Nigeria’s 10th National Assembly was recently inaugurated with high expectations from Nigerians.
Since the inauguration, the federal lawmakers have been tasked to focus on laws that could impact directly on the lives of Nigerians and the destiny of the country as a whole.
With the euphoria of the emergence of new leadership in both chambers dwindling, the lawmakers are now jostling for chair of committees, majority and minority leadership in both chambers.
In the Senate, former Akwa Ibom State governor, Godswill Akpabio was elected president, while Tajudeen Abass was elected the speaker of the House of Representatives.
Since their emergence, Nigerians have been pondering what the implication would be for the nation’s democracy.
Questions have also been asked about what the 10th Assembly leadership posture would be to the Executive.
Many Nigerians are still concerned about the overwhelming influence of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the ruling All Progress Congress (APC) in the emergence of Akpabio and Abass and are wondering if the bicameral legislative Houses would be able to maintain their independence.
It is on record that the President Tinubu and the APC handpicked Akpabio and Abass for the positions, and members were also brow-beaten to vote along certain lines.
The senator representing Borno South District, Ali Ndume, who led the campaign for Akpabio had told journalists a few days to the inauguration of the 10th Assembly that Tinubu told him that Akpabio was his preferred candidate for the President of the 10th Senate.
“The President told me that his preferred candidate is Akpabio and I should lead the campaign,” Ndume had stated.
He added that Tinubu deployed his cronies to deliver his preferred candidates.
According to Ndume, “When I contested last time (2019), everybody was on the other side because the party and President endorsed Ahmad Lawan.
“It is almost a repetition of the same thing, the party and the president had a preferred candidate but this president (Tinubu) is an experienced politician who played a lot of politics.
“He deployed his foot soldiers to compliment our (campaign team of Akpabio) efforts and that made a difference. The vice president assisted us.
“He called some people. He even went to some people. It is politics. He sneaked out to visit some people and begged them to support. He had his reasons and they were convincing.”
In a democracy there should be separation of powers between the arms of government; many Nigerians want an independent National Assembly that would not be a rubber-stamp in the hand of the Executive.
In recent times, much of the blame for the low application of the principles of democracy in the course of governance at all levels in the country is directed at the lawmakers, most of whom are always accused of low discharge of their basic legislative duties.
The situation is not peculiar to the National Assemby, states Assemblies have become appendages of the executive rather than independent bodies.
Experts say the situation has endangered democracy in Nigeria; promote bad governance and corruption at all levels.
Observers believed that the 9th National Assembly led by Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila failed woefully in many aspects of their responsibility.
The 9th NASS, especially the Senate, was accused of never standing up to the task of checking and balancing the Executive arm.
Many Nigerians think the devaluation of the currency and heavy debt burden left by Muhammadu Buhari’s administration partly was because of the failure of the 9th Assembly to carry out its oversight function effectively.
Many analysts do not agree that a legislature clinging to the apron string of the executive amounts to a good working relationship in a democracy.
As the 10th National Assembly is inaugurated for legislative duties in this new administration, many Nigerians are uncomfortable with the overwhelming influence and handpicking of its leadership by the executive.
Although, there are those who believe that the executive needs a supportive parliament for the president to succeed, drowning the voice of lawmakers and reducing them to the status of toothless Bulldogs as it were, is dangerous to democracy.
“You must agree with me that while the 9th National Assembly lasted, they never as much as vetted any bills brought by the executive let alone query it appropriately.
“I strongly think the current situation is adversely affecting governance in Nigeria. That is why our institutions are not functioning, because the legislature can’t stamp their feet when necessary,” Seun Olagunju, political analyst, said.
Olagunju further said that the problem may be systemic.
“It is a systemic problem, you can say our democracy is growing, maybe electoral reform needs to be done.
“But with the way Akpabio and Abass were handpicked by the President, I wonder if they can maintain their independence when the need arises,” he said.
Tope Musowo, public affairs analyst and development consultant, said comment by the newly elected Senate President that the 10th Senate would work with Tinubu regardless of whatever name it may be called, calls for worries.
“As much as nobody is asking the legislative arm to be at loggerheads with the Executive for no reason, one is equally worried that the 10th Assembly may just be a replica of the 9th Assembly that was adjudged by many Nigerians as a rubber-stamp.
“When everything that came from the table of the president got National Assembly’s approval without scrutiny; for instance, a contract agreement that was written in Chinese Language, which almost signed off the sovereignty of Nigeria without them knowing.”
Musowo further noted that a rubber stamp legislature would not do the country any good at this point.
“Nigerians at this critical stage of our national life want a legislature the loyalty of which will be to the people and not to an individual.
“The reason for the worries is because of the role the party (APC) and the President played in the emergence of both the Speaker of the House Representatives and the Senate President.
“Nigerians at this critical stage of our national life want an independent National Assembly as enshrined in the principle of separation of powers so there can be checks and balances,” he said.
Kunle Okunade, political analyst, said that the Executive or President in Nigeria would always be interested in who emerges as leaders of the National Assembly because of the crucial role they play in the success of their policies.
According to him, “There is no way that the executive would not want to have interest in who presides over the Senate and the House of Representatives, because they would need a leadership that would collaborate, cooperate and extensively believe in the vision and mission of the government.
“Having a leadership of the NASS that does not believe or share in the vision and mission of the government may hinder development and actualisation of programmes and policies of the APC party.
“It will be too early to judge on the relevance to the Tinubu administration but because their emergence cannot be disconnected from the influence of the APC and the presidency, it can be inferred that there is likelihood that there wouldn’t be unhealthy conflict between the executive and the legislature,” he said.
Tayo Babatunde, APC chieftain in Ogun State, said most Nigerians were not interested if the legislature was rubber-stamping the executive or not, but only interested in good governance and accountability.
“I think most Nigerians are largely interested in good governance rather than who influenced the emergence of the leadership of the National Assembly or irrespective of how they got to the positions.
“Even if the executive and legislature have a good working relationship and we have a responsive government, compared to what we have now, people will not really care,” he said.