Nigeria: Rethinking Part-Time Legislature

The greatest bane of institutional development in Nigeria is the hurried approach to dealing with national challenges. Preference for adhoc and hybrid measures has always robbed the nation the opportunity to have defined and consistent system of building institutions that support real growth and development.

 

For some reasons devoid of rational thinking, some of the elites are complicit in misleading people by driving critical national conversation from jaundiced and myopic perspective.

 

At a time the issue on the table is how best to address the current recession in the economy deploying effective monetary and economic policies supported by strong institutions of government, some analysts and commentators went wild with emotion by suggesting that the country should have a part-time legislature.

 

Most of the interventions in the conversation unfortunately, were championed by individuals one ordinarily assumes have the learning and exposure to know better. In the first instance, what can be said to be the nexus or connect between having a full-time legislature and resolving the policy gaps and functional ineptitude that resulted in the parlous state of the economy. If the intention were altruistic and well thought out, the present situation of things demand a robust legislative input to strengthen institutions of state to deliver on strong policies and programme and ensure a paradigm shift.

 

Why then, of all times, would anyone who lays claim to being a good student of public policy and resource management, suggest that the solution to the country’s problems can be found in embracing the idea of part-time legislature. Perhaps, the long period of military governance in the country and the fact that the legislature has been denied the opportunity of having unabridged operational life, accounts for the perception that governance even in a democracy can be driven without a virile legislature.

 

Over the years, the legislature has refused to assert itself or even acquit the institution creditably because some of the legislators are simply ill-equipped, poorly informed, understandably lack the capacity to perform legislative functions and above all, create wrong impression about the place of the legislature in democratic setting. The timing of the calls for part time legislature and the coincidences around same, are simply suggestive but suffice it to state that those that clamour for a weak legislature must realize that there would be governments after the ‘strong man’, President Buhari.

Good laws are predicated on the principles that precedents are for all persons and we must as a people, resist the temptation of looking at individuals when making laws or drawing up policies that would endure. It’s even inconceivable to tinker with the idea of settling for a part-time legislature, if we really appreciate the volume of work expected to be done in creating the requisite legislative environment given the structural changes that must be made to draw the country out of economic recession.

 

Have the proponents of part time legislature paused for a moment to look at the constitutional role of the legislature at all levels. Except we are soaked in to the sentiment that all that the legislature does in Nigeria is to sit down and joke, there cannot be any justification for such ill-informed calls.

 

For freshers, it is apposite to state that the business of legislation involves more than what transpires on the floor of the chambers during plenary. Committee work takes more than sixty (60%) percent of the time of legislators and we cannot afford the luxury of inviting distractions in the name of part-time legislature or however described. We may not be comfortable with the character or faces of the members of the legislature as currently constituted at the Federal, State and Local governments, but that cannot be a strong reason for the clamour to destroy the institution that represents the heartbeat and soul of democratic practice.

 

The advocacy should be for all to be involved in mobilizing towards ensuring that persons to be elected as legislators must be men and women of character, sound education, knowledge, discipline and embodiment of the right values and gravitas to deliver on mandate. When once the process and benchmarks are right, the institution would definitely be strengthened for performance assurance.

 

Agreed that the legislature as presently constituted at all levels of government habours the good, the bad and the ugly, yet, that does not diminish its importance in driving a virile democracy anchored on the finite principles of separation of powers and the attendant checks and balances. The beauty of building a democratic order on the terms of internationally accepted best practices, which envisages a governmental system piloted by a thinking executive, an impartial judiciary and a strong legislature, is that governance becomes seamless and the government, responsive, sensitive, accountable and pro-people in every material particular.If any arm is weakened and forced to be unable to perform its constitutional role, the governance gaps would implode on the system and the society.

 

Nations of the world rise up to challenges through reasoned and measured approach and not by taking irrational and precipitate actions that compound the problem instead of providing solution.

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