The outgoing Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on Thursday reflected on his four-year tenure as the head of the nation’s legislature and urged his colleagues to be wary of the transient nature of power.
He also reviewed the relationship between the executive and the legislature as well as his travails and concluded that he had no regrets in an apparent response to criticisms of the National Assembly by the executive, particularly President Muhammadu Buhari.
Explaining why power is transient, Saraki said, “This I know: whatever the capacity, we should always do our best to serve the interest of the people. We should also have it at the back of our minds that power is transient.”
He also took exceptions to the allegations that he and the outgoing Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, were not patriotic in the handling of affairs of the National Assembly in the last four years.
He maintained that the frictions between the executive and the legislature would not end with the Eighth National Assembly for as long as the former held the belief that it could always interfere with the affairs of the parliament, especially on the issue of budget.
He said, “It is important that I make some comments about Legislature-Executive relations. My own take is that if the Executive sees the National Assembly’s work on the budget as interference despite the provisions of the constitution, then there will continue to be problems between both arms of government.
“If the Presidency refuses to have engagements and consultations with the leadership of the National Assembly before the President submits the budget to the legislature, then there will continue to be frictions.
“If the Executive sees the failure of a few of its appointees to secure confirmation by the Senate as a disagreement, then the relationship will not improve.
“If the Executive encourages its appointees who fail to secure Senate confirmation to remain in office, then there will continue to be disagreement.
“If the Executive believes the Legislature is a rubber stamp without the right to question its actions, then it will be a subversion of the Principles of separation of powers and checks and balances.
“My advice is that both arms of government have a role to play in our quest for good governance and their leadership should work for cooperation and fruitful engagement.
Saraki, who described his last day in office as victory for democracy, commended his colleagues for their show of support and solidarity during his travails and trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
He said, “That I am here today, that you are here today, is a victory for democracy. It is a testament to what people can do when they come together for the greater good.
“This is also one of those occasions when the Supreme Creator reminds us, once again, that power does not reside in any one person.
“When I think of the many trials and tribulations we have faced as an institution, and my own personal travails particularly at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, I am humbled, because none of our achievements would have been possible without the support and cooperation of the entire members of this chamber.”
Assessing the Eighth Senate, Saraki said, “We can define ourselves by the record number of bills passed, motions cleared, resolutions adopted, petitions treated. We can also define ourselves by the belief that we fought for democracy, held government to account and made personal sacrifices. For some of us, sacrifices are still being made, owing to the fallout of some of the decisions taken. I have no regrets because, as first among equals, we bear collective responsibility for those decisions. As a leader, however, I take responsibility. The buck stops with me.
“In doing all that we did in this chamber, we always used to believe that poverty knew no party, religion, tribe or region. We came together in response to the needs of Nigerians as a whole, and we got the job done. It will be said of us that we were truly representatives of all our constituents. As we conclude the last plenary and the few more days of the 8th Senate, therefore, we should nurture the relationships we have built.”
The senators observed a one-minute silence in honour of their departed colleagues in the last one year including the late senators Ali Wakili (Bauchi South), Isiaka Adeleke (Osun West) and Bukar Mustapha (Katsina North).
Speaking in a similar vein, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, expressed concern over the future of Nigeria because of the alarming rate of insecurity across the country.
He declared that the Eighth National Assembly held the record as the most persecuted and harassed parliament in Nigeria’s history.
Dogara at the valedictory session lamented that the Eighth Assembly had been a huge success with unprecedented records set in legislative business.
He expressed appreciation to all the leaders and members of the House for the confidence reposed in him by electing him Speaker of the Eighth Assembly.
He also thanked them for the cooperation the leadership enjoyed throughout the four unbroken years he was in charge.
On the state of insecurity in the country, he stressed that it was only when a leader threw out politics and partisanship out of the window and gave full rein to the best human and material resources to confront these menacing challenges “and unites to confront this very danger that the needed progress will be seen.”
He said, “It appears we are losing the fight against violence and as if that is not bad enough, the situation is so dire that known statesmen are becoming petrified and speaking up in ways that may further rend our national fault lines.
“It is like we refused to hear the whispers and now the screams are threatening our eardrums.
“This is a national problem that we can only solve if we pull ourselves together and not apart; regardless of political persuasions or creed. The challenge is to get the leadership that throws out politics and partisanship out of the window.
“Leadership that reins in all our best human and material resources to confront these menacing challenges. Yet, instead of uniting to confront this very danger, all one hears are sermons of divisiveness and permutations for 2023 elections. I wonder daily if this is not how the bottom looks like.”
Dogara, who described the Eighth House of Representatives as the most persecuted in the history of the country, noted that but for the cooperation of members, nothing would have been achieved.
He said, “This wonderful cooperation, no doubt, enabled us to have a very stable and peaceful Eighth House of Representatives and to set records that have no parallels in our history of law-making as a nation.
“The 8th House holds the record as the most persecuted and harassed Parliament, ever in Nigeria’s history. Some of our members bear the scars of reckless deployment of institutional prerogatives.
“We witnessed sieges and invasion by state operatives. Some members suffered witch-hunts, house arrests and false accusations. We are also witnesses to barrage of uncharitable criticisms and assessments bandied on a daily basis in the media by hired mercenaries who masquerade as analysts.
“Most of these analysts are ignorant of the fact that the parliament was not designed to be an altar of praise for the Executive but a co-equal branch to serve as a check on executive power.”
Meanwhile, the President on Thursday pronounced the dissolution of the eighth session of the National Assembly and announced the proclamation of the ninth session of the federal parliament billed to commence on Tuesday, June 11.
The Clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani Omolori, confirmed this while addressing journalists in his office on Thursday.
He said, “I want to confirm that I have received proclamation from the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The first is on the dissolution of the Eighth National Assembly while the other one is on the convening of the first session of the Ninth National Assembly.
“The proclamation of the dissolution of the Eighth National Assembly takes effect from 12 midnight of June 8.
“By implication, from 8th of June by 12 midnight, the Eighth National Assembly stands dissolved. Similarly, the Ninth National Assembly will be inaugurated and first sitting will be held on Tuesday, 11th of June, by 10a.m. in the National Assembly complex.”
Also, the management of the National Assembly has given outgoing senators three days to hand over office keys and equipment in their possession.
The announcement was made by Saraki on Thursday at the beginning of the valedictory session of the 8th assembly at the National Assembly, Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria reported that the announcement was the fourth agenda on the Order Paper of the day. [PUNCH]