In any healthy democracy, the role of a viable opposition particularly in the parliament is germane and it is almost the essence of democracy itself. There can’t be a democracy without the parliament as it provides the only opportunity to formally canvass diverse and shades of opinions on governance and government policies.
Unfortunately, the politics that characterised the emergence of a veteran legislator, Femi Gbajabiamila as the speaker of the 9th House of Representatives is fast robbing Nigerians of the advantage of an opposition voice in the House, thereby shifting the 9th House of Representatives towards a one-party parliament.
This is, however, not unexpected. Gbajabiamila, haven been a minority leader himself knows how a vibrant opposition voice in the House could checkmate the excess of government and sometimes expose government secrets to the public, generate public outcry to force the government to rescind decisions.
Unlike in the Senate where the minority leader, Eyinnaya Abaribe is appreciated as the most powerful voice and his views are almost gagged to avoid embarrassing the government, Gbajabiamila got it all sorted out when he ensured that his ally, Hon Ndudi Eumelu emerged as the minority leader, even against the decision of Elemelu’s party, the PDP and majority of the members of the PDP in the House.
It’s exactly two years since Gbajabiamila was elected on 11th June, 2019 and what expectedly should be a robust Nigerian parliament has lost that value to the ‘politics of harmony’ between APC’s Gbajabiamila and the favored opposition minority leadership. The popular saying in the democratic parlance that the minority will have their say while the majority will have their way is being redefined as the minority are not only denied their say but sometimes have their say manipulated.
The PDP caucus in the House led by the would have been minority leader, Kingsley Chinda, and his cohorts who have formed the lone opposition voice in the parliament had repeatedly complained that their voice is being suppressed. When it was time for the House to take a position on the Ban of Twitter last week, the opposition camp was not even allowed to ventilate their opinion and at best have it shut down by the majority. Unfortunately, the minority leader who often looks away when there are salient issues to speak about on the floor and only issue a press statement to present his weak opinion to the public did not even deem it fit to raise a finger on the issue, he was not even present in chambers for Gods known reason.
Nigerians are not surprised, just as they will not forget in a hurry, how a whole minority leader missed the opportunity to spark debate on an alleged terrorism slant of the minister of communications and digital economy, Isa Ali Pantami. After he rightly or wrongly moved a motion under matters of privilege which was rejected by the speaker, Elumelu, as usual, reduced his debate on such sensitive matter to the media, and the issue was never again raised in the House. A few weeks later, the attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, Abubakar Malami made a statement perceived to be unbecoming of a minister, but as usual, the matter was again raised by another lawmaker under matters of privilege, rejected and was never t be represented.
It is quite unfortunate that many of our leaders cannot separate friendship from governance. Just as being in the opposition should not suggest malice, being friends should also not hinder the job of the opposition. But why I’m I amazed, this is Nigeria, in some states members of the ruling party were asked to join an opposition party just to fill the minority gap in the states’ houses of assembly. it is a home-grown strategy!