In praise of Buki and Jacob By Cheta Nwanze

I hate this first paragraph that I’m writing, but in our rather rarefied political atmosphere in Nigeria, such things are necessary, at least to protect the integrity of what one is saying. The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, is not the peachiest of characters. As I have written before, he has questions to answer at the very least regarding his stewardship of Societe General Bank of Nigeria, but then it is the very nature of politics everywhere, but especially in Nigeria, that we end up with unlikely heroes.

In June 2015 at the start of the current administration, both Senator Ahmed Lawan and Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila had been chosen by the powers that be to become Senate President and Speaker, House of Representatives respectively. The Senate presidency was coveted by Bukola Saraki, and he outwitted his party the APC, by forming an alliance with his own APC loyalists within the Senate, and his former PDP colleagues, to get the position. The reaction was intense as the might of the state moved against him via the Code of Conduct Tribunal to try and nail him for corruption. Like I said, Saraki, to my mind, does have questions to answer, but…

Dogara is pretty much the same, except that his career path was slightly different in that he started out as a teacher then went into private legal practice, then became a minister’s SA, before entering the House of Reps in 2007. His emergence as Speaker is also a tale of outmaneuvering the APC hierarchy’s choice with the help of the opposition PDP, and as whispered in some quarters, the Sokoto state governor.

The last year especially, has shown that having someone in opposition to the President at the helm of the National Assembly is actually a great thing for our democracy. Senator Lawan, whom Saraki outmaneuvered, would as per his voting record and statements over the last three years, have been in all likelihood what the Executive wants, a rubber stamp Senate leader. I don’t want to talk about Gbajabiamila…

Now think of some of the really important areas where the Saraki and Dogara led National Assembly have gone against the will of the Executive, the most important for me being the proposed Constitutional Amendments, the changes to the Electoral Act, the various Appropriations Bills and the thing on the waterways. Whether they are going against the Executive based on their own narrow interests is both part of the point, and besides the point. It is part of the point in the sense that the Legislature is meant to provide oversight to the activities of the Executive, and not nod their heads at everything the Executive says. It is besides the point in the sense that the onus shifts back to us the people, to ensure that our representatives represent our interests, and not theirs. This is one big challenge for us that is outside the scope of this piece, but, in my view, our democracy is being deepened by the fights that are happening right now.

And it is down to the kind of leadership, no matter how flawed, that has been provided in the National Assembly by Saraki and Dogara.

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