By Adebayo Makinde
At the end of the year Get-Together/Awards Ceremony organized by the Senate Management for the Staff of the Senate, the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan reassured the nation that the 9th Senate was in a hurry to deliver on the targets set in its Legislative Agenda.
Basking in the euphoria of the early passage of the 2020 budget, he said: “We passed our agenda. What we intend to do as senators to enhance good governance in Nigeria is to make Nigeria better for the citizens. And of course the way we want to go is different from the way of the past because perhaps, the goals and targets are different. So between now and the next two years, we have told ourselves that we have to work hard to ensure that ,as a legislature, we are able to perform our roles creditably to enable government function very well for Nigerians. And that is what we have been trying to do”.
Predictably, the Senate President’s lofty vision and reassuring words may have ignited hope of a paradigm shift, of the unfurling of a new order the nation desperately needs to reinvent itself but subjected to integrity test based on his actions as Senate President, his preachment rings hollow as a cruel hoax envisioned to hoodwink the nation and continue on the trajectory of deception which has so far imperiled and stymied our quest for development. Nigerians who invested the highest premium and confidence in the ability of Senator Lawan to lead by example did so for cogent reasons.
Arguably, one of the longest serving legislators, he came to the National Assembly first as a member of the House of Representatives in 1999 on the platform of the defunct All Peoples Party (APP). His twenty year stay in the hallowed chamber gives him a rare insight into the politics and inner workings of the legislature. As one of the few longest serving lawmakers with vast knowledge and experience of this hallowed institution, the Senate President is conversant with its strengths and weaknesses. And having capped his years as a legislator with his emergence as Senate President, so much was expected of him. After all, to whom much is given, much is expected.
But the tragedy going by his actions thus far is that the Senate under his guidance and leadership is tottering on the edge of a precipice, charting dangerous and discredited path which had hitherto attracted to it public ridicule. In truth, the reputation of the 9th senate may well be irredeemably damaged unless conscious and concerted efforts are made by progressive senators to rescue it from the doldrums and insufferable crisis of confidence visited on it by Senator Lawan.
A case in point is the recent appointment of Ahmed Kadi Amshi, the immediate past Senior Legislative Aide to the Senate President when he was the Majority Leader in the 8th Senate as Chairman, National Assembly Service Commission (NASC).This appointment represents not only a blatant demonstration of arrogance of power and repudiation of the Federal Character principle as enshrined in our constitution, it signals a death knell on the paradigm shift the Senate President had promised the nation.
Apart from disdain for the principle of federal character, a closer look at the appointment of Kadi Amshi which riles the sensitivity of all fair minded people, is morally repugnant and therefore unacceptable. Amshi not only hails from the same Bade Local Government Area of Yobe state as the Senate President, he also comes from the same political ward.
Mallam Adamu Fika, the former Clerk to the National Assembly and immediate past chairman of the commission also hails from Fika in Yobe state. Even more damning is the fact that Lawan’s handpicked chairman of the commission is inexperienced for the job. The commission is saddled with the responsibility of recruitment, promotion and discipline of the staff of National Assembly. This delicate task requires the experience and services of top notch technocrats and astute administrators in the rank of former Clerks to the National Assembly, retired Permanent Secretaries or Directors in the Federal or State service.
From inception of the National Assembly in this democratic dispensation, over 80 per cent of the commissioners were retired bureaucrats who brought their wealth of experience to bear and assisted a lot in building capacity in the legislature.
Ordinarily, the chairmanship of the commission should rotate between the North and South in the interest of the federal character principle. Moreover, no Southerner has ever headed the commission in its twenty years of existence. The 8th senate may have wanted to correct this anomaly when it nominated Sen. Joy Emordi from the South East as Chairman designate with eleven other members spread to reflect the federal character. Senator Emordi was not only a ranking senator, she was also presidential liaison officer to the National Assembly under the Jonathan administration and was therefore eminently qualified for the office.
But desperate to foist his personal agenda, Lawan upon assumption of office, rejected the appointments in favour of his preferred candidates. There is no shred of doubt that the Senate President mislead the President to make appointments which has continued to rankle genuine lovers of the legislature.
Any doubt regarding this reality was laid to rest by the President vide a letter to the National Assembly. The President said, “Further to your letters (NASS/9th/S/SP/PRE/1/NASC/06/11/19 dated November 6, 2019 and NASS/9tg/S/SP/PRE/1/NASC/25/11/19, I write to convey my approval of your nominations for the appointments of Chairman and Commissioners of the National Assembly Service Commission as follows: Engr. Ahmed Kadi Amshi – Chairman (Yobe, North East), Babagana Modu – Member (Borno, North East), Abubakar Tutare (Taraba, North East), Hakeem Akamo (Lagos, South West) Tunrayo Akintomide (Ondo, South West), Atanomeyorwi Francis (Delta, South-South). Others are Bassey Etuk (Akwa Ibom); Bailyaminu Yusuf Shinkafi (Zamfara, North West); Sani Saidu Kazuare (Jigawa, North West); Julius Ucha (Ebonyi, South East); Nnamdi Anyaechie (Imo, South East); Auwalu Aliyu Ohindase (Kogi, North Central) and Muazi Is’haq (Nasarawa, North Central)”.
The Senate President’s single handed control and determination of these appointments is a triumph of impunity and political interest over due process and federal character. It is a betrayal of public trust and a huge blow on the evolution of the legislature as an institution. It is taken for granted that the actions of those who occupy high office should be guided by national interest at all times. But when personal interest as in the present case assails national interest, then we unwittingly sow the seeds of disunity.
The Senate is faced with two choices: either to acquiesce to the unconscionable action of the Senate President and allow the mess to fester and consume all of them or rise up against this aberration and avert the looming catastrophe threatening to imperil its much advertised Legislative Agenda.
Inside the hallowed chambers of the Senate are some principled patriots. The exigencies of the moment demand that they rise to correct this anomaly. The Legislature is too important to be shackled in any shape or form the narrow selfish agenda of an individual no matter how powerful.
(Makinde, a Public Affairs Commentator, writes in from Ilorin, Kwara State).