The action, inaction or reaction of the nationa��s legislative arm can best be described as assemblage of interest seekers. Every issue is viewed through a prism of manifest selfish political consideration. There is a clear social disconnect between legislators and their constituents. Where politics is everything and everything is politics, the interest of a common man would suffer multiple setbacks. Though politics is essentially a game of interest, but it becomes worrisome where interests of the majority are relegated for the pursuit of personal aggrandizement of the few. Parliaments everywhere should reflect the pulse of the masses which they represent.
Today, impunity, tyranny and avarice seem to be the order of the day in an institution that epitomizes democracy and liberty, where majority should have their way without stopping minority from having their say. Unfortunately, dictatorial posture of the leadership of this institution is making many to wonder if this is not an aberration to a system where all members are considered equal, only its leader being first among them. It is sad to see a member who holds the mandates of his constituents being suspended without any consultation with them. Such arbitrariness undermines the people who are the true owners of that mandate. When constituents are being deprived of representation by suspending their representatives, it becomes an affront to their right of being heard in the countrya��s parliament.
Legislature completely has a different procedure from executive, so the influx of former state chief executives in its fold may only breed dictatorship there. At inception of this 8th senate, 16 former state governors took their seats at the red chambers. We know most of these former governors did not brook any divergent view when they held sway in their states. When legislators are afraid of being penalized nay victimized for holding a different opinion then our democracy is being caged. For God sake, the beauty of democratic governance is the unfettered expression of opinions which may be at variance with the popular ones.
It is now very clear to all discerning minds that the Saraki-led national assembly is gradually tilting towards dictatorship. A development which many have attributed to a desire to assert undue influence, dominance and intimidation, therefore any imagined or perceived opponent is brutally whipped into line. This is done to serve as a deterrent to others to accentuate the fact that the fear of Saraki is the beginning of wisdom.
For instance Senator Ali Ndume-the former Senate Leader was suspended for daring to suggest an inquiry into allegation of importing a bullet proof range rover with fake documents preferred against the Senate president and the case of certificate forgery against the vociferous Senator Dino Melaye who is a dye-in-the-wool acolyte of the Senate president. This did not go down well with Nigerians as many did not see justice and maturity in such action. Even the court had eventually nullified that suspension. Also the Nigeriaa��s House of Representatives did not hesitate to wield the big stick on its former chairman of Appropriation Committee, Hon. Jibrin when he blew the whistle against the alleged budget fraud by the leadership of the House. And recently, the suspension of Senator Omo-Agege for expressing his opinion on the then proposed bill to reorder the sequence of 2019 national poll. When you consider the fact that Senator David Marka��s eight years as Senate President never witnessed suspension of a single senator, then you would be concerned by the Senator Sarakia��s style of leadership.
If our law-makers are true representatives of the people, of what interest does the re-ordering of election serve the people? Even when courts have pronounced in many instances that the suspension of a legislator by the National Assembly is illegal, it does not seem to bother them, provided the assertive member is cowed to submission, just to prove some points.
Some law-makers have neither visited their constituencies nor maintained any constituency office since after the procurement of their mandates in 2015. So when they talk of representing the people, one wonders which people they claim to represent, when even their phonesa�� contacts are no longer accessible to their constituents. It is obvious that it is their pockets and not the people that they represent.
Judging from the jumbo salaries and the many generous allowances accrued to them, one would wonder if it should take so much to represent people wallowing in abject poverty. It was published in 2017 that the budget of National Assembly was $393m showing about $31m increase from 2016. And a senatora��s monthly salary was put at $55,000 while their counterparts in the House of Representatives were pegged at $42,000. Consider the national minimum wage in the country which is about $50.00, then you would marvel at the cost of such representation. But their salary is not what causes the eyes to pop; it is their many illegal allowances which they generously arrogate to themselves. Even RMFAC which is a body charged with the responsibility of fixing the salaries of all appointed or elective officers of government in the country had described this largesse as illegal.
The revelations of both Prof. Itsey Sagay- the chairman of Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption and Senator Shehu Sani, representing Kaduna Central of how much a Nigerian lawmaker takes home as either the running cost or salary in a country where majority of its citizens reportedly live below poverty line is indeed a real cause for sincere concern. The jumbo package which sees a Nigerian senator earning about N29m monthly also makes him the highest paid of his counterparts in the world.
Our legislators in a bid to secure their position in the next election should not lose sight of their primary purpose which is making laws for the good governance of the country. Their greatest assets should be the people, therefore any plan that does not take into consideration the welfare of this critical mass is not likely going to advance their ambition.
SOURCE :The Nigerian Voice (opinions)