National Assembly Leadership: Leave Us Alone – Kawu Tells Tinubu

Senator-elect, Kawu Sumaila

A Senator-elect, Kawu Sumaila, (Kano South), of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), has challenged the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, over zoning of the National Assembly leadership.

Kawu, former House of Representatives Member (2003 to 2015), Deputy Minority Leader (6th and 7th National Assembly), declared that Tinubu has no right to piff into National Assembly matters.

The former Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives) in the 8th National Assembly, stated thus: “Let me use this medium to congratulate Senators and Members-elect on their victory at the 2023 general elections and also wish us success on the job ahead. I want to also remind us of the trust reposed on us by the electorates, the daunting challenges on effective representation, lawmaking, oversight and other legislative responsibilities. My fellow colleagues, it is my fervent prayer that God Almighty guides us on those things that will promote unity, happiness and prosperity among Nigerians.

“The jostling for the leadership of the 10th National Assembly, expected to be inaugurated in June, has started in earnest. Therefore, at this period when majority of Nigerians view the National Assembly and its members in less-than-flattering terms, nothing should be done to further erode the credibility of an institution that is critical to our democracy.

“For the presidential system of government which we practice in Nigeria to work efficiently, Charles de Secondat and Baron de Montesquieu, French jurists and philosophers, advocated the necessity for powers to be separated among the three arms of government (executive, legislature and judiciary) in a way that each can act as a check on the other. They observed that:

“Political Liberty is to be found only when there is no abuse of power. But constant experience shows us that every man invested with power is liable to abuse it, and carry his authority as far as it will go. To prevent this abuse, it is necessary from the nature of things that one power should be a check on another…

“As Senators and Members-elect, we should be democratic and put our house in order so that both the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives can emerge in a manner devoid of acrimony or imposition. While I do not oppose the idea of party supremacy, such must never be pursued at the expense of separation of powers which is the hallmark of a presidential system of government. Political parties should only play a role in selection of leaders of party in the parliament. The lawmakers should be allowed to exercise the right to choose their presiding officers among themselves as stipulated by the Constitution without any interference of ethnic, regional or religious coloration.

“The Constitution is explicit about how the President and Deputy President of the Senate shall be elected. Section 50 (1) (a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) is unambiguous that “there shall be a President and Deputy President of the Senate, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.” Similarly, Section 50 (1) (b) of the Constitution states that “a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.” Also the Senate and House of Representatives Standing rules provide for selection or appointment of principal offers and other officers of the Senate and the House.

“Therefore, to avoid the type of unnecessary distraction that mar the leadership of the National Assembly in the past, especially at this critical moment where Nigeria is confronted with numerous challenges, there is a compelling need for lawmakers-elect, as elected representatives of the people, to be mindful of the expectations of Nigerians as we prepare to elect our presiding officers next month. These expectations include true federalism, restructuring, resource control, local government autonomy, insecurity challenges, infrastructural decay, wastage and corruption, poverty and unemployment, marginalization and nepotism as well as issues relating to cessation, among others.

“I also want us to pay attention to the national voter turnout of the 2023 general elections which was 29 per cent; no election had a lower participation rate in the six decades of Nigeria’s independence. Of the 93.4 million registered voters this year, 87.2 million people collected their Permanent Voters Card while the actual voters on election day was only 24.9 million. Barely 9 million people voted for the President-elect Tinubu to govern 220 million Nigerians.

” This clearly shows voter apathy, which can have far-reaching impacts on our politics if a large percentage of eligible voters are unengaged with the political process. The gap between leaders and followers is too wide, which usually give rise to lack of confidence in leadership and this is very dangerous to the system.

“In this challenging moment of our democratic experiment, a vibrant and effective legislature led by competent leaders has become imperative. The legislature is the engine room of democracy and to every extent, the quality of legislation made by the National Assembly matters. Only credible, competent and firm leaders can enable the National Assembly live up to its responsibility to the people of Nigeria.

“More than at any time under the current dispensation which started in 1999, we need independent-minded leaders who can foster the independence of the legislature if our country must make progress. The National Assembly therefore should be encouraged to choose leaders with rich legislative experience who can carry everybody along, command the respect of their colleagues and restore the dignity of the embattled legislative institution. Above all, positions of leadership should be given to those with capacity to execute the job; and there must be no imposition of leaders under any guise.

“It is important to also note that legislative knowledge and skills are essential for National Assembly leadership. The leadership crafts and implements a broad spectrum of programmes and agenda to fulfill its vision and mission for the legislature. They are the soul of the legislature and can either make or mar it. The legitimacy of National Assembly before Nigerian people can be enhanced or diminished by the quality of its leadership.

“Constitutional provisions should be upheld in deciding the presiding officers of the National Assembly. Anything short of this may undermine the output and impact of the 10th Assembly, which presents a rare opportunity for the legislative institution to reassert itself as the pillar of democracy and earn public trust. This struggle must start with the quality of leaders’ we elect in June and in addition to our sensitivities, merit must be the highest consideration.

“The most critical positions in this contest are that of the Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. The Senate President is the Chairman of the National Assembly, head of the legislative arm of government and directly presides over the screening of prospective appointees to critical national offices. The Speaker of the House of Representatives is a powerful office that often controls the House’s functions, particularly appropriation. Whoever occupies these offices will benefit our development as we advance and should matter to Nigerians.

“The time has come for things to improve in this country. Just as we put fervent and earnest efforts to hold the incoming administration accountable because of heightened political awareness, I advocate for a similar level of attention on the legislature. The National Assembly is a Constitutional representation where every part of Nigeria is represented to foster development through lawmaking process and advance the will of the people. Our democracy will benefit significantly if the legislature performs its primary duties of law-making and oversight functions against the Executive and pursues a vision for Nigeria that will make it a great nation.

“In conclusion, I want to congratulate the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, being a democrat who has fought for the return and sustenance of democracy in Nigeria to, as a matter of priority in exercising principles of democracy and separation of powers, allow Senators and Members-elect to choose our leaders that will pilot the affairs of the 10th National Assembly. This will surely go a long way in upholding the tenets of democracy in Nigeria.

“I am of the opinion that the success of the incoming administration depends on the quality of leadership of the National Assembly.

” Finally, I wish to call on Senators and Members-elect, the executive and indeed all Nigerians to join hands in making the New Nigeria Project succeed.”



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