Edo legislature crisis as a tricky road to a better democracy

Posted by Nelson Dafe, Benin City | 2 July 2014 | 3,441 times

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One of the most tired phrases in Nigerian politics when a messy situation threatens the democratic system is: “This is the beauty of democracy.” There is a supposition among the eager peddlers of that phrase that democracy must be fraught with messy public confrontations, petty quarrels, open fisticuffs, etc, for it to have meaning, effect and beauty.

Following the present political crisis that has engulfed the Edo State House of Assembly, it would be nigh-impossible to convince a sane, well-thinking and decent member of society that a group of legislators sitting in the hot sun and getting drenched in the rain, locked out of the chambers by loads of gun-toting  policemen at the gate (because a quarrel amongst them has so degenerated into physical scuffle) is a beautiful substitute for a chamber full of vibrant debaters carrying out their constitutional legislative duties.

What is the beauty in a democracy of name-calling and personal attacks in full public glare by a group of people whose primary task should be the robust and intelligent argument for or against bills and enactment of laws? Is there anything to admire in watching politicians party-hopping incessantly in a manner as to suggest that they are more guided by personal interests and gains rather than by set goals and ideals that would be for what is conscientiously thought as the public good? The answer should be a resounding NO.

Yet, in spite of this political turmoil, and because of it, there should be a glimmer of hope that there would emerge some clarity as to how things should be more properly done to give democracy a better face, not just in Edo State but Nigeria as a whole.

The hordes of journalists giving coverage on the matter from different angles, the many media outlets which have grown beyond the regular local and national TV stations to include a plethora of online news platforms shedding light on the crisis, and the widespread robust arguments from the populace about who is right or which party is in the wrong, can hopefully help shape a better convention for the country’s democratic dispensation.

As the crisis in the Edo legislative house persists, the questions to be asked and their answers are pertinent, poignant and urgent. The most salient ones revolve around the roles being played by two institutions that are vital in the resolution of the matter: The judiciary and the police.

Since a Benin high court issued an interim injunction ordering the four suspended PDP legislators from interfering with the activities of the assembly, the order has been disobeyed by the PDP members of the house who insist that the judgment was bought on the cheap.

As the intransigent legislators of the PDP laughed off the bailiff who served them court papers, a picture of a ridiculous standing of the Nigerian judiciary (at least in some eyes) could not be better painted. That the judiciary could be so ignored is dangerous for democracy because instead of seeking legal redress in courts, politicians could be encouraged to handle things in a manner that could border on the illegal and leaving the country vulnerable to unneeded chaos.

If politicians feel aggrieved by a bad court judgment, what is the ideal move to right the perceived legal wrong? It is to seek for a better judgment in a higher court of law. But the case here in Benin City is that a group of lawmakers have decided to act in defiance of the court.

It could be the case – in fact it is likely the case – that the PDP legislators fear that the legal angle will be too slow in bringing them succour. The slow pace of justice dispensation in many cases perhaps puts them off about obeying unfavourable court orders. The judiciary would need to do a lot of soul-searching in order to figure ways of rebuilding its image by deciding cases fast and fairly.

The police on their part have been accused by the APC in Edo State of being biased in favour of the PDP in the ongoing logjam. If the court has issued an order that a group of legislators should not enter the premises of the house, why is the police not enforcing that order by preventing the suspended members from gaining entry rather than allowing them to cause chaos at the gates and preventing other members from going in? That is APC’s argument.

These are matters that are part of what must be cleared up justly to avoid future re-occurrence either in Edo State or elsewhere. For democracy to deepen in Nigeria, issues like these must be decisively confronted. Men and women whose consciences are oriented towards the good and fair play would have to fight for the right precedence to be set in the resolution of political quagmires of the sort currently playing out in Edo State.

In this sense the current crisis in Edo State is a path to a better democracy, and that path must be threaded with caution and belief in the ability of the people to get things right. But the crisis is no beauty of democracy.

•Photo shows Speaker of the Edo House of Assembly, Hon. Uyi Igbe.

Source: News Express

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