Saturday, 5 December 2015

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES MEMBERS’ SCUFFLE FOR COMMITTEES

Bickering over the sharing, or membership of committees by members of the House of Representatives the other day is an unfortunate pointer to the unwillingness of the lawmakers to make the people’s welfare a paramount issue in their legislative duties. The lawmakers show clearly that despite the mantra of change upon which the current administration is predicated, the people’s representatives are not about to sacrifice their pecuniary gains for public interest.

Their action is shameful and a disservice to their constituencies, many of which are labouring under heavy economic yoke to keep hope of advancement alive. Rather than seek absurd consolation from the fact that such bickering are not uncommon among legislative houses in other climes, it is imperative for the lawmakers to rethink their action, and make genuine public service the backbone of their political terms.

If anything, the current legislators, by their action, are rudely reminding citizens of greed and other manifestations of misrule of their past lawmakers. And this, at a time many Nigerians are trying to forget the unpleasant experience.

The upshot is that members of the lower chamber have been fighting one another on the floor of the hallowed chamber. Their recent fight was triggered over the sharing and apportionment of committees to groups that have been linked to different factions. In effect, the distribution of committees has led to fractionalisation of the house.

Thus, the lawmakers who belong to the House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila’s camp accused their colleagues who are in the camp of the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, of short-changing them by allegedly appropriating what they considered as lucrative committees. Since the re-introduction of civilian government in 1999, the country’s democratic space has been marred by the avoidable exuberance of its lawmakers.

Instead of making laws that birth grand policies with a vision to improve the lot of the people, successive lawmakers have turned the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly into a sullied arena for selfish battles for supremacy. Such battles have been characterised by verbal altercations, the snatching of mace, throwing of chairs at one another and outright fisticuffs. Amid such fights, it is the people who lose since governance suffers.

With the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the ruling party, it was expected that the eighth assembly would mark a break with the detestable fixation of using crude means to achieve objectives in legislative houses. But in less than six months, the members of the House of Representatives are proving to Nigerians that this expectation is highly misplaced.

These fights are distractions and they must stop. They do not add any value to the business of lawmaking for which the legislators were elected into the National Assembly. Rather, they betray their greed for the pecuniary gain that their offices confer. Granted that being on committees would enable the lawmakers to exercise oversight functions over some agencies, membership of committees was not a primary consideration in their election, but the members’ disposition to use the hallowed chambers to uplift the citizens. If these committees were really avenues for service, would they fight to be on them? And if it is service the lawmakers want to render, why must some committees be labelled as juicy, and others as not juicy committees. For whom are the committees juicy, for the lawmakers or for the citizens?

In other countries, lawmakers use their presence on committees to influence policies for good; not to make money for themselves. Even if the lawmakers disagree over committees, this should not degenerate into physical brawl. It is disheartening that lawmakers who ought to model good conduct before the rest of the citizens are the ones who forget the necessity of adherence to the dictates of decorum in their selfish fight for committees. Their action is reprehensible and a negative example for young Nigerians. Their conduct presents the citizens as a people who belong to a primordial era and who cannot resolve thorny issues through constructive debate.

If the APC to which many of the lawmakers belong represent change, the party must not fail Nigerians in discharging the responsibility of entrenching real departure from the actions that portrayed past lawmakers as irresponsible and greedy. The legislators should concern themselves with making laws that would improve the lot of the people, particularly in areas of infrastructure, electricity supply, education and employment opportunities, among others.

Political leaders in the National Assembly and outside it must take cognisance of the fact that a divided party cannot bring positive change to the people. The party can only implement its promised change if its members in the National Assembly are united. Otherwise, the party stands the risk of implosion, and when this happens, the losers are the people being purportedly represented. (guardian)