By Morak Babajide-Alabi

As I was meditating on the happenings in motherland in the year 2018, I toyed with the idea of doing commentaries on each event from January to date. It was not long I realised that it will be an arduous task, as the year had been filled with some drama. One week to the end of the year, I recollected a piece was published in this column on December 27, 2015. The article, done a few months after the inauguration of the Mohammad Buhari-led government, was the award of the Man/Woman/Agency of the year award. 

Towards the end of each year, awards are given to individuals or agencies that have impacted the world in one way or the other. It is usually an appreciation of their efforts and to inspire them for further exploits. Angela Merkel; the German Chancellor was named TIME’s 2015 Woman of the Year for her efforts in resettling refugees in Europe.

This year 2018, the Time Magazine named four groups of people (journalists) as the Persons of the Year. They include the murdered Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the staff from the US newspaper, Capital Gazette, where five people were killed in June. The other two are Maria Ressa (chief executive of the Philippine news website Rapple) and the wives of Myanmar’s Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo (two Reuters journalists arrested in Myanmar).

No one can fault the TIME’s choice. The magazine commended them “for taking great risks in pursuit of greater truths, for the imperfect but essential quest for facts, for speaking up and for speaking out”. Congratulations to the winners and at the same time condolences to their families for the pain, the grief and emotional travails they have been subjected to. No one can imagine the pains of the Khashoggi’s family – the whereabouts of his body is still unknown.

The CNN’s list of Top Ten Heroes of 2018 is very impressive as well. These individuals, including a Nigerian, are described “as having found a way to use their knowledge and inspiration to help countless others.” Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin left her career to start teaching computer programming to girls in Lagos. This is indeed a massive sacrifice.

This lady, rather than look up to the handouts from the government started an initiative to increase the productivity of the less privileged women. The society in which she operates from rarely gives any support – from the government or business organisations unless you know someone who knows another person.

This is an impressive move by Abisoye, in a country where less than 8% of women are employed in the technology sector. CNN said of her: “Since 2012, her group, Pearls Africa Foundation, has helped more than 400 disadvantaged girls aged 10 to 17 gain the technical skills and confidence they need to transform their lives.

“Through the foundation’s free GirlsCoding program, girls get training in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Python and Scratch and visit tech companies to help them visualize themselves joining the industry. Many come from slums or other challenging circumstances, such as orphanages, correctional homes and even a camp for those who’ve had to flee Boko Haram militants.”

This is a piece of great news from Nigeria. You will agree that nothing cheery has come out of the country to the international world. One lesson learnt here is that there are many individuals making efforts to develop the country. No marks for guessing the reasons why these individuals do not make a success of their projects. Lack of adequate infrastructures and support are some of them.

If the efforts of these individuals are complemented by the government’s policies, the country would be better off. Unfortunately, the players in government are busy pursuing agendas that run contrary to the wishes of the people. The arms of government are not in sync with each other. In actual fact, they seem to be running parallel governments. The Executive and the Legislature do not see eye-to-eye, while the Judiciary is lost in the interpretation of the face-off between the two.

To the man on the street, the executive arm is the “government”. But you and I know that there are actually three arms that make a whole. Because the executive arm is the most prominent in the Presidential system the other two are often overlooked.  The Nigerian Legislative arm seems to accept the public’s perception of governance. Since the advent of the fourth republic and especially the inception of the Muhammad Buhari-led government in 2015, the arm has not had any impact. They have been religiously passing national budgets and confirming appointments.

In 2015 I gave the Underperforming Agency/Arm of Government award to the National Assembly and three years down the line, it is still business as usual in the legislative arm of government. It is with a sense of sadness that I am, once again, giving the 2018 award to the Nigerian Legislature – the Senate and the House of Representatives.

In 2015 I wrote: “Since the inauguration of the present legislature, the members have strengthened citizens’ opinion that it is nothing more than a talk shop.  Should an opinion poll be conducted on its relevance, I am sure majority of Nigerians (except the psychophants) will vote it as being irrelevant. 

The Senate is supposed to be the highest legislative body, but Nigerians are beginning to think the bunch in the house is a curse rather than intellectuals. Not minding the presence of the TV crews, some of the members enjoy taking naps while debates are going on. You would not blame them though, as the quality of procedures in the house is not much different from what you get at the secondary schools’ literary and debating societies.  The House of Representatives is no better.  

The vibrancy of the Legislative arm in other parts of the world is determined by the quality of individuals that populate it. In developed countries, the bests of the political class are usually guided towards the legislature. It is the opposite in our beloved country, as the legislature is the retirement home for the ex-soldiers, former governors and retired heads of government agencies.

My opinion of the National Assembly in 2015 still holds. I wrote: “The arguments in both chambers are rowdy and often on sharing available posts or how to improve their own welfare. We can recollect how the legislature was almost shut down at the start of its tenure, a few months ago. No thanks to the intrigues of these lawmakers who obviously are more interested in their pockets and affiliations than national interests.”

“There is a marked difference between the present day legislature and what Nigeria had in the Second Republic.  At the time, the conduct of the lawmakers was very dignifying and their contributions were matured.” “In those days, the Senators and House of Representatives members sponsored bills and were involved in the governance of Nigeria. The calibre of people in the National Assembly was quite impressive.”

We still practice same Presidential system of government, but the present crop of National Assembly members are no credit to good governance. For all the dramas generated by the honourable members, the lock-ins, the rebellious nature of the principal officials and many more, they deserve some accolades.

Please let us rise and congratulate the federal legislative houses for the award of non-performer of the year 2018. They deserve it, AGAIN.

This piece was published in the Diaspora Matters column of the Sunday Vanguard of December 23, 2018.