The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) had its way yesterday. Its leaders basked in the euphoria of party supremacy and discipline, following the election of Dr. Ahmed Lawan as Senate President and Femi Gbajabiamila as Speaker of House of Representatives.
The Senate President and Speaker had the backing of President Muhammadu Buhari, who was allegedly slowed down due to what the party described as the uncooperative attitude of their predecessors, Dr. Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara.
In 2015, APC mustered the strength to curtail the defiance of its member, Senator Ali Ndume, who opposed the endorsement of Lawan and contested for the chairman of the National Assembly as, in his view, a matter of human right.
At the close of poll yesterday, it was evident, however, that Lawan and Gbajabiamila were given the mandate to lead, by the combined forces of APC and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) legislators.
Both Senate President and Speaker should put the euphoria behind them and settle for the legislative tasks of good governance by repositioning the National Assembly to have a relationship of interdependence with the executive.
In months ahead, Nigerians will not be satisfied by complaints by the President, if he fails to increase his speed. To them, there is no adversarial Senate and House of Representatives to thwart his efforts and agenda.
The gains of the new dawn in the federal parliament should manifest in speedy passage of budgets, speedy confirmation of presidential nominations, passage of Bill’s that could foster good governance and refocusing of oversight functions without witch-hunting the executive.
However, the envisaged rapport should not diminish the essence of separation of powers and potency of checks and balances. Lawan and Gbajabiamila should not inadvertently become puppets in the hand of the power-loaded executive.
Nigerians do not expect the National Assembly members under Lawan and Gbajabiamila to arm-twist the executive and its agencies before playing their roles of scrutiny, oversight and defense of public interest.
As the vital institution with vast taproot across the diverse constituencies, the parliament is the first and the most important organ of government. Its representative nature makes it the anchor of popular rule.
The Senate President and Speaker are the first two members of the President’s kitchen cabinet. They should always strive to be above board, knowing that the mood of the Commander-in-Chief cannot tolerate theft and graft.
But, the executive should never take the legislature for a ride because of the new disposition of parliamentarians to cooperate with the president in his pursuit of people-oriented agenda and implementation of laudable policies.
Eyes are on the two National Assembly helmsmen. Many challenges will confront them. They should not seek vendetta against their rivals during the in-house polls.
Lawan and Gbajabiamila should constitute Senate and House committees, using the criteria of merit, experience, equity, justice, and honour.
They should learn from the factors that ensured the success of their predecessors – Pius Ayim, Ken Nnamani, Bello Masari, David Mark, Waziri Tambuwal, and Dimeji Bankole – and the mistakes that threatened the career of Evan’s Enwerem, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, Adolphus Wabara, Salisu Buhari, and Olubunmi Etteh.