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Last week Thursday was a very sad day for me. Not just me alone, it was a bad day for a lot of Nigerians, especially those desirous of a new politcal order.
On that day, the House of Representatives while considering the report of the Special Ad-Hoc Committee on Review of the 1999 constitution threw out bills that would have impacted on the polity positively and placed the country on a new political pedestal.
But again, the House failed to live up to its sobriquet” the House of the Nigerian people.”.
In voting on the constitution amendment excercise, the House threw out the bill seeking a devolution of power to states. Apart from the Devolution Power bill, the House also rejected five other bills, among them the bill seeking to delete State Independent Electoral Commissions( SIECs) from the constitution.
Although the House okayed 27 other bills, its refusal to pass the bill on devolution of power and scrapping of SIECs leaves a sour taste in the mouth. The reason is not far-fetched. These are two bills that would engender true federalism and put local government administration on a sound footing.
In recent time, there have been so much agitations across the lenght and breath of Nigeria for a restructuring of the polity. The agitations to say the least have heightened tension in the country.
Similarly, there have been a lot of hues and cries about the activities of SIECs, which have become an albatross on local government administration in the country. And on more than one occasion, the leadership of the House promised that the constitution alteration exercise would be an avenue to address both issues.
Few days to the consideration of the Constitution Review Committee report, the speaker, Hon Yakubu Dogara, who has been at the forefront in the campaign for local government autonomy, said restructuring of the polity can only be attained through the constitution amendment exercise.
Therefore, Nigerians expected the House to give vent to their desire for a truly federal state and invigorated local government administration. What did they get? A big disappointment from their representatives. Throwing out the bill on devolution of power makes the exercise more or less meaningless to the people. The action of the lawmakers is a betrayal of the electorate.
In fact, a dart shot at the hearts of the populace desperately hungry for a new lease of life for the polity. What the Reps did is tantamount to a man going on a rat hunt when his homestead is on fire. The Green chamber left the main issues and concentrated on minors. Don’t get me wrong, some of the bills passed in the constitution review exercise are equally good. But of what use are those “beautiful” amendments in flawed polity. How long can we continue to live in deceit? Nigeria is called a federal state, but in reality it is more of a unitary state. Now, this piece of legislation that could have helped the country to return to true federalism has been thrown out.
From the condemnation that has trailed the rejection of the Devolution of Power bill, it is obvious that the votes of lawmakers, who voted against the bill, did not in anyway reflect the wishes of their constituents. The votes were no doubt motivated by selfish consideration.
It is true the House voted for Local Government autonomy and abrogation of the state- local government joint account, but in a twist opposed the scrapping of SIECs. What an irony? Local government autonomy is useless, as long as SIECs still conduct local government election. Elections conducted by the state electoral body, which are always too eager to do the bidding of the government in power at state level has never passed the test of objectivity.
I would leave our lawmakers with the lyrics of a song by international music star, Asa:
“There is fire on the mountain,And nobody seems to be on the run.
Oh there is fire on the mountain top,
And no one is a running…
“One day the river will overflow,
And there’ll be nowhere for us to go,
And we will run, run, wishing we had put out the fire, oh no”
I wish that day never comes, when the river will overflow its bank. But it is not about wishful thinking. Our lawmakers must do the needful.
Apart from the disappointing outcome of the constitution review exercise, I am equally appalled by the refusal of the House leadership to swear in the member-elect for Vandeikya/Konshisha Federal Constituency of Benue state, Dorothy Mato, five weeks after the Supreme Court declared her the legitimate candidate of the All Progressives Congress( APC).
Ironically, Shuaibu Isa Lau, who the apex court declared as the validly elected Senator for Taraba North, same day Mato was declared member-elect for her constituency, had since taken his seat in the Red chamber while the latter and her constitutents are still in the cold.
The refusal of Dogara to swear- in the Benue lawmaker is unjustified. Besides, it has given room to all sorts of conspiracy theories. One of the conspiracy theories is that the member-elect is deliberately being kept out of the chamber, while her predecessor, Hon Herman Hembe is the Speaker’s “boy”.
In fact, for every day Mato stays out of the chamber, it is a great deal of injustice and disservice to her constituency. The House leadership may not like the fact that Hembe was thrown out of the Green Chamber. but there is nothing it can do about it. Dogara, no doubt, might be angry at the fate that befell the former Benue lawmaker, owing to the fact that Hembe is one of his die-hard loyalists. But it is certainly not justified for that anger to be directed at Mato and her equally hapless constituents.
Imagine that last Thursday when members voted on the constitution, the Vandeikya/Konshisha Federal constituency had no one to speak for them in the hallowed chamber.
It is the height of injustice to deny a whole constituency of a voice in the National Assembly for any reason whatsoever.
Point of Order…
One of the good things that emerged in consideration of the report of the Special Ad-hoc Committee on Constitution Review in the House of Representatives last week Thursday was the use of electronic device at arriving at which bill survives and which dies.
The e-device made the outcome of the exercise in the House very transparent. It is not as if the device is a novelty in the conduct of legislative business in the Green chamber. It has always been used once in a long time, especially during constitution amendment exercises.
The time spent by the Speaker Yakubu Dogora, prior to the commencement of voting last week Thursay, coaching the lawmakers on how to use the e-voting device is a pointer to the fact that it has not been used in a very long time. Presiding officers find it more convenient reaching decisions through voice votes, even though, it could be very controversial. The reason is not far-fetched. Voice votes enable the presiding officer to sway things if he wants to.