The beleaguered Nigerian Senate President, Bukola Saraki, took time out of his present troubles to address the Nigerian Senate yesterday as its 8th Assembly marked its first full year since the new administration was sworn in. It also celebrated the passage of 11 bills from 300 proposed in the past year and this is an impressive number for the Nigerian Senate. The United States Congress passes an average of 175 – 279 bills per year, from 1999 till present, but the United States is not Nigeria and 11 is a number to be celebrated, even if most of the bills are inconsequential, so…it seems politics is the only field in Nigeria that low productivity can be celebrated without repercussions. But, back to the first year celebrations.
While making his speech as Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki also called for a more inclusive federal government in the decision-making processes of the country. “These are serious challenges that require all hands to be on deck. There is no other time in our history than now when the business of government needs to be conducted with great inclusiveness. We must find a way to bring the best brains in our country on board wherever they may be found,” he said. “People who didn’t vote for him, [i.e. members of the opposition] should also be involved in the decision making process,” he said. However, one can argue that his comments smack of hypocrisy, of the pot calling the kettle black, or the kettle calling the pot black, whichever is the case in this situation.
It should be recalled that this current Senate Assembly, headed by Saraki, publicly rejected a major bill, last year, that would have gone a long way in encouraging inclusiveness in government processes.
The Gender Equality bill, which would have protected Nigerian women in their marriages, was introduced by Senator Abiodun Olujimi and was turned down by members of the Senate citing various religious and cultural for reasons why they did so. A bill empowering women in the smallest unit of the society, i.e. the family, would have helped tremendously in encouraging the participation of more women in Nigerian politics. The percentage of women in the Nigerian parliament is a meagre 4 percent, a long way from Rwanda’s 64 percent. Unless the definition of inclusivity is only about political party affiliations, the Nigerian Senate headed by him is guilty of the same sin.
Nigerians on social media have been clamouring for transparency in the activities of the Nigerian Senate, especially in terms of its decision making and its budget. A movement started last year, the #OpenNASS campaign which demanded for a transparent and honest Nigerian Senate, without its operations being shrouded in secrecy. If one had a million Naira (not dollars) for every time Saraki promised to publish the budget of the National Assembly for the general public to view, such person would be richer than Dangote. The movement is still going on, and so is Saraki’s case at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for false declaration of assets. One thing is certain, perhaps words like “Saraki” and “inclusiveness” shouldn’t be in the same sentence.