Sections 50 (1) (a) (b) and 92 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) provide that the leadership of legislative houses (federal and state) shall be elected by its members. In exercising this constitutional mandate, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on June 13 elected former Akwa Ibom State governor, Godswill Akpabio, while the House of Representatives elected the Zauzzau-born Prince, Tajudeen Abbas, as the Speaker.
Three months after their emergence, it is important to, at this point, bring the National Assembly under Senator Akpabio and Hon Abbas under the microscope, to see whether they’re navigating country’s federal legislature in the right direction.
Since the Renewed Hope government mounted the saddle on May 29, 2023, we have witnessed a steady rise in synergy between the legislature and executive. The Senate led by Godswill Akpabio and House of Representatives headed by Hon Tajudeen Abbas have taken a more boisterous dimension. The duo are men of deliberate candour who have by their actions demonstrated commitment to a new Nigeria that works for all that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is championing.
Lest we misconstrue the concept of separation of power, government itself is a system, which means if one part is not functioning properly, it will have a telling effect on the whole. Again, government functions like the engine of a car. All the parts, even down to the plugs, are equally important. No matter how healthy the engine of a car is, it can’t function if one plug is removed. So is governance; the functions of the arms of government are separate but depend on each other to survive.
If the Legislature does not approve budget, screen and clear executive nominees, the executive cannot execute policies and programmes. And when the legislature and executive runs into conflicts, the judiciary must be there to interpret the laws.
A British historian, Lord Acton was famously quoted to have said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It means having too much power concentrated in one office has the tendency to corrupt the holder of that office.
The first modern formulation of the doctrine of Separation of Power was that of the French political philosopher Montesquieu in De l’esprit des lois (1748; The Spirit of Laws), though the English philosopher John Locke had earlier argued that legislative power should be divided between king and parliament.
It is in view of the natural tendencies in man to take too much to the detriment of others that forebears of democracy decided that government functions be seldom concentrated at one point. Hence, the division into three, to enable checks and balances. The three arms, the executive, the legislative and the judiciary interwoven.
The constitution grants the legislature the power to make laws, while the executive has the power to execute and the judiciary the power to interpret the laws. In other words, the principle of separation of powers refers to the division of a government into “branches”, each with separate, independent powers and responsibilities, so that the powers of one branch are not in conflict with those of the other branches.
Globally, the seamless working relationship between these Arms of government has continued to prove problematic and, most times, it becomes a constant source of tension that throws clog in the wheels of government machinery. With that, progress and development is hampered.
In the 8th National Assembly, we witnessed the disadvantages of a rancourous relationship between arms of government. That was during former President Muhammadu Buhari’s first term in office when getting the ministerial nominees cleared was an uphill task.
In that era, getting Senate’s approval for government borrowing plans to finance national budget was like getting a carmel to pass through the eye of a needle. That is why Nigerians should be rejoicing because of the emergence of Senator Godswill Akpabio as the Senate President. Since he became the chairman of the Red Chamber, he has brought to bare a better synergy and stability to the institution. The Senators themselves can testify to the dawn of a better era in the running of the National Assembly.
By antecedent, Nigerians knows Akpabio to be pro Nigeria. As governor of Akwa Ibom State between 2007 and 2015, Akpabio turned the hitherto backward State to the envy of the whole of Nigeria. Till today, Akpabio’s record in diligent and prudent application of resources stands unbeaten. His emergence as the Minority Leader is a feat very rare. This was made possible because of Akpabio’s track records, personal charisma, character and competence.
Needless to say, the Speaker of the Nigerian 10th National Assembly, Hon Tajudeen Abbas, is a man of immense loyalty to the Nigerian cause. He has continued to work the fine line in legislative business. His guiding philosophy is, let his personal desires be subsumed and the progress and development take the center stage.
The Zauzzau born Prince has continued to shone a million star. No institution is as complex and diverse as the Green Chamber because of the assemblage of diverse interests, cultures and languages that converged on the hallowed Chamber. Hon Abbas’ leadership and legislative mien has continued to defy the expectations of nay sayers, doomsday apostles and cynics, who had predicted the National Assembly under Senator Akpabio and Hon Abbas would crumble. But by the end of second weeks, months into the Renewed Hope government, they have all kissed the dust with their predictions. They should hide their heads in shame.
Despite the massive efforts being expended by Akpabio and Abbas to recalibrating the National Assembly from the usual bane, some have purposed in their hearts not to see anything good in the ongoing transformation of institution.
Let me be more specific at this point. The members of the opposition should bear in mind that they’re playing politics because there’s a Nigeria. God forbid; can anyone play politics in an atmosphere of chaos or war? Elsewhere, the role of opposition is to engage the ruling party constructively and not to pull down every programme, policies and moves of government, even the most noblest of them all.
President Tinubu, in a congratulatory message he personally signed, said it was time to get on with delivery of promised service to the people. He declared his readiness to transparently work with the legislature, and vowed to remain a partner for peace and stability of the country.
Akpabio and Abbas, on the other hand, have pledged their commitment to effective cooperation with the executive arm, without compromising the independence of the legislature.
This, therefore, means that the era of budget padding is over. The principle of checks and balances will now be fully activated to ensure accountability within ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs). The idea of probe of government parastatals would no longer be mere lip service, as Nigerian citizens are waiting to see defaulters being investigated and prosecuted.
On the part of Nigerians, they have the binary duty of disregarding and shaming mischief makers, whose paramount interest is to see the country in chaos. While they are disregarding and shaming enemies of Nigeria, they should reaffirm their loyalty to Nigeria by showing unflinching support for the evolving synergy between the executive and legislature under President Tinubu, Senate President Akpabio and Speaker Abbas.
– Ibrahim is director, Communication and Strategic Planning, of the Presidential Support Committee (PSC).