The emergence, on Tuesday, of Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as Senate President and House of Representatives Speaker, respectively, portends a good omen for the nation’s evolving democracy.
Indeed, the election of the duo and their deputies (Ovie Omo-Agege and Ahmed Idris Wase), who were the anointed candidates of the APC, is a remarkable departure from the eighth National Assembly as it tended to restore party supremacy and promote executive/legislature collaboration.
It is instructive to note that in 2015, Senator Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara went against the party’s decision and took control of the Senate and House, respectively. The two eventually decamped from the APC to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and retained their seats.
In the election held at the legislative chambers in Abuja, Lawan defeated Mohammed Ali Ndume, Omo-Agege beat former Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu of the PDP, Gbajabiamila floored Mohammed Umaru Bago while Idris Wase emerged unopposed. In his acceptance speech, Lawan said the contest was over and that it was time for all senators to get down to business, irrespective of party affiliations.
“We are going to work collaboratively with the executive arm of government to strengthen our planning and budget linkage that ensures effective service delivery and fulfilment of essential government obligations to the citizens, while taking care of the perennial delays in our annual appropriation bill passage and implementation.
“We will embark upon a sustained pursuit of national ethical renewal, through legislative and political support for the fight against corruption and other major security challenges that Nigeria faces today, namely, rural and highway banditry, inter-ethnic conflicts, herdsmen and farmers’ conflicts, cattle rustling, kidnapping and all other forms of criminality in the country.
“We have a plan to make Nigeria an economic growth hub and the most sought after business destination in Africa. This is to be achieved through legislative and policy coordination with the executive arm of government to put in place the necessary reforms and legal instruments that promote the diversification and investment in the critical (real and service) sectors of the Nigerian economy,” he said.
On his part, Gbajabiamila said: “The 9th Assembly under my leadership is going to be a House of reforms or a reformed Assembly. The reforms will be dished out piecemeal and at intervals so as not to shock the system.
“Moving forward, therefore, it will not be business as usual and we will be shaking the table just a little. We will be introducing various reforms that will reposition this institution but please rest assured that they will be for the greater good.
“On our shoulders lies the responsibility of working together as a House to safeguard the future of our great country. The House must be reformed before the country can be reformed. We simply cannot and must not fail.”
Gbajabiamila announced the appointment of Sanusi Rikiji, the former Speaker of Zamfara state, as his Chief of Staff. He said Nigeria was currently facing myriad of problems, urging the lawmakers to set aside political, ideological and other differences that may distract them from the herculean assignment.
“My deputy Hon Ahmed Idris and I come with a cumulative 30-year legislative experience, which we intend to deploy in making our vision a reality,” he said.
Interestingly, President Muhammadu Buhari, in an apparent reference to widespread apprehension of a rubber stamp National Assembly, said, “The executive does not desire a rubber stamp legislature. While separation of powers is essential, collaboration among all arms of government should be the name of the game. Opposition need not be virulent.”
Buhari, who described the emergence of the new presiding officers as a new dawn, pointed out that stepping into the Next Level, the legislature has a big role to play for the goals of the administration to be achieved. “This is for the ultimate good of the nation”.
The president urged contestants, who lost out, to be gallant in defeat and join hands with the victors, who should exhibit magnanimity and eschew vindictiveness. “At the end of the day, we, the people, who elected our representatives at the national level, are the winners”.
We congratulate the newly elected presiding officers of the ninth National Assembly as well as commend the legislators for their decorum during the elections, upholding the democratic principles of national interest and party supremacy as well as the ample demonstration of patriotism.However, beyond the euphoria of triumphalism, it is expected that the new leadership will transform the ninth National Assembly into a ‘born again’ legislature exorcised of budget delay/padding, executive confrontation, legislative rascality, among other ills that had bedeviled the eighth National Assembly.