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Opinions of Tuesday, 15 March 2022

Columnist: John Egbeazien Oshodi

Nigeria’s democracy needs more legislative therapy to thrive

National Assembly building, Abuja National Assembly building, Abuja

Nigerians, for the first time in a very long time, saw a new approach among lawmakers on questionable acts from the President and the judiciary around the recently signed Electoral Act 2022.

The Nigerian constitution, whether one views it as weak or vulnerable, does not answer every question, but it remains clear on separation of powers.

No court or judge in Nigeria has the power to stop legislators from doing their legislative duties, revisiting, or amending legislation.

In a ruling delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo, the court restrained the legislature from deleting or taking any further steps on the new law. The role of the court is to interpret the law, not make laws.

Although the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), is allowed to ask the legislature questions, such as the request to remove the section of the Electoral Act that requires government appointees and political office holders to resign in order to run for election in the party primary, he pushed too hard this time.

Despite Buhari’s request, the Senate, especially known for frequently succumbing to the wishes of the President, in a unique way, hit back at the President and took a swipe at the judge for overstepping.

The Nigerian people praised the National Assembly, especially the Senate not because they won or the President and the court lost, but because democracy triumphed in a rare manner.

Therapeutically, what occurred here is that the Senate stopped the presidency and the judiciary at all costs to progressively prepare for Nigeria’s steady democratic growth.

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This action by the Senate is educating the Presidency and the judiciary to start having regard for our laws, our system of justice, or our young democracy itself.

By way of what I call legislative therapy, the Senate allowed democracy to stand in opposition to self-interest on the part of future presidential and governorship aspirants currently active in government.

In a democracy, the people through the legislature are sovereign—they are the highest form of political authority, and power streams from the people to those in power, and that is what the Senate demonstrated through its lessons on therapeutic or corrective democracy for the presidency and the judiciary. Let’s hope that the legislature, especially the Senate, will stop being wishy-washy on important democratic and national matters and, in a healthy manner, push back on overreaching presidents and overactive judges.

On a sympathetic note, the Senate under Ahmad Lawan should know that many advanced democracies actually feel sorry for Nigeria because it is dealing with so many problems at the same time, from upheavals to abductions, to a worsening security situation, and it does not have a large-scale police force for a country of this size. So let state police become a reality in your time.