Last Monday, President Muhammadu Buhari hosted the leaders of the two chambers of the National Assembly to a meeting at the nation’s seat of power, in his obvious search to smoothen the souring relationship between the Executive and Legislative arms of the federal government. That is in addition to the ongoing efforts of the ruling party, the APC, which is said has set up a committee, headed by the vice president to trouble shoot the face-off, which knowledgeable Nigerians have said has the capacity to disrupt the nation’s democratic march and precipitate the nation into anarchy.
As commendable as these efforts are, it is obvious that the dimension which the ongoing feud has taken was clearly avoidable. It is not abnormal for different arms of government to disagree from time to time, as none is supposed to be a rubber stamp of any other arm. Otherwise, the system would not be regarded as a true democracy. For it is through the robust checks of the activities of one arm by the others that the citizens are best served. And that is why the doctrine of checks and balances has become one of the most important pillars of democratic practice.
It is important to note that the legislature, more than the executive and judiciary arms of a government, is regarded to be the pre-eminent arm for building the democratic culture. Reason is because, as the representatives of the people, the legislature is the forum which speaks for the citizens in “a government of the people, for the people and by the people”. In other words, without the parliament or the legislature, it would be hard to see any government as being representative – a fact that has made democracy to be regarded as the most superior form of government.
After all, the military and praetorian governments that had been practiced by Nigeria and other countries have had the executive and the judiciary arms, and it is the absence of the legislative arm that denies them the shibboleth of a “constitutional democracy”. The most important aspect of a constitutional democracy such as Nigeria currently practices, thus becomes that the country is governed by the law and the dictates of the Constitution rather than by the whims and caprices of men, no matter how wise or gifted such men might be. For, it is the Constitution which allocates to the different arms, as well as the citizens and all the institutions of the State, the rules and codes of legal behaviour; which defines and delineates the scopes and limits of the relationships and interaction between and amongst the different arms.
The ongoing feud was largely caused by the seeming lack of full understanding of the ramifications of these functions as defined and delimited by the Constitution which the grundnorm of the system. To that extent, while the Constitution confers the right of making executive appointments on the president who is the head of the executive arm of the government, it provides those appointments which are subject to the confirmation by the upper chamber of the legislature, which is the Senate. Most knowledgeable observers place the culpability for the ongoing face-off squarely on the laps of the executive arm, as it seems that it does not recognize that the Legislature is not an appendage of the Executive arm, nor is the legislative arm inferior to its executive counterpart. If not so, the Executive would have immediately recognized the right of the Senate to confirm or reject any nominee forwarded to it by the executive arm. In the same vein, the right of the Senate to invite any public official, in accordance to the provisions of the Constitution should never be abridged, flouted or belittled by the executive or the judicial arm, failing which the nation could inherit pandemonium or disorder.
If indeed, the Executive, whose constitutional responsibility, among other things, is to defend, protect and enforce all the provisions of the constitution, refuses to recognize the right of the Senate refuse confirmation of Mr. Ibrahim Magu as the substantive chairman of EFCC, or to summon the Comptroller General of the Customs, Hameed Ali to appear before it to explain aspects of its policy that have far-reaching public implications, in uniform, it become clear that the executive arm is encouraging the flouting of the constitution and therefore place the nation and its stability in great peril.
The AUTHORITY insists that because it is the executive arm that is largely responsible, by commission or omission, for this unnecessary fiasco, it behoves it to move firmly to undo the avoidable wrongs that have been done. It is clear that the Executive cannot succeed in what seems to be the current tactics of some of its members to attempt to intimidate the senators, individually or collectively, because the resolve of the eminent men and women in the Senate to stand their ground, in the demand of their constitutional rights is clearly rock solid.
We, like most other democratically minded Nigerians believe that the issues at stake are clear and non-ambiguous. While pursuing the ongoing fence mending steps both by the Presidency and the party, the president should immediately remove the key obstacles which are the key causative factors. The Presidency should stop treating Magu as if he is the only Nigerian that is capable of heading the EFCC, and so, nominate another qualified Nigerian for the consideration of the upper legislative chamber. In addition, it should also call the CG Customs to order and make him see that he is standing the entire 180 million Nigerians by his recalcitrance against the Senate summons.
In conclusion, the Executive arm which is usually regarded as the primus inter pares among the other arms, should take immediate steps to solve this problem which it largely created, by bowing to the rule of law and stop acting like the proverbial lizard that brought ruin to its own mother’s funeral.