"THE ROLE OF PARLIAMENTARIANS IN NATION BUILDING"
It’s true that in today’s world with specific emphasis on Africa, there has been an increased awareness that nation building is totally dependent on the type of parliament and democratic structures that forms and informs the processes through which laws/bylaws are instituted in the interest of transforming society for the common good of mankind. In other to achieve the then proposed eight “Millennium Development Goals” (MDG) in a bid to eradicate extreme poverty by the year 2015, it recognises the significance and obligation of parliaments by urging governments generally to work more thoroughly with parliaments in formulating, applying and monitoring nationalistic development strategies and ideals that will deliver a social-economic & political utopia
Who is a Parliamentarian: A Parliamentarian is a professional in the rules of order and the proper procedures for the conduct of meetings of deliberative assemblies. Parliamentarians assist governments and institutions in the drafting and interpretation of bylaws and rules of order, and the planning and conduct of meetings”. Opertec Inc 2011.
What is a Parliamentarian: According to Jim Slaughter an Attorney and a professional certified parliamentarian, “A parliamentarian is a consultant who advises the presiding officers and other officers, committees, and members of a government or a government itself on matters of parliamentary procedure”. Parliaments have a fundamental statutory role to play, primarily in grooming and growing the nation’s capacity to take complete control of programmes that will yield sustainable national growth. Because Parliamentarians are agents of the people, and by so doing representing the interest of everyone especially the vulnerable in society, in accordance with democratic principles that’s informed by genuine priorities, obligatory legislation, sincere budgetary allocations, and exercise oversight expenditures.
Nevertheless, , in as much as Parliament is a product of democracy and a product of the people’s mandate, often times they lack independence and most of the times the resources to deliver its functions especially in developing economies. This has misconstrued and hindered the role of parliament in delivering the principal objective of providing effective development policies that will echo and represent the concerns of the people, because such primary necessities have the tendencies to be ignored due to inadequacies of the instruments for policy formation and as a result defeats the principles of separation of power.
The norm amongst citizens and politically conscious minds in most African nations today is the emergent of issues that are related to democracy and good governance as obtainable in developed democracies and possibly replicate it in Africa. It’s as a result of this trend that brought about the need for change in other to get Africa out of the perils of incompetent leadership and improper policy formation that has impoverish the continent for decades in terms of infrastructures and basic amenities that is associated with civic progress. Therefore the Parliament being a significant government institution in a democratic system of government, is critical to delivering genuine democracy and good governance that will impact the principle of nation building. Due to the fact that the Parliament forms a statutory constitutionally designated representatives of the people, parliaments are therefore mandated with the task to ensure government is truly of the people, for the people and by the people according to the tenets of democracy, especially in the performance of the key functions of legislation, representation and oversight functionalities that will actively create a platform for development and implementation of laws, policies and practices that promotes true democracy and good governance.
It’s therefore imperative that in a democracy where Parliament is elected to uphold proper mandate, they tend to represent the people with all sense of responsibility and also accountable to them because that is the very nature of democracy and the dictum of separation of power. In a true democracy where the parliament is allowed to function, the people are the owners of government and when the people are the owners of the government a true representation is achieved and therefore this leads to the building of credible and strong democratic institutions that will administer and function effectively towards delivering good governance.
Therefore the key responsibilities of the any Parliament is to scrutinize the activities of government by form of checks and balances, secondly to legislate by making and changing laws of the land, thirdly is debating and deliberations of important matters arising and lastly, checking and approving government revenues and expenditures viz a viz budget and taxation.
With reference to the Nigerian case, legislative power is being held by the federal government and the National Assembly which comprises of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, collectively they form the law-making arm of government in Nigeria which is saddled with the responsibility to check on the executive arm of government. There is also the Supreme Court which is the highest Judicial Arm of government in Nigeria which emergence was after independence solely for the purpose of separation of powers. All of these measures was in a bid to strengthen Parliament in other to realise progression in terms of policies and laws formation that will create a space for proper and adequate development that is true to the people’s needs.
Countless researches has shown that, what is actually required to stimulate and sustain development and growth in the continent today is good governance and this is dependent on the nature of parliament available and how proactive they are. By so doing, precise consideration is adhered to on how the parliament can uphold transparency and accountability towards good governance by guiding the executive arm of government and by also checking and regulating itself and the behaviour of its parliamentary members. Ones this is achieved, a country and its people are on the way to an incredible and perpetual nation building. Because these issues affects every facets of the country in terms of social amenities and infrastructures, be it social-economic or social-political etc., they tend to form the core objective of any Parliament that’s saddled with the responsibility to form laws, deliberate contemporary issues and oversee taxation and how they are being expended to help run the country.
It’s a fact that we live in a perceived democratic world and therefore it’s important to go in line with democratic tenets, which means every single person in a nation has a say in how the nation is managed and this is done through the election of the Parliamentarians to represent and protect the interest of the people because the Parliament is bestowed by the constitution of the land to create policies that will drive very meaningful nation building principles. However there is a contradiction in Africa as to how a Parliament or Parliamentarians are instituted, in many occasions these members of Parliaments are selected instead of elected and such imposition has stalled the political will to make laws that will benefit the country and the common man and this is the bane of all the setbacks in nation building because these selected Parliamentarians do the bid of their sponsors rather than that which serves the interest of the state and its citizens. Most of our institutions and the people in-charge of these institutions are a product of selection or imposition and therefore the framework that is designed to form these policies and laws for national interest is being compromised and not until the Parliament is a true representation of the people’s choices and its members play by the rules it will continue to be a vicious circle and a rat race.
In conclusion, in other to make progression, the Parliament must have an assigned interest in municipal affairs and must be strongly involved in decision-making processes at all levels of representation, law-making and oversight functions, for example: power to introduce genuine legislation, introduce legislation with fiscal costs, override executive vetoes, approve cabinet officials, approve treaties, approve government intent to take loans or grant loans, approve or disapprove overseas travel of the chief executive or other governments reps, compel the executive and others to provide information when required to for national interest, censure government ministers and other officials if necessary and approve/disapprove the budget.
An effective Parliament should not just communicate to the nation but also listen, many developed nation’s Parliamentarians will source policy capacities and technical know-how from Civil Society Organisations (CSO) to build up the capacity of the arm. Therefore the stability of governance in any government encourages the legislature at times to gain, and at other times to lose control comparatively to the executive. In a stable government, the arms act as checks on one another so that no single arm becomes excessively influential or too powerful to the others and this is what forms the characteristics of nation building through the Parliament but a very familiar situation in developing nations is that parliaments are typically much weaker than the executives arm and this is a worrisome trend.
Author: Dr. Patrick Ofolu