The Sun News

Time to shape up and enjoy democracy dividends

IN most developed countries, what makes for good democratic practice is the presence of opposition. The opposition parties put the ruling party constantly on its toes. In Nigeria, the story has not been too different, especially when  considered against the backdrop of the defeat of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) by the All Progressives Congress (APC). Providing a viable opposition and through robust politicking, with large dose of propaganda, the APC made the PDP extremely unattractive to the voting populace. It was thus not surprising that PDP lost out in that election.
Then, Nigerians could be heard saying, even if it was a goat that APC presented, it would still have voted out the PDP. The PDP’s vow of ruling forever was thus short circuited.
But the joy, the hope and the expectations that enveloped the country with the coming of the APC is gradually turning to ashes in our mouth. Arriving the political landscape with the change mantra, the expectation that the 16 years after PDP would bring something new, something different raised hopes. But, recent developments in the country have made the people to start reconsidering and asking whether APC could really deliver all it had promised.
The PDP which should have provided the needed opposition to keep the ruling party on its toes has not been able to play that role. Its centre has not been able to hold. Internal wrangling has emasculated it. But like someone once commented, the APC is equally providing its own opposition. As the ruling party, it has,among its members, opposition elements.
The APC has majority of its members in the National Assembly and one had expected a smooth, harmonious working relationship, with the executive having easy passage of its bills. But that has not always been the case, as much as one does not want a rubber stamp National Assembly, the relationship between the executive and the legislature has not provided the environment that would translate to a smooth working relationship that would engender developments. Even the PDP at its worst, never had such acrimony with the executive within two years of taking over governance. The 7th National Assembly, especially was the epitome of propriety, more matured in the handling of its relationship with the executive. The PDP took the phrase “family affair”, to a different height and thus was able to resolve some of its crises, plenty of which they had.
Today, it’s a different matter entirely, the president of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki is presently facing trial which his colleagues in the National Assembly have described as being politically motivated. They may not be far wrong. The relationship between President Mohammadu Buhari and Senator Saraki who is the number three, in the pecking order, is not smooth in spite of the facade that we currently see on display. The Senate feels it deserves respect and its independence which  it is not getting presently. Appointees of the president have heaped so much insult on the Senate by its actions, that one begins to wonder whether it was taking a cue from the not-so-smooth relationship between the two arms of government. Since the berth of democracy in the country, this is the first time that the Senate would order appearance of any of the president’s appointees and be met with refusal. Those who have not insulted the Senators had gone to court to challenge their invitation.
Presently, the issue of the appearance of the Comptroller General of Customs, Col Hammed Ali (rtd) is still unresolved. His reluctance to appear in uniform is now a subject of the court. Meanwhile, the issue that led to the invitation- the CG’s directives to stop motorists on the road to ask for their duty papers and compel Nigerians to pay duties at designated centers, irrespective of when the vehicle was bought- is still unresolved. Though the directive has been suspended, I heard that the NCS still has every intention of implementing that directive. I am sure that would only happen when he eventually appears before the Senate and was able to convince that body on the need to go ahead with his plan. It is obvious that convincing the Senate to see the good side of that directive would be a tall order. Indeed, the ground work that would have given easy passage to his directive has not been laid. Even if the plan has its good side, I doubt whether it would pass through. His action has alienated the red chambers and they would be waiting to show him where truly the power lies. May be he would go back to the court to compel the Senate to grant him his wish.
The same scenario is playing out with the Secretary to the Govenment of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal who is yet to appear before the Senate to answer questions on contract awarded in the Internally Displaced Persons Camps (IDPs).
Like wise Professor Itse Sagay, chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption who has taken praise worship to another level by saying the Senate has no power to summon him over his unpalatable remarks about the action of the Senate in suspending the confirmation of the Resident Electoral Commissioners, pending the sack of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) boss, Ibrahim Magu whose confirmation was twice rejected. Sagay had described the Senate’s action as, “childish and irresponsible. Do they think Buhari is a man that can easily be threatened? My God! How can people of such character occupy the highest legislative office in the country” . That was pure insult on the institution and membership of the Senate. But he said he cannot be summoned. He could wake up again tomorrow and pass another disparaging remarks on the senate and nothing would still happen.
I am glad the party hierarchy has come out to condemn the remarks with a warning that Professor Sagay should desist from making such remarks against the senate, though it took the party quite a while to do so. In the words of Bolaji Abdullahi, the party’s publicity secretary, all government appointees should stop making remarks that could worsen the relationship between the executives and the legislature.
In all the above, it is obvious that APC is troubled. It has not been able to mesh all its parts into one whole body that would work seamlessly. The earlier it does this, the better for the country. The APC can still bring the change we expect of it, if for nothing else, the person of the president should help in that respect. We know him as a man of principle who abhors corruption, who is disciplined and who, we expect should propel us to a new height. If the President fails in this respect, then we can thus conclude that the country is doomed. May that never be the case.

ERROR
In the piece entitled, “Senate and ominous signals from invitations”, published on March 31, 2017, the Comptroller- General, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hammed Ali (rtd) was referred to as the Comptroller-General, Nigeria Immigration Services (NIS). The error is regretted.

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