President Muhammadu Buhari’s rosy outing during the presentation of the 2018 appropriation bill before the joint session of the National Assembly on Tuesday reminds me of a Yoruba proverb which goes thus: “Omo buruku ni Ojo tie loto”. This simply means that ‘a bad child will definitely be useful someday’.
Those who believe that the warm reception Buhari enjoyed from the parliament suggests his popularity among the lawmakers should rather censor their thought.
Undoubtedly, the legislators feel slighted with the poor implementation of the 2017 and don’t see the need to rush into the 2018 appropriation. I shall in subsequent editions put fidelity to the figures in the 2017 budget as well as discuss how realistic the 2018 Appropriation Bill can be.
What transpired on the floor of the green chamber, where the joint sitting held speaks volume about the fate of the proposed budget, particularly as it regards request by the president to get the budget passed by January 2018.
Save for the leadership of the National Assembly, particularly Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, the president wouldn’t have enjoyed the kind of calm he observed from lawmakers.
Dogare used his leadership influence and subtle manipulation on members of the House to quell the rebellious move plotted by some opposition member.
Members elected on the platform of the opposition PDP had planned an ambush on President Buhari during the budget presentation. Their grouse: the alleged non implementation of the 2016 and 2017 budget.
A few of them had concealed placards with inscriptions such as ‘our mumu don do’, ‘change the change’, ‘no 2018 budget without full implementation of 2017 budget’. But the bargaining strength of Speaker Dogara did the magic.
Ardent political observers will not forget our contemporary political history of June 2015 so soon. They won’t forget how the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Assembly were elected against the wish and dictates of their party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
This political horse trading that produced the two presiding officers guaranteed PDP members many A-class committees in the 8th Assembly, and in turn secured a good balance for the Senate president and the Speaker, since they wield enormous influence on the PDP camp and a reasonable number of lawmakers in the APC camp.
Should the two presiding officers have relied on the strength of the APC majority, or on the other hand, if the anointed candidates of the party had emerge winners, whatever plot hatched by the opposition would have survived without hindrance.
The earlier President Buhari and the APC realise that the duo of Saraki and Dogara are assets to this regime, the better for the polity.
Moreover, the only difference between the APC and the PDP is ‘opportunity’. An average Nigerian politician will jump at the slightest opportunity to change parties like a cap or headgear. In fact, a few of the lawmakers who planned to demonstrate against Buhari with placards are expected to be received in the APC soonest.
This points to the fact that Nigerian lawmakers, irrespective of political party affiliation, hold to heart the interest of their ‘constituencies’ and ‘constituency intervention projects.’
Therefore, the executive arm of government has a choice to either explore Saraki and Dogara as assets to stabilise the National Assembly or do otherwise.
Dogara was instructive on this point when he noted in his closing remarks that “the success of this event separates us as true Leaders who in the midst of a hazy Executive – Legislative relationship elected not to turn on ourselves but to turn to each other in the very interest of our constituents and national progress.
“This is the way we must go as our Constitutional Order is organised in a way that deliberately denies any of the three Arms the strength to go at it alone on any national issue. Where that has happened, it’s progress that suffers. That reminds us of the adage that says, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go together’. Examples abound on how fast but not far, the Executive have gone on some national issues where they have decided to go alone. There is no national challenge we cannot overcome if we work together”, he added.
Dogara also demonstrated the quality of a good leader when he explained with diplomacy the message his colleagues in the PDP would have passed to the president with disregard.
“Our experience with the implementation of the 2016 Budget amply demonstrates that obeying our Appropriation Laws maximizes the release of our potentials while violating the Appropriation Laws caps the release of our national potentials. This means that we have to redouble our efforts in implementing the 2017 Budget, if we must retire it in January or at the very least roll over most of the projects in 2017 budget to 2018. No need to remind us that fiscal indiscipline is as grievous a problem as corruption which this Government is busy eliminating,” he stated.
I make bold to conclude that most lawmakers, either of the APC or other opposition parties have the same interest and are very bitter that their constituency intervention projects and of course other projects captured in the 2017 budget are yet to be implemented. Lawmakers in the APC may not be able to challenge their Leader, but those in the opposition political parties will definitely raise dust. Therefore, the president needs the ‘recalcitrant men’ in the National Assembly to stabilise his government.