more and the boys at Pen Cinema are more than grateful for that. The senator who spews common sense in a tragically ironic yet uncommon way also deserves accolades. Awesome man, that Senator.

In the end, the Saraki-led Senate would be better appreciated when the leadership of the ninth senate (whose make-up and disturbing method of executive-mediated emergence this column has strong reservations for) finally takes over. For, nothing but the beautiful composition of this eighth Senate could have properly regulated the blood pressure of many poverty-stricken Nigerians in the midst of Offa robbery, Dapchi kidnap, #LeahSharibu, Zamfara carnage, recession and those better-forgotten moments that defined the last three years.

The verdict here is clear: the Saraki Senate must be appreciated by all Nigerians not because of small, inconsequential matters like the record-shattering bills it passed.

Nor should it be celebrated for opening up the NASS budget without necessarily opening it up. Nor should it be celebrated for allegedly padding the budget without allegedly padding it.

Nor should it be celebrated for telling us how much senators earn without really telling us how much. It should be celebrated for making life less brutish and nasty when a do-nothing executive led the economy into a looming yet avoidable recession by throwing up interesting characters who provided comic relief for frustrated Nigerians.

If that’s not the best manifestation of executive-legislature checks and balances in a democracy, then what is?

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