The 10th National Assembly was inaugurated on Tuesday, June 13, accompanied by much fanfare with both the incoming ranking members taking their oath of office in both chambers of the assembly.
Highlight of the occasion was the election of leaders who will preside over affairs of the two houses in the coming four years. This capped weeks of campaigns which had taken them round the country seeking the support of various stakeholders for their quest to be elected.
At the Senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom State representing Akwa Ibom North West emerged as the winner in a keenly contested election against a former governor of Zamfara State, Abdul Aziz Yari, representing Zamfara North.
Senator Barau Jibrin representing Kano North was elected unopposed as deputy Senate president.
In the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Tajudeen Abbas representing Zaria federal constituency of Kaduna State was elected speaker, defeating the former deputy speaker, Ahmed Idris Wase, and Hon. Sani Jaji. Rt. Hon. Benjamin Kalu representing Bende federal constituency of Abia State emerged deputy speaker unopposed.
All of them are from the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
If there was a discernible attitude of ambivalence among many Nigerians during the inauguration of the 10th assembly, it was not far-fetched. Following the low performance of the 9th assembly against the high expectations reposed, Nigerians have justifiably grown weary of the legislative arm of government. This is because quite a number of the members in both the Senate and House of Representatives in the 10th National Assembly were part of the same 9th assembly which many have criticised as performing below expectations. Indeed some of the leaders of the current 10th assembly were in the 9th assembly. Therefore, the majority of Nigerians have a feeling that this current assembly could be a clone of its predecessor.
This is further reinforced by the fact that the pattern of emergence of the leadership of the present assembly is similar to that of the previous one, as there was the unmistakable hand of the executive arm of government in the emergence of the 10th assembly leadership. There is indeed an underlying feeling that like the 9th assembly, this one too may function as a ‘rubber stamp’ for the executive branch.
Against this background, therefore, the 10th National Assembly has its work cut out as it is starting off on a platform of doubt and justifiable suspicion about its trajectory.
Accordingly, for it to gain the confidence of Nigerians, the 10th assembly must as a matter of urgent priority assiduously work to assert itself as a constitutionally recognised independent arm of government.
It is no gainsaying that of the three arms of government, the legislature is considered as the one closest to the people; hence Nigerians expect it to play its rightful role in the scheme of governance. While not being confrontational, the legislature must be constructive in working with the executive arm and, where necessary, check the latter in order to deepen our democratic practice.
Nigerians also expect the 10th National Assembly to revisit some of the pending bills that either due to time constraints or lethargy were not attended to by the 9th assembly. They should also focus on sponsoring bills that have a direct impact on the people. The quality of bills, not the quantity, should be their priority. Another issue is that of oversight functions on government agencies. This is one important role that Nigerians expect the legislature to deliver on in order to ensure optimum performance of government and provision of the dividends of democracy to the people.
The 10th assembly should also look into the worsening conditions of Nigerians as a result of the prevailing dire socio-economic circumstances in the country. More and more Nigerians are falling into poverty and not able to afford some of the basic necessities of life for a decent living. The abrupt withdrawal of subsidy on petrol without any palliatives has exacerbated the situation. As lawmakers, Nigerians are looking up to the legislature to enact laws that will cushion the effects of the harsh economic conditions they face.
It must also be stated that allegations of corruption and abuse of constituency projects meant to provide succour for constituencies have not endeared the legislature to Nigerians. This comes across to Nigerians as being insensitive to the plight of their fellow citizens who elected them to serve and not to do otherwise.
In this regard, while checking the executive and judicial arms of governments, the legislature must also check itself so as to play its proper role in the process of governance in the country. The legislators must understand that the major reason they are at the National Assembly is to provide proper representation for their people; any other thing is secondary and as such that should be their guiding principle in the months and years to come. We wish all the lawmakers well as they commence this journey.