President of the Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria (CRCN), Senator Shehu Sani, calls on the Nigerian electorate to pay better attention to State and National Assemblies’ polls to stem the tide of electing lawmakers who are unable to check the executive arm of government at all levels.
A former federal lawmaker, Senator Shehu Sani, has called on Nigerians to direct their focus towards the functions of lawmaking and oversight over the executive arm of government as performance indicators for assessing their representatives in parliament.
Senator Sani, a Pro-Democracy Activist and President of the Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria (CRCN), expressed this position on Friday during a discourse held in commemoration of this year’s International Day of Democracy (IDD 2023) by OrderPaper Nigeria as part of its online parliament series, OrderPaper Parliamentary Engagement Nigeria (OPEN Space).
Referencing Nigeria’s parliamentary history, he noted that the trend of delivering constituency projects and other executive-related expectations of lawmakers only became a thing during the Obasanjo administration when members of the National Assembly clamoured for allocations along that line as a response to citizens’ demand in certain quarters.
Sani, who was a Senator in the Eighth Senate, further pointed out that the inactivity and perpetual dormancy noticed among some lawmakers can be traced to how they emerged as parliamentarians. According to him, the decision to serve in the legislature was an afterthought for many lawmakers following a failure to achieve another political ambition.
“What happens here, especially in a country of ours, is that it is not everybody that you see in parliament that is a parliamentarian. Of course, by nomenclature, we have Senators and Members of the House of Representatives. You have very few who have the ambition to be lawmakers and pursue it to the last. What I mean is that there are people who are Senators because it is zoned to their places or because they have to be there to warm the seats for their governors before they come and take over.
Some people tried to be governors but failed, and they were told they could manage to be Senators. They are people who are in the Senate because they are candidates of a certain godfather. Some people went to the parliament without the ambition or the drive to be parliamentarians; that’s why you see them silent and inactive for the four years of being in the National Assembly and, in most instances, fail the expectations of the people.
Watching the National Assembly from TV, you will see members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, but those on the inside know the difference within ourselves, and it all depends on how you emerged and for what reason you are there in the National Assembly. So, ideally and constitutionally, the parliament performs the function of lawmaking. The parliament is supposed to be an institution of government that is supposed to be at the vanguard of lawmaking, amendment, and oversight,” he stressed.
Speaking on ‘The Role of Parliamentary Elections in Strengthening Democracy,’ the focus of the special OPEN Space, the Pro-Democracy Activist called on the Nigerian electorate to pay better attention to State and National Assemblies’ polls to stem the tide of electing lawmakers who are unable to check the executive arm of government at all levels.
“In this country, many people are more interested in executive elections, that is, the position of the President and that of the Governor. Not much concern is placed on who are the kind of people who should represent you at the parliamentary level. This goes to also what is happening at the state level and the national level. It is important for our people or listeners generally.
The aim of having the parliament is to provide checks and balances and also perform the necessary restraint on power as they say: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” the Civil Rights Leader noted.
The International Day of Democracy Discourse, moderated by Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq and Uchepuh Blessing Simon, served as a platform for meaningful dialogue on critical issues related to democracy, parliamentary elections and civic engagement, with the aim of strengthening democratic processes in Nigeria and beyond.
Put together by OrderPaper Nigeria, the country’s foremost independent parliamentary monitoring organisation and policy think tank that serves as a bridge between the people and parliament, this special episode of the OPEN Space is the seventh in the year 2023 and was arranged to mark the 15th celebration of the International Day of Democracy with the ‘Empowering the Next Generation,’ which was celebrated globally on September 15.
The discourse is part of OrderPaper’s mandate (using its convening power) to rally the voices that matter (Members of Parliaments- past and present, public servants, civil society, the media, academia and active citizens) to discuss key issues around the institution of parliament globally, all geared towards ensuring effective service delivery and the strengthening of democracy.
An initiative in furtherance of OrderPaper’s mission to provide simple and authoritative parliamentary data that empowers citizens to take action and enable informed decision-making by public and private entities, it is anchored on our vision to become the most authoritative organisation of choice and reference for parliamentary reporting, advocacy and public policy advisory in Africa.