Former Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Rt Hon. Yakubu Dogara says lawmakers across the Nation, irrespective of how they emerged as leaders or members of the Legislature, must be reminded that their responsibility first is to the people they represent and not to the Executive.
Dogara stated this in Owo at the weekend while delivering his address as Chancellor of Achievers University, during the institution’s 13th convocation and 16th foundation ceremonies.
According to him, the executive, legislature and judiciary are not expected to work at cross purposes, but even as they work together there must be checks and balances.
“There is no greater heresy than defying the very people who elected you as a mark of loyalty to someone. A good Legislative/Executive relationship is necessary for the smooth running of government but such must never take roots at the expense of the people they represent. Our people must always be at the centre of our conversation on Legislative/Executive relationship cum engagement. That is the point being made.
“The legislature cannot be a Waffle House. When any legislature convinces itself to abdicate its constitutional role on the ground that an Angel or a super patriotic and well-intentioned person is in charge of the executive branch and can therefore do no wrong, such a legislature cannot do the work of democracy. Such narratives betray a crass ignorance of the nature of man, which is the basis of the promulgation of the doctrine of separation of powers as earlier discussed and the very essence of the legislature itself. An unflappable legislature is a major symptom of a democracy in trouble,” Dogara emphasized.
The legal practitioner also argued that leaders of the legislative arm of Government should not always misconstrue disagreement as disloyalty.
“Sadly, strong leaders and executive imposed leaders of the legislature, most often than not, interpret disagreement as disloyalty. Now that we live the midst of a pandemic of sycophancy, by modern-day standards, disagreement is synonymous with disloyalty. How can the legislature discharge its constitutional functions without let and hindrance when active collusion is seen by the Executive as a precondition for maintaining a seat at the table? Sadly, nothing hurts a democracy more than conflict avoidance and selective blindness. In any case, all healthy democracies are noisy because we have to disagree as much as we agree in order not to stymie progress.
“I have dwelt briefly on this although so much can be said about the abounding constitutional powers of the legislature which are never fully exercised, just for us to appreciate the reasons why the legislature is necessary in the first place and why it must never allow itself to be suborned by the executive into abdicating its constitutional role. If you don’t understand the purpose of a thing you are condemned to abuse it, and in this case, if the legislature does not understand its role, it will continue to be the President/Governors’ houses with the Senate President and Speakers at all levels just living in them as tenants. Enabling the executive, no matter how kind and well intentioned they may be, to exercise legislative powers through entrenched proxies in the legislature is not an act of fidelity but apostasy to our constitutional order,” Dogara noted.
Speaking on the economy, the former speaker urged President Bola Tinubu and other appointed officials to deliver on their mandates instead of apportioning blames, like previous governments.
“Permit me to also say that for all elected officials, including Mr. President, who ran for something as opposed to running against someone, this is the moment they ought to be bothered because we are living in a deeply troubled democracy as nearly all Nigerian families are hurting. Only God knows how many Nigerians go to bed hungry each night. Although no rational individual would attribute our present deprecating decay to Tinubu’s administration, which is still in its infancy, the truth is that he knew about it and promised to find solutions before assuming office. If he does not resist the temptation to continue blaming others for our national decay rather than concentrating on the solutions he promised, what would be the distinguishing mark of his Presidency because that was what other presidents before him specialized in outsourcing the blame and never taking responsibility. My unsolicited counsel to Mr. President is to confront these challenges head-on and at once for nothing can be conquered unless it is confronted,” he said.
Dogara also warned that Nigeria’s democracy is in danger due to the growing rate of poverty in the land.
“I have said before that poverty is by far the greatest threat to our democracy. Those who doubted me have seen that threat manifest itself in vote buying and in the use of money to compromise electoral and security officials. On account of the sense of despondency and powerlessness that poverty breads amongst the poor, the poor have and will always remain ever ready tools in the hands of tyrants and demagogues, who in the course of history have always found it easy to mobilize for the purposes of subverting democratic institutions. Since underemployment and unemployment are bedmates of poverty, eliminating them must be the focal point of government’s policies. If we don’t ever make it to the point where we can have a rational conversation about economic justice, it would not be because it’s impossible to achieve but because we lack the right leadership. We have talked so much about ending so many things in Nigeria, now is the time to talk about creating wealth and ending poverty,” he stressed.
Dogara concluded his speech by advocating for the inclusion of students of private varsities in the loan scheme of the federal government.
He argued that since the students are also Nigerians, such privilege shouldn’t bypass them.
“Let me now end with an appeal to the Federal Government to consider the plight being faced by students of tertiary institutions. While commending the Student Loan Scheme of this present administration, I join my voice in the call for the inclusion of private university students in the Student Loan Scheme of this administration as part of the palliative measures since they are also Nigerians. The scheme should also be properly managed for the benefits of the teeming youths of this country.”