Renewed Hostility Between Senate And Presidency By Wale Fatade

Last week again witnessed another scene in the appalling show between our dear senators and the presidency. Presidency, in this instance, is used solely to mean the office of the acting president, as there are many agencies under that nebulous word, ‘presidency’ in our country.

The rancour is particularly interesting as the APC is both the majority party in the senate and the one in power as well, making one to wonder if the issues causing the furore could not have been resolved within the party. Sometimes, one also feel like organising tutorials for our public officials on the words of French Enlightenment political philosopher, Baron de Montesquieu, who propounded the theory of separation of powers among a legislature, an executive and a judiciary in The Spirit of Laws (1746). Needless to add that neither is inferior or superior to the other but each has separate and independent powers and areas of responsibility so that powers of one branch do not conflict with those of the other branches. The intent is to prevent the concentration of power and also provide for checks and balances.

We must recognize, however, that our democracy is still young – 18 years as at now- meaning that our credentials as a country with full democratic ethos are not fully formed. Our evolution is perhaps delayed and that’s why we are having the kind of situation we have presently. Regular tiffs between executives and legislators have been a regular feature since 1999 as we remember the bitter war between former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the House of Representatives led by Ghali Umar Naaba. Sometimes the relationship becomes incestuous as we saw under Obasanjo as well towards the end of his tenure when he wanted a third term despite the constitutional limit.

The foregoing is to establish that we are not there yet concerning proper understanding and appreciation of the fact that the three arms are necessary and neither is more important. Let’s talk about the present situation where there is more than bad blood between the executive and legislature. The absence of President Buhari too has not helped matters, as it seems the acting president does not enjoy the full confidence of APC senators. Otherwise, his rather innocuous statement, at a level, about confirmation of appointees should not have generated what we are witnessing presently. We may argue, and rightly too, that why insisting on a particular nominee when the senate has rejected him?

And while we can pillory our senators till eternity, most of the abuse well deserved, they are still our senators. Granted they may not have been particularly stellar in their performance, they are all we’ve got and engagements by the executives will achieve more rather than the open brickbats. The politics of who does what in the absence of Buhari seems to be the main reason of the renewed hostility rather than seeking to enthrone senate autonomy. The fact that some senators who are not overtly enamored of the senate president joined the fray cannot mask the covert interests of Senator Saraki. Similarly, it is clear that all is not well in the cabinet as the ministers are not singing from same hymn sheet even with an acting president. Throwing your leader under a moving train as the justice minister did, portrayed not just the executive in bad light but also the party. As we cannot expect a resolution from the party, it is gratifying that reason seems to be prevailing as the acting president met recently with the senate president last week ostensibly to talk about the issue.

Our major responsibility as citizens, whom the two should be serving, is to keep them on their toes and see that they do the right thing. A recent road trip to Adagbarasa in Okpe local government of Delta State made the horror that passes for roads in Nigeria real to me more vividly. While some portions of the Ore-Benin expressway, if it can still be called that, have been rehabilitated and we drove smoothly in such areas, there are other portions left unattended to. The poverty I saw in many communities on the roads we passed left me sad. As our executives and legislators bicker on procedural issues and unnecessary power play, citizens keep sinking into the poverty abyss. The acting president has done well by not speaking on the issue publicly and ignoring the proxy warriors, quiet engagement is the way to go and lobbying is still a tool of political engagement.

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