Undoubtedly, one of the low points for your correspondent during the just concluded screening or better, serenading of ministerial nominees, was the point when Senator Orji Uzor Kalu intervened to cover the oral delivery deficiencies of the nominee from Taraba State, Saleh Mohammed.
Mohammed’s curriculum vitae had portrayed him as a very experienced engineer. However, when it came to talking, the engineer muttered to an embarrassment that brought Senator Kalu to his feet.
While praise-singing the nominee, he said the nominee was not one given to much talking. He added as a clincher that the nominee had been a very loyal supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari’s politics over the years. According to him, anyone that had followed Buhari for that long must be a good man!
“He has been a very good person, even when I was in PDP, he used to preach to me about President Buhari. He has been a very good supporter of President Buhari,” Kalu, the Senate’s chief whip added.
The right of entitlement flowing from supporting Buhari was further canvassed by the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege.
“This is one very loyal supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari and that support did not begin today.
“President Muhammadu Buhari is entitled to work with the people of his choice,” Senator Omo-Agege said.
That support for President Buhari has turned into a platitude for ministerial competence is one of the revelations that has emerged from the recent screening exercise.
The president had indeed, told the nation that he was going to choose only those familiar with him as his ministers, and that has been done.
The subjugation of this Senate to the executive is indeed revealing. Indeed, as the screening exercise progressed, former legislators on the ministerial list were repeatedly told to go and serve as emissaries of the National Assembly in the presidency.
To wit, they were told to “lobby” for legislative proposals to get favourable response from the president! The Nigerian Senate must be the only legislative chamber in the world that would tell ministers to go and BEG the president to pay heed to its resolutions! In other climes, it is the legislature that is lobbied!
Indeed, this Senate is not in any way making any pretence of its willingness to act as a rubber-stamp of the executive.
As the legislators concluded the screening exercise and given the waka pass treatment given to many former corruption suspects and others who deserved to be queried on their last experiences in the public space, a major question troubled your correspondent.
Was it this same chamber that once housed the likes of Senator Chuba Okadigbo, Senator Idris Abubakar, Senator Saidu Dansadau, Senator Joy Emodi, Senator Sule Yari Gandi among other sterling champions of democratic expression?
It is not as if the senators of yore were not subjected to the foibles of the presidency? Your correspondent remembers sometime in 2001, when the late Senator Idris Abubakar (the cicero of the Senate) as chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts took on the task of investigating the sums expended in constructing the Abuja National Stadium.
Senator Abubakar was to confide in your correspondent how Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, the president of the Senate at that time tried to play down the issue for some time in order not to stir up trouble with President Olusegun Obasanjo.
But willy-nilly, it was only for a while as the Senate still tactically found a way to look into the issue.
The desperate attempt by the Ninth Senate to subordinate its independence even to the personal peccadilloes of a human being in the person of President Buhari is understandable.
A substantial proportion of the senators are former governors who have turned the institution into a place of refuge. It is a place of shelter from the torrents that could come from the security agencies on their stewardship in office.
The popular example of the former Senate President aspirant who disavowed his aspiration after a visit to the presidency last May and subsequently had his case withdrawn from the courts is an example for many senators.
But the cost to the polity is enormous. Indeed, what the Senate has done is not just pernicious to the nation’s democracy, but a threat to the very survival of the country. If the Senate on account of pleasing the president decides not to interrogate the stewards of the nation’s commonwealth as to their possible competence, it only will lead to enthroning mediocrity.
By enthroning mediocre in government, the Senate is not helping Buhari to enthrone the kind of legacy that would make him a Nigerian statesman.
By its indiscretion, the Senate has stepped down the competitive drive that would have enabled the president to aim higher towards putting his name and legacy in gold. A legislative house that puts the executive in watch only helps to bring out the best in the government. By doing otherwise, this Senate has not just devalued the president; it has also devalued Nigeria.