Is National Assembly ready for change?, by Chukwudi Enekwechi
“Without controversy, there is no change, and without change there is no progress.” – Anonymous.
Throughout history, change has remained a permanent feature in the affairs of men/women and nations. Change is the reason mankind has advanced in various areas – technology, science, education, governance, agriculture and numerous other endeavours.
In Nigeria, we as citizens have been at the forefront clamouring for change from the corrupt and inept ways of our previous leaders. In fact, our recent history as a democratic nation under the PDP administration was characterized by a total disregard for due process and rule of law.
Therefore, to bring about change, Nigerians hearkened to the “lone voice in the wilderness” that has over the last twelve years beckoned on Nigerians to embrace change. Change from a corrupt society to a nation of integrity and from a parlous economic condition to a prosperous one that caters for all citizens.
In 2015, Nigerians had another opportunity to elect a new leadership and eventually bestowed their mandate on President Muhammadu Buhari. Having been sworn in, he found the need to ensure that the nation does not return to the old ways of doing things.
Before his emergence, it was common knowledge that Ghana-Must-Go bags usually exchanged hands between the executive and NASS during budget presentations and defence. As President Buhari rode to power with a pledge to eradicate corruption, secure the nation and rejuvenate the economy, it was obvious that the corruption-infested process of the past in the passage of the national budget was no longer going to be tolerated.
The question to ask is: Is National Assembly ready for the “change” Mr. President hopes to bring to Nigeria as far as the issue of budgeting is concerned? This simple question is germane to the fight against corruption which the Buhari administration has embarked on. The National Assembly being a key arm of government owes it as a duty to support the President to rid Nigeria of this malaise which has eroded the basic values inherent in governance. Lest we forget, the fundamental objective of any government is the welfare and wellbeing of its citizens.
Unfortunately, experience has shown that our legislators have tended to seek after personal gains, rather than truly representing their constituents as expected. Many Nigerians hold the view that President Buhari’s 2016 budget has been buffeted by controversy because he did not toe the line of his predecessors’ “scratch-my-back-I-scratch-your-back”.
Notwithstanding, the President continues to enjoy the support of ordinary Nigerians who believe that his crusade for moral rebirth and values reorientation will help Nigeria achieve the much awaited holistic development of the country.
It is therefore disheartening that the National Assembly is unable to read the handwriting on the wall by expeditiously and without preconditions pass the 2016 budget. It is a well-known fact that the budget contains several innovative programmes and projects aimed at addressing the infrastructural, unemployment and economic problems presently afflicting the nation.
The legislature must rise above petty politics and self-aggrandizement by availing the executive of their full support in not only approving the budget as presented, but in supporting its execution for the overall benefit of Nigerians.
As a major component of the federal government, the National Assembly must not be seen as an obstacle to the Buhari administration in urgently tackling the myriad of developmental problems confronting the nation. As painful as change may be, it is still the pedestal on which mankind has made tremendous progress over the centuries.
Therefore, as ordinary Nigerians brace for the “change” which this administration is bent on bringing to Nigeria, there is the need for the National Assembly not to isolate itself. A situation where they work at cross purposes with the Nigerian people by opposing the President is not only unpatriotic, but counterproductive and most likely to boomerang.
As the representatives of various peoples, the National Assembly must be seen to be on the same page with the President as he seeks to deliver the dividends of democracy to Nigerians. It does not augur well for us as a people for the National Assembly to be pulling in another direction, when they ought to collaborate with the executive in ensuring that the “budget of change” is bereft of obstacles.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s determination to lead Nigerians to the Promised Land in terms of infrastructural amenities, using the 2016 budget as a template has never been in doubt. But this cannot be achieved if the National Assembly fails to synchronize with the executive by tampering with the budget as presented by the executive.
In so far as they retain the discretion to adjust certain items in the budget, it will amount to a monumental error on their part to remove the Lagos-Calabar rail project, which forms a major plank on which the revitalization of the nation’s economy is anchored.
While the controversy over this all-important project rages, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, Chairman Senate Committee on Land Transport has lent his voice in support of the executive as having included the Lagos-Calabar rail project in the budget ab- initio.
It is therefore up to the National Assembly to put its house in order and save Nigerians needless delays in the passage of the budget.
Across the country, Nigerians are united in their support for President Buhari’s administration in its efforts to change the old order, and reposition Nigeria once again on the path of moral rectitude, and the National Assembly has no choice but to be on the same page with Nigerians.
Already, there are concerns that the National Assembly does not appear to be ready for the change unfolding under this administration. Definitely, Nigerians are sick and tired of the overbearing influence of the legislature in arm-twisting the executive to do their bidding. For once, we need adopt new ways of doing things in Nigeria, and gladly we are in an era where a personage like President Muhammadu Buhari has demonstrated the strong will to chart a new course for the country.
It must be restated that the President’s fight against corruption is well intentioned, as the underdevelopment and agonies we face as a nation could be attributed to the old ways which under this administration we all must work hard to discard. To do this, our lawmakers must not only support the avowed change of the Buhari administration, but also lead the way for us to realise our dream of a great nation.
Enekwechi, a journalist and politician, writes from Abuja and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.