Senate President, David Mark, yesterday in Abuja charged members-elect of the 36 State Houses of Assembly to ensure that they free themselves from the grip of their governors in the interest of sustainable democracy in the country.
He also charged other politicians to emulate President Goodluck Jonathan’s handling of the just-concluded 2015 general elections where he put the interest of the country above his personal ambition.
Mark specifically urged the incoming legislators to resist all forms of Executive interference and refrain from being mere rubber stamps of state governors.
In his keynote address at a five-day induction for the new legislators at the International Conference Centre, ICC, Abuja, the Senate President charged the politicians to refrain from rushing to election tribunals when avoidable.
He said that Jonathan did not only demonstrated patriotism and political maturity, but put Nigeria on the world map of the league of mature democracies by accepting defeat in the March 28 presidential election.
Mark said: “As I said at the induction of (the) federal legislators, real credit must go to Nigerians, and especially President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan for overseeing transparent and credible elections and for promoting a political culture of tolerance. The President’s gesture of congratulating the President-elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and conceding defeat, even before the final results were announced, is exemplary. He has demonstrated patriotism, political maturity; but more importantly, as a statesman, he has put Nigeria on the world map of the league of mature democracies.
“This must be a lesson to all politicians that our first loyalty is, and must be to the state. It is also imperative to state that President Jonathan has not gone to any election tribunal. I enjoin politicians to imbibe this example.
“For the first time in our democratic history, a ruling party is handing over to an opposition party. This is a clear indication that our democracy is growing.
“We must always remember that the democratic ideal seeks to guarantee equality and basic freedom; to empower ordinary people; to resolve disagreements through peaceful dialogue; to respect differences; and to bring about political and social renewal without violence. Thus, I would like to underscore that for us in Nigeria, the 2015 elections marked a significant achievement in the consolidation and deepening of our democracy,” Mark said.
He warned the state lawmakers that the general impression is that their legislatures have remained appendages of Government Houses or governors.
The Senate President urged them to learn from the National Assembly, which had achieved institutional stability and transformed from being a “mere rubber stamp” of Executive decisions by resisting the President’s interference.
“The Legislature in Nigeria has a chequered history. But in all its travails, the parliament has stood on the side of the people and intervened at the most critical moments to salvage the system from imminent collapse.
“I have always maintained that the most important legacy of the Legislature in the last 16 years is its commitment to lawmaking, oversight functions and representation to ensure good governance. The Legislature has also come to be recognised as a watch dog of the executive and an important link between citizens and the state.
“At the national level, the Legislature has continued to assert its independence and resist executive interference. Thus, the Legislature has achieved institutional stability and transformed from being a ‘mere rubber stamp’ of executive decisions and policy initiatives into an institution that now enjoys a reasonable degree of legitimacy and respect.
“We are not quite where we want to be though. But can we say the same of state legislatures? If I may tell all of you here, the general impression is that the state legislatures have remained an appendage of the government houses or governors. I recall that when the first constitutional amendment was done, the state assemblies did not have the political courage to muster enough votes for their financial autonomy.
“For example, as lawmakers, you must avoid holding your sessions in the council chambers of the Government Houses. It is ignoble to use the Mace outside the chamber or borrow a Local Government Legislative Council Mace to conduct your affairs or resort to self-help by using your Mace to perpetuate violence.
“You must conduct your sittings in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the extant rules of the House. As state legislators, you must restrain yourselves from the excessive use of the constitutional provision that empowers you to impeach either your speakers, executive governors or their deputies,” he advised.
Mark warned the legislators that impeaching an elected official is a very serious legislative process, which must not be abused.
“Impeachment is not designed for a few days exercise. Where it has become the last resort, it must be painstakingly conducted within the hallowed chamber of the parliament in accordance to the extant rules of the House and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is not to say that there should be no collaboration between the executive and the state legislatures on matters of public good,” he added.
He observed that the blend of age, gender, personalities, professional backgrounds and affiliations of the participating legislators is a positive sign towards crafting laws that would address the structural deficiencies of the nation’s economy, the weaknesses of our political system and the ills of the society.
“I certainly expect healthy, stimulating and enriching debates in the days ahead, as we settle down to work and examine different issues from different perspectives. As you commence your duties as legislators, I urge you to conduct yourselves in a manner beyond reproach. I equally invite you all to define your appropriate role as our electoral democracy moves from mere procedural concerns to substantive issues.
“Just as I have called for synergy between state assemblies and the National Assembly, I wish to emphasise that a strong partnership is also required between the executive and the legislature in order for Nigeria to achieve its developmental goals, increase transparency and accountability and curb corruption,” he concluded.

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