By Gabriel Ikese
The boos and jeers that greeted President Muhammadu Buhari at the presentation of the 2019 Budget Proposals at the National Assembly is most absurd and shameful. All over the world, the legislature is strategic to a viable democracy but the rude and unruly behavior recently demonstrated, our legislators have lost the critical ideals, norm and value associated with the sacred institution of legislature in Nigeria.
Ironically, some ill-mannered elements in the society see nothing wrong with the irresponsibility displayed at the joint session. They think its normal for Presidents to be booed and jeered in parliaments. These categories of persons blabbed that President Buhari is not ‘god’ and should not be seen as one. They are quick to point out that Presidents Obama, Mugabe and Prime Minister Theresa May were booed at various occasions at their respective Parliaments. However, in their corrupt sense of reasoning, they forgot to note that of all the instances referred to, none was during the statutory budget presentation which is apolitical and free from party politics.
Some legislative grandstanding may be normal, albeit infantile. On issues of politics, lawmakers may grandstand on party lines but certainly not such matter of national interest. Budget is vital to the economy and development of a country which must not be mixed with politics – irresponsible politics. Therefore exasperating the President on such momentous occasion of budget presentation is the height of insensibility and insanity.
This shameful behavior is a desecration of every known tenet of decency and civility. It is prove that the responsibility of lawmaking is no longer the remit of prudent, intelligent and honourable men or women in Nigeria, but those who engage in arrogance and political rascality. Nigerians have been tolerance of the outright notoriety of the 8th Assembly. There is an extent to which tolerance can be condoned. Tolerance would cease to be a civil virtue when it contributes to political anarchy. The National Assembly has become a relic in a mistake, in a toxic dose of insanity which will require extensive reconstructive surgery to cure the mental insanity and insensibility.
The ignominious action of lawmakers at the joint seating was predetermined, well orchestrated and deliberately calculated to smear the integrity of Mr. President and frustrate the growing successes achieved by the government. The intention obviously was designed to stop the budget presentation and undermine government efforts at improving the economy and development of the entire country.
The buildup which climaxed in the shameful rowdy session at the budget presentation began with a threat to boycott the budget presentation over an alleged comment by the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Mr. Udo Udoma, which they considered injurious to their persons and the NASS. However, generality of Nigerians think the allegation was irrelevant and not in any way compromise the content and integrity of the 2019 budget proposal. Many wondered why such unfounded allegation should warrant a boycott to frustrate the budget presentation.
The allegation was defeated when the Minister in a written response to the Speaker, dismissed it as a baseless fabrication orchestrated to humiliate the executive. Not done with their evil design at preventing the budget presentation, 71 members sponsored a bill to return the country to a parliamentary system. It was another ploy to portray the executive in bad light which they hoped would instigate chaos and acrimony in the polity. That too was defeated. Before then, NASS threatened to override President Buhari’s veto on the Electoral bill which he declined assent for altruistic reason of the timing and closeness of the anticipated general elections.
The proverbial Leopard can never change its spot. Precedent abounds of this 8th Assembly which showed that legislators have failed in their responsibilities to the Nigerian people. The reason they were elected to be there had been relegated to the background. Boos and jeers at the budget presentation was just an excuse to make themselves feel better and not feel guilt over their poor performance and abysmal failure in lawmaking. They are losing their conscience by ignoring the major problems faced by the people at the grassroots who live in abject poverty largely because of their incapability and cluelessness to make impactful laws.
National Assembly has been facing fierce criticism for their melees, chaotic failure to even meet a quorum for a voting session. Their profligacy in financial recklessness, political arrogance and gross insensitivity to plights of ordinary Nigerians are remarkably dubious and shameful. In the almost 4 years of their sojourn, the 8th NASS could be considered a monumental waste of legislative business. The institution has become a sanctuary from the nation’s predicament. They brazenly looted the treasury in the guise of constituency projects and appropriated criminal salaries and allowances to themselves without batting an eyelid to the hardship faced by the people.
Exasperating the President at the budget session was a pointer to how ridiculous they have descended in moral value and decency. If you are looking for prove of the unworthiness of our lawmakers to sit in the hallowed chambers of the legislature, look no more. This is the pointer to the whole world of the true character of the 8th Assembly. Any responsible individual that is truly worthy to be Member of Parliament, a position that convokes respect, decorum and decent public conduct should be able to manage his temper and anger. The hallowed institution does not imposed lunacy on any lawmaker to disparage others.
In spite of the mockery targeted at the President, he displayed a very high sense of maturity with his usual candor ad uprightness. He was fully composed and went about his statutory duties to the State not minding the distraction of the doggy lawmakers. President Buhari spared time to tutor the recalcitrant on moral behavior as a father would do. The noise level at the joint session suggests few people are listening during the budget presentation as many were obsessed with hatred for the president and his towering popularity.
There are some members who are men and women of character who truly would want to bring about reform from within to cast the legislature of that shackles of notoriety. But it simply never will, as the leadership has privatized the legislature and hypnotized some naive lunatics whose level of reasoning is anything but good. Nigerians would ask of the 8th Assembly, what is distinguished or honourable about them?
Perhaps the most blame lies with the rest of us for letting this class of lawmakers get away with the many shenanigans. It may be pie in the sky to think the legislature can reform itself. If ever there were a time for real reform at the NASS, the time is now. The 2019 general elections presents the opportunity to bring about the desired reforms by voting out loquacious and irresponsible members who have rubbished and bring the sacred legislative body to disrepute. Persons of low morals, insensitive to the desires of citizens and good governance should not be allowed an inch near the hallowed chambers. Never again.
Ikese is a political analyst.