On Tuesday last week, the House of Representatives, took two bold steps to redeem its image. On resumption from its eight weeks recess, the House resolved to revisit the Devolution of Power Bill.
The House had in July thrown out the bill, during voting on the constitution alteration exercise, to the dismay of a lot of Nigerians. It also resolved to set up a strong committee to interface with critical stakeholders across the six geo-political zones on how to strengthen the unity of the country. To give force to the resolution of the House, it has already raised a committee headed by the deputy speaker, Yussuff Lasun to oversee the national dialogue.
As the majority leader, Femi Gbajabiamila led the debate on the motion for the House to revisit the Power Devolution Bill, the impression one got was that the lawmaker are gradually coming to terms with the reality of the time.
Gbajabiamila had stated that there was need for the House to take urgent steps to begin to heal the wound of the nation, especially against the backdrop of recent events in the polity. The speaker, Yakubu Dogara in his welcome address had observed that the current state of affairs in the country is an indication that the alteration of the 1999 constitution is an unfinished business.
Consequently, he said the House would likely revisit some of its decisions in the constitution amendment process. But more importantly, Dogara promised that the House will partner with groups seeking justice, fairness and equity, as long as their agitations are within the confines of the law.
According to him, “as an institution, this House stands firmly on the side of those who seek equity, fairness and justice so long as such is pursued in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which we as Honorable Members have sworn to protect and preserve.
“Anyone or group who assaults our Constitution will not find a partner here because our oath of office repels it, but those who stand for justice, fairness and equity will have partners in us because our oath of office compels it.
“We would work shoulder to shoulder with all those working within the ambit of the constitution and the law for all Nigerians regardless of creed or ethnicity to be first class citizens as no nation can truly be first class if it harbours within its borders second or third class citizens.”
Judging by Dogara’s speech and the two resolutions taken by the House last Tuesday, the Green chamber seems to have come to terms with the fact that these are perilous times for Nigeria and Nigerians. Every now and then, we are told that the unity of the country is non-negotiable. But the government forgets that Nigeria’s unity cannot be sustained by mere rhetorics.
Therefore, as the committee raised by the House to interface with critical stakeholders across the six geo political zones of our country begins its assignment, it is imperative for the lawmakers to identify everything that threatens the unity of the country and address them squarely.
For me, the major issue militating against Nigeria’s unity is inequality, injustice and imbalance in the structure of the country. It is this state of affairs that is fueling various forms of agitations across the country.
About two months ago, I had in this column called on the Green chamber to take steps to address structural imbalance in the polity. It defies logic that while Lagos and Kano are at par population wise, the former has only 20 local government areas and the latter has 44.
Same thing applies to the South East where agitations for the actualisation of a sovereign state of Biafra by members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra( IPOB) heightened recently.
The question therefore is why should there be five states in the South East, when other zones have six, and the North West, seven. I also believe that in addressing the national question, the House should subject the full report of the 2014 National Conference report to a robust debate. In fact, the House leadership should as a matter of necessity subject the confab report to debate across the 360 Federal constituencies.
If the majority wants the report dumped, so be it. But the 2014 national conference report, which has been severally hailed as the antidote to many challenges confronting the country, must not be consigned to the trash can, simply because a few individuals are uncomfortable with it.
In addressing the current national challenge, the House must not lose sight of the dangers posed to our national security by rampaging ruinous herdsmen.
It is laughable that the executive is living in denial about the dangers the herdsmen pose to the unity of the country. The Green chamber must not gloss over the security implications of the activities of herdsmen, who wreak havoc in the Southern part of the country on daily basis.
Most importantly, in the quest to proffer solutions to the myriad of problems confronting this country, the lawmakers must rise above ethnic and religious sentiments. That is what will make all the difference.
Indeed, the legislators should be guided by the words of Gbajabiamila that”we have been placed by fate at this moment to salvage the country. Are we going to play the ostrich? Let us pick up the gauntlet. Let us speak as one and bring APC, PDP , Labour. Let us stand as one. Speak with one voice.”
The two decisions taken by the Green chamber on Tuesday, no doubt, are laudable. But they must not end as mere rhetorics. Often time, the House has come up with good initiatives, but fails to pursue them to fruition. This time, the House must match words with action, as that is the only way it can live up to its sobriquet as “ the House of the Nigerian people.”
Point of Order…
Earlier in the week, aggrieved minority shareholders of Oando Plc besieged the House of Representatives over an alleged N799 billion share row with the oil company.
After a meeting with all the parties, Deputy chairman, House Committee on Capital Market and other Institutions, Tony Nwulu gave the Security and Exchange Commission ( SEC) two weeks to resolve the row.
Nwulu said if the matter is not resolved after two weeks, the Committee would be compelled to hold a public hearing on the matter. Methinks, whether or not SEC resolves the matter, the House should go ahead and conduct an investigative hearing. It is only a public hearing that will unearth the true position about the row between Oando and some of the minority shareholders.
This is against the allegation by Mr Olufemi Timothy, who led the aggrieved to the House, that SEC and Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN) are shirking their responsibilities in respect to the oil company.