The legislature is referred to as the first branch of government with the executive and judicial arms evolving thereafter.
This created a system of limited government, with checks and balances and separation of powers, to prevent any one branch or element from consolidating control.
Having influential and hard-working lawmakers help in facilitating development of any country.
Even though a Senator’s job is primarily involved in advancing legislation, performing oversight functions, considering nominations from the president and providing services to his or her constituents, among others, the quality of performance through effective research is very important.
Former US President John F Kennedy discussed the quality of a Senator in a New York Times Magazine.
“There are no standard tests to apply to a Senator,” he wrote, “no Dun Bradstreet rating, no scouting reports. His talents may vary with his time, his contributions may be limited by his politics. To judge his true greatness is nearly an impossible task,” Kennedy said in an effort to select five greatest Senators whose portraits were to adorn the Senate reception room.
Several questions have been asked whether a “good Senator” should be a man of eloquence, who can supply the oratorical gloss to finished legislation during floor debate? Or should it be someone with legal skills? Should a good Senator concentrate on protecting his state’s interests and representing its point of view on the issues of the day?
Should the good Senator adheres always to the dictates of his own conscience—a relentless investigator, is he the cheerful pragmatist whose willingness to split the difference and makes it possible to pass a bill now and then?
Should a good Senator use the Senate for a national campaign? Should a good Senator be someone whose labours are unnoticed by the public?
A US writer, John Jay, in the Federalist papers said Senators should be “men of talents and integrity.”
The questions raised earlier suggest that a room of ‘109-man’ Senate requires men and women of differing tastes and talents who must carry out serious research before debating on any issue on the floor.
In Nigeria, the Senate has been a mixture of former military and paramilitary officers, technocrats, activists, former governors, lecturers, Journalists, Lawyers and different kinds of people.
The quality of their debate is now a source of concern even among themselves.
On Wednesday, Sen Thomson Sekibo (Rivers State) rose on a point of order 14, 15, 16, 47, and decried improper briefing of issues to be debated by the rules and business committee.
According to Sekibo, the inability of the committee to notify them on issues to be debated was behind their poor contribution on issues.
“The committee knows that we need notices for any business. The committee on rules and business don’t give us notices. In fact, they don’t publish the gazette.
“This is affecting our input because I need to carry out research before embarking on any discussion,” Sekibo said.
But the Senate president, in his reaction, said the Senate rules also demand that he (Sekibo) discuss with him on the point of order he wanted to raise.
“You did not discuss it with me but we can do better on giving notices,” Lawan said.
The Senate leader, Yahaya Abdullahi blamed the inability to serve notices to the lawmakers to what he described as certain challenges.
“We have been operating in such a way because of certain challenges,”
Abdullahi said, adding that he once called and discussed with the chairman of the rules and business committee, Sen Suleiman Sadiq Umar on how best they can serve the Senate.
“I have called on the chairman to discuss how we can make the work easier,” Abdullahi said.
The inability of the Senate to serve their members with notices is killing their productivity and affecting the quality of representation. Concerted efforts should be made to address this anomaly in order to improve the quality of representation in the Nigeria parliament.