THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE
SENATOR ANYIM PIUS ANYIM, GCON
OYO STATE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
THIS DAY, MARCH 22, 2002
It is my pleasure to address this highly esteemed Assembly. I have always looked forward with profound enthusiasm to moments like this when I have to address my friends and legislator colleagues.
This is because of my firm belief that the legislature, not the judiciary or the Executive, is the power house of any democracy. The peculiar nature of the legislature in a democracy is such that it is the hub around which every activity of government revolves. In democratic Nigeria today, there are 36 gubernatorial
constituencies; three senatorial constituencies per state plus one from the Federal Capital Territory, making a total of 109; 360 Federal House of Representatives constituencies with each state producing varying numbers according to population density; 774 local government constituencies; and different number of wards per local government for a total of 8, 752 ward constituencies. All these combine to add up to a single but big constituency of the whole nation.
I have taken time to enumerate this for us to have a clear view of the strategic role we are expected to play in a democracy, whether at the local government level, the state or federal level. As lawmakers, we are both strategic and peculiar; most times we are expected to perform the dual role of lawmaking and of leadership. For indeed, we are not only law-makers; we are also leaders.
Therefore, as leaders, we must exercise a high degree of tolerance and circumspection in all that we do. Again, as law-makers, we must be guided by the basic principle that in a democracy like ours, there must be separation of powers.
But let me quickly stress that such separation of powers does not mean confrontation with the Executive, the Judiciary or among the various legislative levels. It however does not preclude occasional or even regular disagreements among these various arms of government. Yet in all our disagreeing, we must follow the principle of rule of law to reach consensual agreement. That is the
strength of democracy. It gives us the leeway to apply the ideals of checks and balances. Even equally imperative in settling such disputation is the overriding national interest, namely national peace, national unity, national progress and the need to achieve sustainable democracy.
My dear friends and colleagues, we must legislate and lead with the consciousness that a lot depend on us to sustain our young democracy. May I say here that it is this need to sustain our democracy that is the major challenge of the legislature. Cleary and manifestly so, democracy has come under threat. Such threats have manifested in various forms of face-offs between the National Assembly and State Assemblies, between the State Assembly and the State Executive, between the National Assembly and the Executive and sometimes between the National Assembly and the Judiciary.
At other times, the threats have manifested in serial killings, skirmishes and civil unrest in the North, East, South-South and South West. We can no longer shut our mind to the reality that ethno-religious crises which have consistently shaken the
foundation of our democratic structures do not pose a threat to democracy. We cannot pretend either that the preponderance of ethnic militia in different parts of the country does not constitute enough insecurity, lack of confidence in the polity and by extension, a huge threat to democracy.
These are the sad interjections in our democratic evolution. Ladies and gentlemen, I have good news for you even as I throw a challenge to you. The good news is that there is hope for democracy in Nigeria. The challenge is that above everything else, it will take the efforts of you and I, the efforts of the legislators, to evolve a culture of peace in our country.
As representatives of the people, we must be cognizant of the social contract cord that binds us to them. We must therefore legislate essentially for the purpose of achieving good governance, fairness, equity in the distribution of national wealth and respect for our individual rights. This is the challenge before us – how to assuage the fears of the people and restore their confidence in the Nigerian nation.
The truth is that many people have lost confidence in the polity. Their confidence, I must emphasize, was not eroded by this democratic government. It was eroded by the plundering mentality of the military. Everywhere in the world, military rule is a socio-political aberration and never again should Nigerians condone such anomaly in our life. We must resist them. When they roll out their artillery and guns, we must march to the streets in collective civil disobedience with our voices loud and clear in total condemnation of such act of barbarism.
It is the military that whittled the people’s confidence in the polity. This has precipitated the various clamours and agitations for national conference, sovereign national conference or even restructuring of the entire nation.
My dear colleagues, at this juncture, let me sound a note of warning that these military wolves and their agents are still in our midst today. Though we have a democracy, though we are gathered here, all of us freely elected by the people to represent them, there are still those masquerading as democrats in our midst. But indeed and in truth, such people, such pretenders are only democrats in their confession. In practice, they are demagogues in democratic cocoon.
And they are everywhere. They are to be found in the Executive, in the National Assembly, in the State Assemblies, in the judiciary and in the local government councils. They represent evil and propagate same; they perpetuate the vices of militocracy rather than the virtues of democracy. But do not be dismayed. Let us take consolation in the fact that evil will never triumph over good.
For me, I am encouraged by the reality that day-by-day, our democratic structures firm up even stronger. I am even further encouraged by the fact that in no distant time, such pretenders will be spewed out of the system. I have sounded this note of warning to put all of us on alert. More importantly, the consciousness that such pretenders may even be in our midst in this Assembly will guide us to legislate for equity, fairness and good governance.
Personally, I am ever conscious of the presence of such wolves hence I am eternally guided by the sublime virtues of equity and fairness. I am a stickler of national peace, national unity, national justice and equity. They represent the nexus of my political philosophy. It is even an obsession for me; a passion to legislate for the overall peace of the nation.
In the Senate, we are guided by these ideals – the ideals of equity and fairness – in our legislation for revenue sharing, distribution of educational facilities, federal character, creation of local government councils, among others. We will remain guided by these ideals because that is the only way we can keep the military and there acolytes in abeyance.
My friends and co-legislators, I implore you today to be guided by these ideals in your daily duty of legislation. I implore you to be on the look out for these demagogues. More importantly, I implore you to legislate for peace, equity and fairness; all of which will lead to good governance. This is my message to you. It is my plaintive appeal to all legislators so that we can collectively safeguard our democracy from the prying eyes of these demagogues in our democratic fold.
Though as legislators, we have been most misunderstood. We have been vilified and criticized. But these vilifications and criticisms should not discourage us. Rather, they should fire up our enthusiasm to legislate and to lead, guided by the supreme ideals of good governance. Herein lies our dilemma as legislators. Aside our primary responsibility of making laws, we are also saddled with the responsibility of leadership. Perhaps at this point, it is necessary to look at democracy and the role of the legislature in the Nigerian context.
Democracy is a participatory, people-oriented government in which the people freely and willingly choose their representatives who would be held accountable for their actions and inactions at all times. One striking feature of the legislature is the dual role it plays. While on one hand the legislators make laws that impact on
the greater majority of the people, on the other hand, they owe it a duty to represent the interests of their various constituencies, ethnic group or state as the case may be. This is true of the Nigerian legislature where in addition to the business of making laws, the individual legislators are also preoccupied with the obligation of protecting the interests of their various constituencies. This is our
Again, such dilemma is further compounded by the electorate who expect us to provide basic amenities for them. In other words, they expect us to perform both legislative and Executive functions. Even in performing such Executive roles as part of our oversight functions, we have often been accused by the executive of overreaching our bounds. But we must not throw away the baby with the bath water. Therefore we must continue to play our dual roles within the limits of the law and principle of due process.
As legislators and as leaders, we owe it a duty to our constituencies to legislate for peace, unity, fairness, equity and above all, for good governance. This is the challenge of our generation. This is the challenge of our dispensation. Though, it is daunting but I know you will arise and surmount it.
Once again, I thank you for the privilege offered me to address this highly esteemed Assembly. This indeed is an evidence that you are all democrats and not demagogues. Thank you.