Progressive Speakers’ Forum In An Emerging Democracy

Opinion

By Olumuyiwa Jimoh

That democratic governance has become the most important governance framework thus far and the most universally accepted and creatively effective model for governing nations of the world is no longer on the front burner of worldwide debate. It has become the global governance standard. Its fine tenets and philosophies have withstood centuries of debate both destructive and creative including several abuses and debasement by those who have pretended to deploy it.

The outcomes which this framework has brought to bear on governance processes and effectiveness of delivering services to the citizenry while at the same time allowing freedom of the citizenry to participate in creating stability became the envy of other governance paradigms. Those that could not conquer it have had to grudgingly implement its dictates within the context of diverse diminutions. Its fruits to governance cannot be responsibly denied especially with the demise of other counterpoises of governance ideologies.

One of the basic pillars on which this framework both in concept and in ideology stands is the very fine principle of the separation of powers. This is as fundamental as it is central to the in-built mechanism for checks and balances in the governance processes. It is this that ensures that actions and policies of actors within the processes do not become sustainably absolute and abusive. This allows the constant fine tuning of the governance framework making room for the system to constantly seek stabilisation automatically. Thus we can say that this principle is one of the automatic stabilisers of democracy.

It becomes obvious from the foregoing that whatsoever therefore impacts the dynamics of this principle will impact the dynamics, nature and character of democracy both in practice and in theory. Such impulses will therefore determine significantly the ability and capacity of the society to continue delivering benefits to its citizenry in the most efficient and effective manner within the ambits of stability and in the context of contending socio-economic interests and desires.

Maintaining constant, smooth, healthy and productive interfaces amongst the three arms of government is key to every successful governance exercise. The Executive arm, the Legislature and the Judiciary must therefore work collectively to ensure a continuous and seamless deliverance of governance expectations and benefits to the governed. It also follows that to do this effectively, each of these arms must have internal capacity to function effectively and deliver not just the expectations of the citizenry but the expectation of the other arms of government. The three arms must therefore work at relatively equal capacities for increasing government effectiveness. A deficit in capacity in any of the arms will negatively impact its capacity to deliver thus create gaps in governance which undermine the overall performance of the government thus short-changing the masses.

In our quest therefore to deepen and consolidate democratic culture in Nigeria which will withstand all the shocks that do normally occur in governance and especially given the events of our recent history, ways should be sought for these three arms of government to function effectively and together for sustainability in the long run.

We, as members of the legislature therefore came to the conclusion that one thing that is needful at this time is the creation of the Speakers’ forum especially amongst the progressive State Houses of Assembly given the existence of the Governors’ Forum which has also impacted positively governance outcomes amongst our various states.

The importance of this also becomes obvious because when platforms of persons and institutions with shared objectives and responsibilities are created, they allow for the ferment of ideas and the development of effective strategies for confronting challenges that constantly arise within their operational environment. A Legislative platform such as the Speakers’ Forum will allow the different Houses of Assemblies to come together periodically to share ideas on how to make the legislature more responsive to government and then to the desires and yearnings and aspirations of the citizenry.

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It will surely build the capacities of the participating Speakers as they learn from one another, increasing and sharpening their skills not only for the purpose of the legislature but for governance generally. This clearly provides opportunity for institutional learning which is very critical for organisational success and sustainability.

A Speakers’ Forum will correct manifest deficiencies in any of the participating Houses of Assembly as it will impact the conduct of Legislative affairs on the floor of the houses and awaken the legislature to the reality of their responsibilities to all governance stakeholders.

This will surely close the gap in capability that is presently perceived to exist between some state Houses of Assembly and the Executive arm which we believe has become an impediment to the conduct of government business and the efficient delivery of democracy dividends to the teeming populace.

When one looks around especially at the states hitherto governed by the progressive governors, a common thread could be seen running through them. This is the common symbol of performance even when the previous occupiers of the seat of government had declared it impossible for lives of the people to be lifted as a result of alleged funding gaps. This is not accidental but a fruit of conscious networking and strategic learning and cooperation amongst these governors which positively rubbed off on their job performance. A replication of such platform amongst the leadership of the Legislature within this same framework therefore becomes a necessity if the Legislature will not become a drag to the overall performance of governance in the states governed by the Progressives.

As we had said earlier our desire is to make contributions to the building of our nation through the deepening of democratic culture and practices and we know that this proposed forum will surely add to the actualisation of this pursuit.

We therefore suggest that the Speakers of the Progressive States should take the lead immediately and set up needed machinery to establish this Forum. A Forum that meets every Quarter will not be too tasking for the Speakers to attend given the very tight schedule within which they operate and the expected benefits to the people and democracy.

We also urge all stakeholders and strategic partners of the Progressives including most importantly the party’s leadership to join hands in propelling the party toward the establishment of this structure. A resource trove of immense value such as this should not be overlooked for a long time so that our selfless pursuit of serving Nigeria and her citizenry will quickly and sustainably be achieved.

•Jimoh, member, Lagos State House of Assembly, wrote from Lagos.