By Ikeddy ISIGUZO
SENATE President Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives, can provide the need of the hour – leadership to fasten the recovery of the country. Granted it is a lot of work, it can be done.
A visit to President Muhammadu Buhari – who is still smiling at the issues – making press statements, taking no stand on peaceful protesters being killed, no matter by who, while security agents do not intervene, are not strong stands that would prove their sincerity in accepting that the protesters have a case against SARS brutality, and the blistering circumstances of a once happy nation.
Their visit was not even about the protests. They took their anger to the President on Ministers and presidential aides disrespecting the National Assembly.
What can Lawan and Gbajabiamila do? They should collate the demands of the protesters, negotiate with them, agree on deadlines for implementing the more immediate ones while revving up legislative processes to change encumbering parts of the Constitution.
The circumstances are genuinely more precarious than those at the top are willing to accept. Do they not know? The times do not call for blame shifting or blame sharing. None of them is helpful.
Why not invoke the Doctrine of Necessity to scale through some of the obstacles as was the case in 2010 when constitutional provisions proved inadequate for resolving the circumstances around ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua? Has the President exhausted Executive Orders? They can prompt him.
No excuses are adequate for the aloofness of the National Assembly. There is acceptance across party lines that the matters that emptied the youth to the streets deserve immediate attention. Lawan and Gbajabiamila have to lead the activation of the solutions.
The mood of the country does not accommodate distractive positions like Gbajabiamila’s threat not to sign the 2021 Appropriation Bill if it had no provisions for compensation for the families of victims of police brutality and the agreement between the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, and the Federal Government. Who would notice?
He should try harder.
What stops the two issues from being treated immediately? Must they be postponed to next year, so that we forget? Is Gbajabiamila asking protesters and ASUU to warehouse their pains till then? Would the National Assembly postpone issues affecting its members for one day?
“This is the time to move your agitation from the chaos of the streets to the painstaking deliberations and strategic partnerships that birth policy and produce legislation,” Gbajabiamila said in an appeal to the protesters. He was not specific about what the National Assembly was doing. The noticeable absence of urgency in Gbajabiamila’s position is a shock.
“It is time to mobilise your voices in support of specific policy interventions that will deliver on our shared objectives of national renewal and a country that reflects the best of us,” the Speaker concluded, in a delivery that ignored the trust deficit between the people and their leaders, including legislators.
Lawan earlier made the same calls about quitting the streets as government was dealing with the matters protesters raised.
Both leaders must be aware that the demands have included a reduction on the appurtenances of the office of legislators. Will the legislators cut down their comforts for the common good?
A recent manifestation of the wastes of our political practices surfaced in The Independent and other media reports of 16 October 2020. According to the reports, 50 aides were illegally on the payroll of the Speaker’s office. Would that have been possible with prudent management of resources?
The impunity entailed was obvious. There was no mention of any attempt to prosecute whoever engaged the 50 aides, a practice that could have been spread across the offices of other leaders of the National Assembly.
Premium Times of 27 July 2019 published an official announcement of 27 newly appointed aides of the Speaker. When his six media aides are included, the Speaker had 33 official aides by July 2019. What was he doing with that number of aides all paid from the National Assembly budget, our money? The youth consider such issues as “SARS”.
The points that took protesters to the streets have been made. It is left for the authorities to commerce processes to address the issues.
An issue not often raised is that our elected officials, political appointees, and everyone drawing emoluments from the public purse should start serving us for that is why we are spending trillions of Naira on them. They may be our leaders but they are in office to provide service.
Fast-paced concrete actions with sensitivities that reflect sensibilities of the times are the demands of the moment. Would Lawan and Gbajabiamila lead legislators to take a cut in their comforts?
If Gbajabiamila and Lawan realise how steeped in complications the issues are, they would know they should do something or nothing. Whatever their decision, it should be fast and public.
For now, their stand is vague, unknown – unhelpful.
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