Even though we are not happy that he is leading a senate that is not effective, threatening him with impeachment is not in our best interest.
Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, has accused both the executive and the legislature of allowing their personal fights to stall good governance, threaten national peace as well as the conduct of free and fair elections next year.
He also spoke on the recent hounding of journalists; saying it is a pointer to the fact that those behind it have something to hide.
How can the executive come out of the present logjam with the National Assembly?
The show off between the executive and the legislature is affecting governance. I think government should first and foremost remember that their primary responsibility is to provide governance. When they have that at the back of their minds and put national interest first, then we will be able to come out of this logjam between the executive and the legislature. Secondly, the legislators should also remember
that they were elected to the National Assembly to make laws, represent their constituencies, and carry out oversight and also present constituency accountability and not necessarily to come and struggle for leadership position in the National Assembly.
So if both the executive and legislature can come back to their mandates as elected people then, it will be easy to resolve this matter. As a result of the fight between the executive and the legislature as well as the leadership of the ruling party and some politicians, major governance issues are suffering because they are not attending to them. First, there are key anti-corruption legislations and confirmation of heads of anti-corruption agencies that the National Assembly is holding unto simply because of this fight between the executive and the leadership in the senate.
We have seen that as a result of this fight, certain laws that are supposed to be enacted in the National Assembly have been abandoned. At the same time, major legislative oversights to ensure government works have also suffered seriously. All these fights have nothing to do with providing good governance for the people. So, we are calling on both the executive and legislature to return to good governance issues, they must work for the citizens who elected them, they must ensure that the institutions of government are not undermined as a result of this quarrel between the executive and the leadership of the senate.
The appointments into many key and important parastatals have been stalled in the senate and refusal to confirm these appointments are not in the best interest of the country. There must be a difference between personal interest and good governance.
Also, as a result of this fight, the audit report by the Auditor-General which indicted several ministries and parastatals, have not been debated and therefore no action has been taken either by the executive or the national assembly. The executive has also refused repeatedly to inaugurate National Procurement Council, which is in total violation of the Public Procurement Act 2007.
We have also seen how government has not been able to constitute and inaugurate the governing board of the Human Rights Commission resulting in several human rights abuses not being attended to. So, these are things we are worried and concerned about. The executive and the national assembly leadership must return to issues of governance based on patriotism and national interest, rather than this ego fight which has been robbing off negatively on governance, thereby undermining the effectiveness of the institutions of government and good governance.
Do you think the 2019 elections can endangered as a result of these fights?
Obviously, it could. If this infighting goes on with the senate leadership, it will certainly undermine the timely conduct of the 2019 elections. If this fight continues and the National Assembly is unable to consider the INEC budget, notwithstanding the fact that the INEC chairman was able to meet with both committees on INEC.
Also, the request for the loan that the executive had sent to the National Assembly may also run into trouble waters. There is no way a committee can do this alone, so it is imperative for the National Assembly to speed up action and drop politics from all these considerations otherwise, they would undermine the institutions of governance and the democracy itself. It is also important for the executive to rethink its stance and dialogue on this matter, because if the senate president is to manage the senate effectively, he needs the support of members, meaning everyone must sit down and think of national interest.
Do you believe the national leadership of the ruling party is overheating the polity as had been alleged, especially threatening the senate president with impeachment? Do you think they understand the implications of their actions?
Like I said earlier, this is as a result of not putting national interest first; our national interest is not a priority. This impeachment threat is not in the best interest of the country. But the point must also be made that Saraki remaining there may also not be in the interest of Nigeria. His being on the saddle for the past three years has not benefited the country because a lot of confirmations, legislative actions have not been carried out. Rather we have had a lot of reckless suspension of legislators but thanks to the judiciary which has given judicial interpretations that you cannot actually suspend an elected person because he/she is representing his/her constituency, and that you cannot suspend him/her simply because you have a different opinion from him/her.
READ ALSO: We’ll impeach Saraki – Senate leader
My point is that both the senate president and the ruling party have not demonstrated patriotism by putting national interest in the way they conduct themselves. As far as I am concerned, Saraki has used his leadership position to actually undermine effectiveness of government institutions by refusing to allow confirmation and suspending fellow lawmakers and turning the senate into a place that houses mediocre. This has not given hope that he can effectively presided over that place.
Some of the senators have turned the senate chamber to a child’s playground, this is not really good.
The ruling party actually caused this problem by also not sitting down to resolve this matter amicably at the beginning of the administration. Because, when you do not have strategy on how to ensure effective leadership positioning, what you see today playing out is usually the outcome. And the President too made that blonder by saying ‘I belong to nobody, I belong to everybody.’ Once the party does not matter, it becomes a challenge, unlike what we saw in the previous administration, the ruling party maintained leadership of both houses because of were united, cohesive and deployed strategic ways of ensuring that positions are allocated to the ruling party as it were. The ruling party in this case, was not able to put its house in order; hence, it allowed these infractions to happen.
Saraki, having been recognised as the senate president by the ruling party and willing to work with him, he did not do well by refusing to consider the requests of the ruling party to ensure positions of principal officers were occupied by the ruling party, he would have had a more harmonious, peaceful reign. But for him to have disregarded and ignore party recommendations, it’s a demonstration that he did not intend to have a peaceful tenure in the house. This is what is coming back to haunt him and it is now affecting the whole leadership and by extension the country.
So, with his defection to the opposition party, the ruling party will definitely fight back. But we are saying it should not be at the detriment of governance and in a rascally manner, especially as you have allowed him to man that position for over three years even when he disregarded the party’s recommendations. Even though we are not happy that he is leading a senate that is sounding very immature and not effective in terms of taking legislative action among others, threatening him at this time with impeachment is not in our best interest.
What’s your take on the recent hounding of journalists by the government and what does this mean for our democracy?
The persistence attack on the media and journalists clearly shows that the freedom of expression has been constrained in this country and that is against our constitution that guarantees freedom of expression. The media is very important in our democratic project and if you want to silence the media, then you have something to hide. The recent arrest of some journalists by the DSS, like John Abiri, who was detained for close to two years, is uncalled for.
Thanks to some activists and the media effort to get him out and help him unite with his family and also get them to charge him to court. As an opposition party, the APC condemned similar atrocities under the previous government and it is expected that this government would not allow the same atrocities of human rights abuses including curtailing press freedom in Nigeria, to happen under its nose.
We hope that the directive given to the Human Rights Commission to investigate the activities of some of the security agencies will go a long way to addressing human rights violations. But to be able to do that, the governing board of human rights commission must be in place. If it is not in place, it will be unable to take decisions that would impact positively on our human rights records, because only a functional human rights institution can address these issues.