Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Examining the Erosion of Nigeria’s Legislative Independence

The Nigerian federal political landscape has been perennially marked by an intricate back-and-forth between the legislative and executive branches, with recent events bringing the relationship to the forefront of public scrutiny. Senator Godswill Akpabio, the Senate President, has become a central figure in this narrative, drawing attention to the delicate balance between the legislature and the executive. To any discerning observer in the Nigerian political space, Akpabio’s dynamics herald a legacy that emphasizes the potential pitfalls of a legislative body being perceived as a mere rubber stamp for the executive.

Nigeria’s political history is replete with instances where the executive branch has exerted influence over the legislature, often blurring the lines of separation of powers. In the early hours of a four-year tenure, Godswill Akpabio has, directly or indirectly, already made it known that he is a party loyalist and, respectfully, a lackey of Mr. President.

There are valid concerns about whether Godswill Akpabio can steer the ship of the Senate and maintain the sanctity and independence of the federal legislative branch. If he is not in the news for making unguarded statements about monies that have been paid into senators’ bank accounts for them to “enjoy” themselves during the recess and holidays, he is demonstrating a lack of discretion and diplomacy in managing the delicate relationship between a fractious senate minority and a majority that seem hellbent on having a rollercoaster ride on taxpayers’ monies.

In Nigeria, Patronage politics, where loyalty is rewarded with political appointments and favors, is the stuff of dreams and no expense is spared by a well-funded executive in compromising the integrity and autonomy of the legislature. Ordinarily, the appointment of a Senate President should be based on merit, competence, and a commitment to the principles of democracy, rather than blind loyalty to the ruling party. Akpabio’s emergence was adjudged to be at variance with this.

A robust democracy relies on a legislature that acts as a check on executive power, ensuring accountability and transparency. When the legislative branch is perceived as a rubber stamp for the executive, it not only weakens the system of checks and balances but also erodes public trust in the democratic process. A rubber stamp legislature is susceptible to becoming a mere extension of the executive, forfeiting its duty to critically examine and challenge proposed policies and actions. This lack of scrutiny can result in poorly crafted legislation, corruption, and a disregard for the rule of law.

To safeguard Nigeria’s democracy, there is an urgent need for the federal legislature to assert its independence. The relationship between the Nigerian federal legislature and executive, exemplified by the controversies surrounding Senator Godswill Akpabio and his seeming pandering to Aso Rock, highlights the precarious balance between loyalty and independence. A healthy democracy demands a legislature that acts as a formidable check on executive power, upholding the principles of transparency, accountability, and representation.

The Nigerian people deserve a legislature that prioritizes their interests over partisan allegiances. As the nation navigates its democratic journey, post-2023 elections, the stability and progress of Nigeria is paramount. Unfortunately, this is unlikely because, under the Akpabio-led senate, federal lawmakers who are interested in feeding fat from the treasury should be considered a clear and present danger to the social and economic security of Nigerians.

Precious Ohaegbulam is an African Liberty Fellow and a Columnist for The Avalon Daily

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