The Nigerian Senate And Its Obsession For Regime Protection, By Garba Shehu

Garba Shehu

That David Mark’s Senate has given this country something that is very important: it is a Senate imbued with reassuring maturity that has ensured stability for the country’s young democracy. It is a gift that will not escape the interest of contemporary historians.

Their fixation with the legacy of democratic stability and often conciliatory tone in dealing with Jonathan’s executive arm of the government gives, on the other hand, a sense of evasiveness if not irresponsibility. Mark himself, as said in a previous article is a true model for this country’s historically restless and ambitious armed forces personnel who resorted to coups-d’ etat to achieve their ambition of power. Senator Mark, as I said at that time has proven by his success in the army and later politics, that it is indeed possible for any ambitious military personnel to shred their uniform, fight it out in the political turf and achieve leadership positions through democratic means. While it is no shame to rise from undemocratic origins as he did, this by itself doesn’t guarantee the broad vision needed to run the chaos called Nigeria.

The problem most people see with this Senate is that it is mellow and evasive on critical issues affecting the nation. In the name of stability and democratic well being of the nation, they seem to think that a blind support for the President means the same thing as support for democracy. Based on this wrong notion, they continue to give an uncritical support and, if you like, free pass to government on almost every issue including, but not limited to non-observance of the rule of law, and a chronic inability to implement budget appropriation beyond 30-35 percent.

The Senate sits pretty as the civil society, media and political parties speak with one voice day-in-day-out in a trite against an inept government that thinks that doling out national wealth through outright bribes and myriad of waivers and subsidies and entitlement programmes as the way to keep power. We have corruption in a monstrous scale though it must be said that inefficiency, corruption, chicanery, cheating and venality among other ills have been with the country for a long time.  The difference this time is that we are in a boom period. The question on the lips of many is for how long the Senate will continue to cozy itself to the administration, behaving like dynastic Maharajas. Nobody has a divine right to rule us.

This is an attitude that cannot be justified even where there is a sense among some of them that they bought their seats and are therefore entitled to reap where they sowed.

While the House of Representatives appears ready at all times to do business with Nigerians on all matters, notably on the issue of national security, the Senate is yet to wake up to its duty as the nation reaps deaths as its daily wages. We need radical defence and national security reforms to stem the slide into permanent insecurity that has put Nigeria in an infamous club that groups Nigeria with Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia. They all know what is needed of them and say it: this beautiful country is heading towards destruction. Is our Senate going to be a catalyst for change? This will require them to hold the government accountable and force its hands to carry out meaningful physical action, not just empty words which mean nothing as life becomes a cheap commodity throughout the land.

It is very clear by now that the standpoint of government is to hold on to power. Beyond this, nothing matters at all. Senators on their own have one pre-occupation, which is that nothing must upset the apple cart. There is suspicion that they are being paid money to give the government a lee-way. But for how long, and at what cost to humanity shall we continue to wait on the government to brace itself to challenges of lawlessness and terrorism?

There was a recent statement by the Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, that some ministers were more powerful than the federal government that appointed them. The drama playing out between the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Up-stream) and the Minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke, is nothing short of an affirmation of this statement. However, the Senate as a whole seems to be at a loss as to how to deal with a recalcitrant minister who has willfully refused to respond to its summons. The Senate’s response is now in the court of public opinion but by this yardstick alone, the upper chamber of the parliament doesn’t just look pretty.

Political maturity does not mean that the Senate, as an important arm of the federal parliament, should continue to play deaf and dumb to the yearnings of Nigerians who wish to have their government sit up. No man has ever earned anyone’s respect by being too courteous. The only way to earn respect is by standing equal or superior to somebody. This is inherent in the concept of separation of powers in the Presidential system we practice. If the Senate does not show the guts needed to call this government to order, there is no way the willingness to do so by the House can fetch us anything. It is a bi-cameral parliament.

My view here is more of a call for a paradigm change of Nigeria’s anti-terrorism policy and the need for good governance – which the parliament can force the executive arm to do – rather than a call for outright impeachment which, though warranted, is unattainable given the fractiousness of parties, factions and of the political space.

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The Senate, as the senior arm of the bi-cameral legislature, has a leadership role beyond regime protection, which lies  in putting the country in a more stable condition and peace for our people but to do this, no one should dream of eating omelet without breaking eggs.

 

 

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