Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja
The Senate President, Senator David Mark, yesterday in Abuja charged members of the state assemblies and other politicians to emulate the examples of President Goodluck Jonathan in the just concluded 2015 general elections. This is even as the Senate President urged legislators to resist all forms of executive interference and stop being mere rubber stamps of executive decisions. Mark, who gave the charge in his keynote address to declare open a five-day induction of new state legislators at the International Conference Centre (ICC), particularly charged the politicians to shun the election tribunals. According to him, Jonathan not only demonstrated patriotism and political maturity, but he has put Nigeria on the world map of the league of mature democracies.
“As I said at the induction of (the) federal legislators, real credit must go to Nigerians, and especially President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, for overseeing transparent and credible elections and for promoting a political culture of tolerance. The President’s gesture of congratulating the President- elect, General Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, and conceding defeat, even before the final results were announced, is exemplary.
He has demonstrated patriotism, political maturity; but more importantly, as a statesman, he has put Nigeria on the world map of the league of mature democracies. “This must be a lesson to all politicians that our first loyalty is, and must be to the state. It is also imperative to state that President Jonathan has not gone to any election tribunal. I enjoin politicians to imbibe this example. “For the first time in our democratic history, a ruling party is handing over to an opposition party. This is a clear indication that our democracy is growing.
“We must always remember that the democratic ideal seeks to guarantee equality and basic freedom; to empower ordinary people; to resolve disagreements through peaceful dialogue; to respect differences; and to bring about political and social renewal without violence. Thus, I would like to underscore that for us in Nigeria, the 2015 elections mark a significant achievement in the consolidation and deepening of our democracy,” Mark charged.
Mark also warned the state lawmakers that the general impression is that the state legislatures have remained an appendage of the government houses or governors. He urged them to borrow a leaf from the National Assembly, which has achieved institutional stability and transformed from being a ‘mere rubber stamp’ of executive decisions by resisting the executive interference.
“The legislature in Nigeria has a chequered history. But in all its travails, the parliament has stood on the side of the people and intervened at the most critical moments to salvage the system from imminent collapse. “I have always maintained that the most important legacy of the legislature in the last 16 years is its commitment to law-making, oversight functions and representation to ensure good governance. The legislature has also come to be recognised as a watch dog of the executive and an important link between citizens and the state.
“At the national level, the legislature has continued to assert its independence and resist executive interference. Thus, the legislature has achieved institutional stability and transformed from being a ‘mere rubber stamp’ of executive decisions and policy initiatives into an institution that now enjoys a reasonable degree of legitimacy and respect. “We are not quite where we want to be though. But can we say the same of state legislatures? If I may tell all of you here, the general impression is that the state legislatures have remained an appendage of the government houses or governors.
I recall that when the first constitutional amendment was done, the state assemblies did not have the political courage to muster enough votes for their financial autonomy. “For example, as lawmakers, you must avoid holding your sessions in the council chambers of the government houses.
It is ignoble to use the Mace outside the chamber or borrow Local Government Legislative Council Mace to conduct your affairs or resort to self help by using your Mace to perpetuate violence. “You must conduct your sittings in line with the provisions of the Constitution and the extant rules of the House. As state legislators, you must restrain yourselves from the excessive use of the constitutional provision that empowers you to impeach either your speakers, executive governors or their deputies,” he advised.