By Mon-Charles Egbo
Nigeria is a classic example of a country in crisis. Features such as insecurity, failed economy, infrastructural deficit, weak institutions and general loss of ethical values cumulatively suggest that truly the country is not in the best of circumstances. It thus calls for urgent intervention in the form of leadership driven by statesmanship with a deliberate commitment to uniting and rebuilding the country as well as ridding it of the various legacies of bad governance.
Although lamentably, Nigeria is in short supply of leaders endowed with the requisite attributes, diligent research shows that the senate president, Ahmad Lawan, is certainly among those few who have what it takes to provide the exceptional form of leadership that is anchored on national interest and unity. Verifiable records support this assertion.
Challenged that Nigeria was already facing grave socio-economic consequences, Lawan came to the leadership of the senate armed with a roadmap that identified the key areas for urgent legislative interventions towards uniting and rebuilding the nation. But because the degree to which any leadership is adjudged impactful is a function of its prevailing operational environment, every germane initiative in this dimension is diminished by the inherited socio-economic crisis bedevilling the country. Acute quests for food, good health, quality education, safety and security have dominated the psyche of the citizenry such that every government effort that is not offering immediate relief to any or all of the foregoing is meaningless, despite how strategic it is. Besides, the legislature has limited powers relative to direct development.
Otherwise, even the most scrupulous critic agrees that the current national peculiarities have profoundly brought out the statesmanship in Lawan. He has not only proven to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the underlying national issues, he fairly knows the solutions. Principally, he is passionate and visionary about a united and prosperous Nigeria.
Looking back, Lawan proudly declared that “the ninth senate has done what we need to do to make Nigeria great. Our leaders who set a vision for the country came from different constituencies, backgrounds, religious inclinations, but they had a vision that Nigeria should be best in Africa. So many challenges were faced, but those leaders dealt with some of them and subdued them. Other subsequent leaders also had a vision to make Nigeria a country that will be progressive and develop. Like our founding fathers did, we are also dealing with these challenges despite our political, ethnic and religious differences. Now, we are facing security challenges all over the country. Political, religious and traditional leaders must come together. Whether the problem is predominant in the Northwest or Northeast or Southwest or Southeast, all hands must be on the deck to resolve them. As a matter of urgency, we should come together as a people and deal with these challenges, most of them if not all of them and make Nigeria a great country. No part of Nigeria can entirely face the problems facing the country and tackle them all”.
Elsewhere, he had proclaimed that “today and indeed even tomorrow and forever, we can achieve better. We can achieve more when we are united. Nigeria is designed by the Grace of God to be a nation of many people of different orientation, different sentiments but we must be a people with common purpose and common destiny and this is what we are trying to achieve. It doesn’t matter where you come from. It doesn’t matter what you believe in. What matters is that you are a Nigerian and the other person next to you is a Nigerian too”.
And whereas restructuring means different things to different people, Lawan’s persistent advocacy highlights the constitution amendment as the panacea for the topical subject of restructuring and other related matters. To him, “the numerous issues that Nigerians feel should be addressed to make Nigeria better, to make citizens secured, and enhance the welfare of our people are topmost in our consideration”.
Furthermore, Lawan has been consistent that “we want our elections to be credible. Our desire is that our electoral umpire continues to be independent and improve to perform the statutory functions creditably well. We, in the ninth assembly, will continue to work in a committed and united manner to offer the best to the electorate”. This obviously explains why when it mattered the most, he identified with the people regarding the electronic transmission of election results.
Inspired by a sense of empathy, Lawan is concerned about the endemic challenges confronting the people of the Niger Delta. As an instance, he observed that the build-up to the passage of the petroleum industry bill largely reflected a conflict between the comfort of the oil companies and the sufferings of the host communities. Consequently, he was to acknowledge that “we passed the PIB. But what is important is for the National Assembly to continue to track, monitor and supervise the implementation of the PIB when it is eventually assented to by the President and the execution starts. This is because this is a 319 clause legislation and it is so sensitive, so central to our economy and lives of the people, particularly the host communities in the Niger Delta, in oil-producing states. So we need to devote sufficient time to ensure that the implementation, especially in the Host Communities Fund is done in such a way that what we think and anticipate will happen in host communities happens. Otherwise, we have to come back and see where the flaws will be.”
Again, he had disclosed that “our mind-set in the senate is that we must have (Niger-Delta Development Commission) NDDC that is efficient in service delivery to the people of Niger Delta. This is the essence of setting up that commission. So, we want to see a situation where the very limited resources appropriated for NDDC are prudently and transparently deployed for the development of the Niger Delta region. This is our mind-set and we will not shy away from our responsibility at any time we feel that is not happening”.
Equally on Nigeria’s state of human capital development, Lawan warned that “today, the education sector suffers a lot. I keep on saying the 11 or 10 million children out of school; we owe them that responsibility to do something about them. That is taking us back to the implementation of the Universal Basic Education Act”.
He added that “we must face the reality of making our economy work for the people. We need our graduates, both in the universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education to actually be graduates that have some functionality. Either they can engage themselves in some productive activities or when they are employed, they should be able to perform if we want our economy to function. Today’s economy is about what capacity your citizens have. Many countries don’t have more resources than the kind of resources we have but they have been able to develop the capacities of their people. India and China have done that.”
Apparently not playing politics with a critical national asset, Lawan has been dispassionately vocal that “if there’s any sector of our economy that is so important and yet so challenged, it is the power sector. I believe that this is a sector that needs a declaration of emergency. The truth is that we all know what is wrong. What we really need to do is to have the political will to take on the challenges generally. From the electricity power reform of 2005 to the privatization of GENCOS and DISCOS and to what is happening today, we know that everything is a fraud. If we play the ostrich, in the next 10 years we will be talking about the same things. I think the time has come for us to have courage”.
Then on the urgent need to explore the agriculture sector and create opportunities for the youths towards boosting the grassroots economy, Lawan warned that “we escaped this #EndSARS protest (against police brutality during-which colossal losses were recorded); any other one may be inescapable. Let’s meet them (the youths) where they are and many of them are in the rural areas. Let’s give them what we can and keep them in the rural areas and make their lives productive. On our part, we are going to be accountable. We need to be practical. Other countries have made it through this sector. Anytime we talk about diversification the first thing we mention is agriculture. We must walk the talk for the sake of our economy and our youths”.
Continuing, “we don’t want to wait until they also start to grumble or protest, we should be proactive…..and that is the only way that we can make a difference in the lives of the people”.
Meanwhile, as part of his commitment to taking the legislature back to the people, Lawan had presented Nigerians with this charge: “if you don’t like the set of members in the Ninth National Assembly, change all of us in 2023. Get better people but help support the system to function because that is your protection”.
Quite instructively, Lawan is rather disposed to be vilified unjustly than to compromise on issues of national interest and unity. He is overtly conscious of what becomes of this already-sick country should the executive and the legislature be at avoidable daggers drawn, particularly given the enormous advantages the faulty constitution confers on the former. By the structure of the 1999 constitution, it is at the discretion of the executive to either ‘tolerate’ or ‘run over’ the legislature seamlessly. This obviously accounts for the inaction in relation to Lawan’s wise counsels on issues of governance.
And in order not to dwell on a motion-without-movement kind of leadership, Lawan demonstrates that it is only by collaborative relationship with the other arms without undermining their relative independences that the federal government can deliver on its obligations to the masses. And frankly, he is selfless about it.
Empirically therefore it is a national disservice to resort to subjective assessment of Ahmad Lawan. Though understandably, one of the major symptoms of a crisis situation is that people’s senses of judgement are reasonably beclouded sequel to the unusual tendencies and distortions in the social order, culminating in massive desperation for survival solely. Self-preservation they say is the first law of nature. So understandably, there is a prevalent dearth of objective analysis of governance issues.
Otherwise, by records, Senator Ahmad Lawan stands out eminently as a versatile bridge-builder, patriot, nationalist and statesman with a robust understanding of Nigeria and its challenges. Hence he has roles to play, moving forward. But in the interim, this is wishing him a happy birthday as he turns 63.
Egbo is the print media aide to the president of the senate