(POLEMICS) AGENDA: RESPONSIVE LEGISLATIONS AND SEVENTH ABIA STATE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY

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By: Shaft

Legislature is one of the keystones of democracy. In some quarters, the legislature is considered and perceived as the most important arm of democracy. Legislature’s duty has been eloquently defined and simplified by Miram Defensor Santiago in the following statement: We are Legislators, not public works contractors. People look up to us to make serious laws that could change the lives of a great number of people or could change the way society is run or managed. Accordingly, ABHA is well advised to take cue from this sensible advocacy and observation.

The following synopses are some of the critical issues to shape and determine How? What? Why?  Seventh Abia State House of Assembly (ABHA) is expected toapproach and discharge the onerous legislative functions of ABHA in the next four years of current dispensation and life span prescribed by the Constitution.

Separation of Power

The Legislature by whatever semantics or terminologies used to describe this organ in different political cultures or environments is fashioned to be independent of the executive branch and the judiciary in a ‘theoretical’ sense. ‘Independent’, not in the absolute and rigid application or interpretation of the term ‘independent’.  The doctrine of legislative autonomy or independence is not peculiar or restricted to the legislature. The doctrine, which derived from the concept of ‘separation’ of powers emanated from great political philosophers and thinkers of the Renaissance and Enlightenment era in Europe. Under this constitutional power sharing arrangement or devolution, executive, legislature, and judiciary arms are assigned/allotted constitutionally certain specific functions to perform independently without any interference by the other arms in a democratic system of governance.

Based on this simplified analogy of the concepts of ‘independence’ and ‘separation’ of power, the origins of constitution in its variety can be understood as the special arrangement or provision to allot constitutionally different degrees of chunks/slices of power separately to the three approved arms/blocs in  a democratic typology in governance. Constitutionally, this complex and intricate arrangement serves as a buffer and bulwark against arbitrary and totalitarian use or abuse of power by individuals and/or institutions entrusted with the exercise of power in different degrees. The media/press regarded as the fourth estate of the realm is not left out of the concept of separation of power though not included in the original framework of the theoretical proposition.

Historically, this unique arrangement was considered novel, radical in nature and revolutionary in the quests to stem the tides and push back the vast frontiers of tyrannical abuse of imperial power by powerful monarchs in medieval Europe. Philosophically, the concept of separation of power was designed to curtail or abolish excessive and oppressive misuse of absolute power in some ancient Greek City states and later in Europe. Over the centuries, the concept has gone through various degrees of adaptations and modifications in different political cultures and environments. Power allotments to executive, legislature, and judiciary though conceptually compartmentalized, power logically or realistically remains integrated entity and the currency for effective control and exercise of political authority in society under the doctrine of separation of power. Holistically, executive, legislature, and judiciary though ‘independent’ cannot exercise her power or functions totally independent of the other blocs without disastrous consequences for the polity. Cooperation, collaborations, and seamless synergies are required among the three interdependent organs without partitioning or polarizing power giving rise to atmospheres of unmitigated competitions and zealous sense of separatism.

Independence/Inter-independence Tripartite Units

In pragmatic sense, the concept of separation of power becomes meaningful and useful specifically in terms of checks and balance, which guarantee the survival of three arms of democratic system as independent and inter-independent without undue interference by other counterpart/counterpoise arms. Circumventing interferences in the roles and functions of the tripartite organs boosts and strengthens the doctrine of independence of the three pillars of democracy. The explanatory and exploratory analogous accounts help us understand and contextualize herein the agenda of responsive legislation as a moral duty and obligation on the Abia State House of Assembly (ABHA). Constitutionally, from political objective perspectives the raison d’ etre (reason) for creating and funding the legislature with tax payers’ monies  is to fashion out laws for effective governance of Abia State. Similarly, judiciary and executive complement law-making mandate of legislature through effective, expert interpretations and enforcements; and efficacious execution as specific constitutional prerogatives, respectively.

Answer Is Blowing In The Wind

 How fit, prepared, ready, and willing is Seventh ABHA in upholding the sacred covenant and duty of churning out or reviewing existence ordinances for the wellbeing of the citizenry?  Leadership of ABHA, which emerged on the heels of the inauguration of ABHA on June 10, 2019, specifically holds the key in terms of answer to this vital question and would determine this largely. The leadership would determine leveraging on the doctrine of separation of power/independence to what extent ABHA is poised to discharge and uphold her constitutionally prescribed democratic functions of law making and oversights responsibilities. The answer is blowing in the wind.

Burden of Leadership

Irresistibly and un-stoppably, a gale swept through the corridors of ABHA to inject a leadership under the maverick Rt. Honourable Engr. Chinedum Orji as the Speaker/Leader of ABHA. The 24-member ABHA comprising Honourable Members of varied degrees of knowledge base and experience is expectated to perform better and improve on fronts on the legacies/records of the sixth ABHA and all predecessors. This expectation is reasonable, realistic considering Hon. Members would be leveraging, and consolidating on the foundations and progress bequeathed by and/or inherited from the forerunners in office. The expectation is also relevant and justifiable factoring in the vital roles and influence the leadership can wield and exert on the entire membership and staff of ABHA. The Rt. Hon. Speaker especially stands out in this context. The Speaker has a lot of work to do. The Speaker as the primus inter pares (first among equals) bears the wholesome burden to be seen and perceived at all times as truly championing the cause of the legislature and a rallying point and epitome of purposeful leadership. The burden of Speakership is indeed enormous. The burden goes beyond bearing the title, honour, prestige, privileges, and appurtenances surrounding the office. The burden of Speakership connotes and demands hardwork. It calls for commitment, dedication, and selfless service. The job description of the office of Speaker is weighty. The bottom-line is credible, dutiful and selfless leadership of ABHA; and selfless service to the electorate and citizenry of Abia State.

If the leadership of ABHA is found to be energetic and vibrant in the pursuits of enacting laws to improve the lives and wellbeing of the populace in all facets, no member of ABHA can afford the luxury of displaying nonchalant or tardy attitudes or deviate from this essential objective. If the leadership is believed or perceived to be insincere and incompetent, other members, consequently it can be argued or deduced have been issued legitimately license/warrant to copy the poor example of the leadership. Burden of leadership in the three arms of democratic system projects greatly beyond ceremonial rituals, political-relevance, and media publicity/razzmatazz surrounding the office/position. Credibility of character and image perceptions is critical. Public offices/positions are either esteemed, debased, depreciated and devalued on account of stocks of self-worth of character and image perceptions of office holders.  Great and visionary leaders are mindful of integrity issues and perceptions. ABHA leaders and members as leaders and representatives of the 24 state constituencies are expected to protect and preserve the credibility and integrity of ABHA, first by protecting positively individually and collectively positive public image perceptions.

Legislative Benchmarks

Different criteria or parameters are used to assess/measure the effectiveness and relevance of the legislature. Two highly reputed legislative advocacy initiatives groups and similar bodies agree on basic guidelines/templates of the legislative functions to comprise three main functions. Washington D.C. based, USA, National Conference of State Legislatures (NCLS) writes:  for legislatures to be good, they must carry out the functions we expect of them in our system of representative democracy. The principal ones are balancing power, representing constituencies and making laws. Similarly, Abuja based, Nigeria, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) declares: the legislature is a unique institution in a democratic setting, composed of elected representatives of the people. It occupies a prominent position in modern democracies. The legislative arm of government bears the responsibility not only to make laws which is its primary function but also to perform other important functions which include the following: representation, expression of various political viewpoints in society, oversight, and providing avenue for aggrieved citizens to seek redress outside the judicial system.

Accordingly, the legislature is not a holiday resort for picnics. The legislature is the place of acute, rigorous emotional, mental, and physical exertions. The right tools, requisite skills, relevant experience must be blended and fused to ‘bake’ the right laws/enactments, the same manner a master-baker approaches his business professionally. Membership of ABHA is composed of diverse elite professional class. This amalgamation serves as a potent source of strength for robust debates and thorough scrutiny of bills or motions tabled on the floor of the chamber for considerations and deliberations in plenary sessions or committees’ sessions. Exposure and expertise of re-elected/returned members shall guide and benefit newcomers/freshers. Any slothful or tardy dispositions should be discouraged or sanctioned appropriately to instill discipline and sense of etiquette. Sometimes it is taken for granted legislators prior to securing political parties’ tickets as candidates in the preliminary screening processes have convincingly demonstrated evidence of competencies and leadership capacities to qualify for membership of the legislature. In concrete terms, this assumption is not close to the truth generally. Past antecedents and hindsights persuade otherwise and show the assumption to be distant from the truth and realities. Numerous flaws in the electoral systems ranging from political parties internal deficiencies to loopholes orchestrated by INEC are responsible largely. The matter is intricately compounded by alarming dominance of money-oriented politics lacking deep ideological and intellectual depths or perspectives. As a result less competent office seeking candidates but politically highly-connected filter easily through obviously porous (s) election voting processes. In the past there were disturbing claims (Polemics is yet to ascertain the veracity) of legislators who could not write or comprehend simple memos.It is frankly hoped herein such developments belonged truly to the past, not to resurrect in the present ABHA.  Past and present are separated by concept of time real or abstract in the manner of concept/doctrine of separation of power. It is expected and desired the current membership of ABHA truly is composed of members honourable in character and learning, and knowledgeable. Different learning, knowledge, and capacity building opportunities and programs abound for members of the legislature. It is the responsibility of the leadership of ABHA to identify and scrutinize appropriate learning/skills enhancing opportunities and expose members accordingly to value-laden programs. Frivolous, hyped-up capacity development proposals packaged by emergency pop-up capacity building consultants likely would constitute about 20% of the mails of ABHA leaders. Absolute care is required to sift through the mountains of amorphous proposals to avoid wasting public funds and valuable time on ill conceived, questionable or poorly structured capacity building programs for sponsorship by ABHA for legislators and staff of ABHA, locally or across national borders.

Synergies

Synergies in midst of the legislature, executive, and judiciary are critical for the health and operational effectiveness and efficiency of the three units of democracy. Strict adherence or observance of mutual respect for constitutionally enshrined independence of respective arm ensures harmonious and mutual-beneficial working relationships and cohesive coordination of government programs or policies at different coordinate points or levels. Political alliances/allegiance between the executive and legislature more than any other factors can strengthen or weaken over all government’s capacities to perform effectively as an institution irrespective of the component units. Legislature’s veto powers enshrined in the constitution such as power/prerogative to initiate impeachment proceedings against a governor or other state functionaries should be invoked and exercised objectively, not oppressively for politically motivated vindictive ends. Or witch-hunt and destabilize the polity. Legislative-executive disagreements and differences should be ironed out sensibly and not to be taken advantage of to promote self-serving motives. In many instances, executive-legislature face-off often snowballed as petty ambitions, ego or personal issues and escalated to disruptive power struggles engulfing the entire polity. The Constitution esteems highly and recognizes the strategic office/position of a state governor as the supreme political head/leader of any state and chief security officer. The office and by extension the occupant deserves the respect assigned to the position constitutionally. If a governor qualifies to be removed from office as provided by the constitution, prescribed constitutional provisos should be followed and not violated no matter the temptations or expediencies.

Constituency Projects

Constituency projects and the funds are typically subjects of controversies. Members of the legislature are obligated to constituents as critical aspects of legislative agenda and responsibilities to attract constituencies’ projects to address and alleviate various socioeconomic challenges or needs of component communities in the electoral wards of the constituencies. Sadly, though experiences have clearly shown the essence of constituency projects have been distorted and twisted to serve other motives separate from the principal objectives of this critical legislative agenda.  Funds diversions, gross mismanagement of funds, high incidence of abandoned or poorly executed projects characterized the stories of constituencies’ projects in the past. Will this despicable and unpatriotic trend continue or change in the current dispensation?  Greed and high propensities for corruption remain the major challenges in these contexts. ABHA in the interests of stakeholders should enact appropriately designed laws to address this critical matter of urgent public interest and importance. Accordingly, it is advocated herein this lingering and sensitive issue be enlisted among the top agenda/priority of ABHA. Necessary reforms/initiatives should be incorporated in the extant statues and/or anticipated fresh enactments by ABHA to expand and widen the scope of administrative machinery, effective management, supervision and monitoring of projects selections, funds disbursements and utilizations of constituencies’ projects to ensure optimal benefits to the constituents as the primary targets. ABHA members conjointly with stakeholders in the respective constituencies through effective liaisons mechanisms anticipatorily prescribed by relevant laws/amendments passed by ABHA should be mandated and empowered to superintend over constituencies’ projects and funds. Without reforms of this nature constituencies’ projects funds remain questionable channels and conduits of pumping megabucks (Naira) into the pockets of some individuals devoid of proper accountability, due diligence, and transparency. These loopholes and shortcomings are some of the real enemies of democracy in the manner of defective electoral processes familiar to us.

Clarion Call To Selfless Service

Legislatures based on plenitude of available evidence are likely to drift from the fundamental objectives, which gave birth and recognition in the first place to legislature as a critical arm of democracy. In this context, it is pertinent herein to digest critically observations of two eminent personalities and veteran legislators.

The laws vainly try to talk virtue to the mass, but it’s just talk. The people who make the laws are really too biased towards evil and never carry out their fine talksthey merely make a stab at it for the sake of appearances, that’s all. (Marquis de Sade).

We are not typically supporters of some cause for the greater good, although those are the words that we brazenly scrawl across the banners that we energetically wave in this self-serving parade of ours. Rather, behind the glorious pomp of such sacrificial notions, we are in fact supporters of own good. And when we confuse greater good with our own greater good, we have irrefutably sentenced the greater good to the greatest death imaginable. (Craig D. Lounsbrough).

I appeal to ABHA Legislators to critically examine and scrutinize their consciences and motives, and all intended or purported actions on the scales of the impressive probing remarks by the two veteran legislators who really understood and underscored selfless service to society as the core essence and the only true burden, commitment, duty, and responsibility of a legislator.

Polemics concurs absolutely!

With these beautiful and probing remarks by Miram de Sade and Craig D.Lounsbrough, Polemics is now adjourned for next agenda.

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Mark 11 vs 22- 24: And Jesus answered them, "Have faith in God. Truly, I say unto you, whoever says to this mountain, "Be taken up and thrown into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart, but believers that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours

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