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Excluding the legislature from presidential centenary awards

Perhaps apart from Chief Anthony Enahoro whose inclusion was justifiably based on his visionary landmark 1953 motion, which proposed self government for the country come…

Perhaps apart from Chief Anthony Enahoro whose inclusion was justifiably based on his visionary landmark 1953 motion, which proposed self government for the country come 1956, hardly was any other Nigerian recognized purely for contributions in the course of debates on the floor or in any other capacity, and from any of the legislative houses in the country in the past 100 years. While the fore going assertion may appear outlandish given that key patriarchs of the nation’s political life were honoured, their selection was informed more for their roles as officers in the conduct of executive functions of  government, than as legislators. After all until the military incursion into governance, the country was operating the Westminster parliamentary system whereby the legislators also served as executive officers such as President, Prime Minister and Ministers.
For instance Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was ostensibly honoured as the country’ first President, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister, Chief Obafemi Awolowo as Premier of the Western Region and Alhaji Ahmadu Bello as Premier of the Northern Region, to name a few. However these patriarchs of the Nigerian nation were not only also legislators, their rise to prominence owed among other factors,  to their sterling performances on  the floor of the legislature in the colonial era and the First Republic.
 The fact that the citations of the awardees whose tenures cut across different  generations of Nigerians, were not presented did not help matters. Not a few Nigerians are already wondering why the selection process was not thrown open for members of the public to nominate and vote for beneficiaries, whose antecedents would enjoy public scrutiny and acclaim. As it is, the Nigerian public would remain at the mercy of the miasma of half truths, untruths and fiction offered by the grapevine, in associating each awardee with whatever achievements that informed his or her choice.
From that First Republic to date Nigeria has had a total of seven national legislatures rebranded as  National Assembly, with tenures outlined  as follows: First National Assembly: 1979-1983; Second National Assembly: 1983-1987 (truncated in December 1983 by the General Muhamadu Buhari led coup); Third National Assembly: 1990-1994 (established under a putative diarchic arrangement by the General Ibrahim Babangida military administration and eventually truncated by the General Sani Abacha led coup of 1993); Fourth National Assembly: 1999-2003; Fifth National Assembly: 2003-2007; Sixth National Assembly; 2007-2011; Seventh National Assembly: 2011-2015. It is needless to reiterate that the situation at the national level was played out in the states of the federation.
It is instructive that within this period of high drama featuring a cascade of legislative dispensations, an immeasurable flow of creative enterprise featured in the various legislatures, whose cumulative import was the stabilization of the polity over time. Would it then be fair that in a process of bestowing national honours to deserving Nigerians, no person was found worthy in character, learning and enterprise from the legislative arm of government, especially under the Presidential system with its clear cut separation of functions and powers?
For the purpose of clarification, it is not always that legislative enterprise, in any part of the world,  offers images of high drama,  which usually advertises the performance of the executive arm and  in some cases the judiciary. Not a few advocates of the legislature agree that legislative enterprise is such that when legislators err nobody forgives, and when they are right, nobody remembers.
In the case of Nigeria, the legislature has had a most dramatic history given that it had suffered serial truncation with every military intervention in governance. A major consequence of this situation has been the contention of the legislature at every tier of governance, with the challenge of continuity, in many aspects of its institutional life.
Easily recalled casualties of the dispensation are the records of legislative enterprise as well as the ranking  of the institution and  its officers, in the national order of precedence.  While the records of the typical legislative house usually suffered unspeakable pillage during periods of anomie occasioned by military takeover of governance, the institution and its officials are routinely  limited to manifest as mere appendages to the executive arm.  
Nevertheless, in the face of such privations the legislature in Nigeria beyond the First Republic, has generated innumerable dividends of superlative patriotic value from members, and without which the  country would have been worse for it. Typical instances of remarkable intervention include the 2005 repudiation of the nation’s suspect debt burden, which was launched as a formal resolution in the House of Representatives. The act remains the single most important factor that not only modified the stance of the nation’s creditors in the London and Paris Clubs, but also encouraged the executive arm to move in and seal the various deals associated with debt forgiveness.
Another instance was the sterling defeat of the spurious attempt at tenure elongation for the president during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration courtesy of the enterprise of legislators like the late Senator Sule Yari Gandi. Yet another was the prompt response to a national emergency during the last days of President Umaru  Yar Adua, with the adoption of the ‘doctrine of necessity’  which saved the nation from  crisis.
Monima Daminabo <[email protected]>;

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