The Leader of the Senate, Opeyemi Bamidele has said that strategic collaboration between the Federal Executive Council and the National Assembly would help address the hydra-headed challenges that beset Nigeria.
He also said that such collaboration would enable the realisation of the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu 8-point agenda.
Bamidele made the proposal at the just-concluded retreat for all senators in Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State.
The 2023 retreat for senators came to a conclusion last weekend with renewed hope for the future of Nigeria.
The Senate Leader’s suggestion was in the pattern of frank discourse that took place at the retreat under the theme, ‘Fiscal Policy and Tax Reforms in Nigeria.’
The retreat explicitly delved into diverse issues that placed Nigerians under undue socio-economic burdens in the last two decades.
Obviously, it was not another talk shop. Rather, it was a gathering of patriots, who were curiously in search of antidotes to hydra-headed challenges that viciously beset Nigeria.
Its mission was unambiguous from the inception. For the President of the Senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio, it is a forum for building capacity, which every legislator requires to function effectively.
Facilitated by the National Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies, Akpabio set the stage for this purely legislative retreat, where resource persons freely shared divergent views about many challenges confronting the federation and proposed convergent strategies, which they believed, would restore stability in the country’s macro-economic environment and promote peaceful coexistence if each arm of governments pursues its goals with political will.
Capacity building is just one of the rationales for the parliamentary retreat, according to Akpabio.
Besides, the Senate president observed that the retreat was designed to develop pro-people legislations that could promote enduring peace; guarantee sustainable development and deepen peaceful co-existence, among all Nigerians, irrespective of their ethnic nationalities and religious leaning.
For these reasons, the retreat was never a mere convention for senators across the federation. In good numbers, also, members of the Federal Executive Council attended the retreat that placed the interest of Nigeria above their political allegiance.
Among others, Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila; Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Olawale Edun; Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Atiku Bagudu and Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Akon Eyakenyi equally graced the two-day event.
From inception to conclusion, the country’s socio-economic realities expressively came to the fore in the presentation of nearly all guest speakers and resource persons. However, beyond the rhetoric of grim realities that currently eclipse Nigeria, there was a consensus on the significance of developing creative legislative frameworks in response to the country’s socio-economic realities.
But is the retreat sufficient to activate the consensus, especially at a time of global crises that directly impinge on domestic economies and politics? In his presentation, the Leader of the Senate, Opeyemi Bamidele set the agenda on how to transform this consensus into reality in nearly all sectors of Nigeria’s economy.
Similarly, for guest speakers, legislative intervention is critical to every initiative directed at making Nigeria an investment destination or ensuring stability in all parts and sectors of the federation.
But Bamidele specifically recommended a forum where the executive and legislature would always meet to perfect institutional approaches to addressing vicious challenges that threaten Nigeria.
He further delineated the need for such regular sessions, an initiative comparable to quarterly executive-legislative parleys that successive governments in Lagos State have embraced since 1999 to tackle governance challenges through strategic collaboration and collective responses among arms of government. And the outcome, as far as Lagos is concerned, has been enviable.
Can such an initiative work at the federal level? Bamidele did not specifically refer to the case of Lagos. But he suggested that such sessions should be held quarterly or biannually. Also, they should be tailored practically at discussing and perfecting coherent and logical responses to a myriad of socio-economic challenges that complicate the conditions of living and undermine the unity of Nigeria.
On this account, Bamidele explained the imperative of holding regular executive-legislative sessions, which other speakers agreed, would open a new vista of strategic collaboration in the overall interest of Nigeria and her teeming populations.
First, according to him, such sessions will give the National Assembly and Federal Executive Council to work out modalities of mainstreaming Tinubu’s eight-point agenda into the programmes of the National Assembly.
Second, he believed, such sessions will speed up the process of developing and initiating innovative legislative frameworks that can aid delivery of enviable public services within a short period.
His argument is pure and simple. He simply argued that actualising Tinubu’s eight-point agenda “entails the collective responsibilities between the two arms of government rather than unilateral roles of the executive.”
As the Senate Leader succinctly pointed out, this calls for strategic collaboration between ministers and chairmen of all standing committees in the Senate and House Committees. It also calls for legislators to have strategic sessions with the permanent secretaries and chief executives of key federal parastatals with a view to devising approaches to the implementation of the 8-point agenda in the national interest.
He clearly mapped diverse challenges that currently beset Nigeria. From the food crisis to intractable insecurity, chronic inflation, Naira devaluation and political instability, Bamidele explained how the 8-point agenda painstakingly sought to address all these challenges. He also explained how legislative interventions “are critical to seamless actualisation of the 8-point agenda.”
Bamidele suggested key areas where the executive and legislature should leverage strategic collaboration “to break the vicious cycle of economic doldrums and political contradictions that have been the woes of Nigeria.”
The areas include the need to review the Land Use Act, 1979; strengthen the National Directorate of Employment; embrace true fiscal federalism; diversify the country’s economy and standardise social investments.
Like other senators at the retreat, the Senate President completely agreed with Bamidele on the need to set a common forum for lawmakers and members of the Federal Executive Council, where they would discuss issues of strategic national interest and work out innovative legislative frameworks to those issues that threaten the country’s collective interests. It is time, according to him, to culture a strategic collaboration.
Beyond creating an executive-legislative forum, Akpabio specifically explained the place of the Senate, indeed the entire National Assembly, in establishing “an environment that can guarantee investments and promote harmony among the citizenry.”
For him, this can only be achieved through enacting innovative legislation and carrying out oversight functions purely in the national interest.
Akpabio was not the only functionary that shared this sentiment. Also, Speaker, House of Representatives, Abbas Tajudeen and Deputy President of the Senate, Barau Jibrin shared the same conviction. Collectively, they emphasised the need not just to betray the expectation of the people that voted them into offices, but also the hope of all Nigerians irrespective of their political leanings.
Nearly all key speakers agreed to this collective aspiration, which they all argued, should be vigorously pursued in order to evolve a new nation. But Akpabio argued that such an aspiration would not be a mere mirage if the National Assembly fails to work with key functionaries in the Federal Executive Council with a view to mainstreaming Tinubu’s 8-point agenda into the legislative programmes.
With the depth of engagement at the retreat, Edun concluded that a great future “is awaiting Nigeria, though her present challenges may be daunting.”
Now that a new vista for strategic collaboration has been opened, Edun observed that both arms of government “are under obligation to work out collective responses to hydra-headed challenges that confront us as a people of common destiny.”
Edun thus, acknowledged the centrality of legislative interventions to the implementation of the 8-point agenda. For him, the agenda is well-defined and will be wholeheartedly pursued in the overall interest of the people. However, the minister emphasised the role of the National Assembly in implementing the eight-point agenda, which was at the core of Bamidele’s proposal for strategic collaboration between the executive and legislature.
From food security to poverty eradication; growth, job creation; access to capital; inclusion; rule of law; and fighting corruption, Edun agreed that the time has come for both arms of government to synergise on how to methodically and systematically pursue the 8-point agenda in order to bring about desirable outcomes across all sectors.
But does this quest for strategic collaborations suggest the erosion of legislative independence? Stakeholders at the retreat largely disagreed on its possibility of eroding the independence of the National Assembly.
Collaboration between both arms, they all admitted, may not in any way turn the legislature to a willing tool in the hands of the executive.
Rather, it offers a platform for mainstreaming campaign promises into legislative programmes in the interest of all Nigerians, whether the poor or the rich, the middle class or the vulnerable.