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Lawan says he is not Buhari’s rubber stamp – but Nigerians are right to be concerned

Buhari forwards ministerial list to Senate for approval

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Lawan says he is not Buhari’s rubber stamp – but Nigerians are right to be concerned

Senate President Ahmad Lawan has debunked growing claims that he is going to oversee a rubber-stamp senate.

In a statement released by his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mohammed Isa, following a meeting with a group, Women Parliamentarians, led by Sen. Joy Emordi in Abuja, Lawan said:

  • “During my campaign, I was called a potential rubber stamp Senate President to the executive; maybe because I am close to the President, or because I believe in his cause. There is no time that I will ever be a rubber stamp.”

But Nigerians are right to be concerned: The national assembly has a constitutional responsibility to provide oversight on the executive. While mutual respect and patriotism is desirable from the two arms, subservience by the national assembly could be detrimental to development.

  • The buildup to Lawan’s emergence and subsequent actions justifiable raise red flags.
  • Lawan (as well as House Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila) were the preferred candidates of the ruling APC hierarchy including President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 and in 2019. While the first attempt was unsuccessful, they got their way this time.
  • Part of the reasons why the rubber stamp narrative gained prominence is because President Buhari (unlike in 2015) took a more active interest in ensuring Lawan’s win, publicly aligning with Lawan. In 2015, the president made a public show of projecting non-interference in national assembly matters.
  • It was Buhari’s pressure and negotiations with former Gombe governor, Danjuma Goje, that paved the way for Lawan’s emergence. Shortly after Goje dropped out of the race for the senate presidency, the EFCC withdrew from a long-standing corruption case against him.
  • After their respective victories, Lawan and Gbajabiamila went straight to visit the President. Here is how Lawan explained the visit back then:
  • “We’ve come to thank Mr. President for the fatherly role he played in the contest we just had. This is the way to show respect for our leaders and our elders. The visit is to assure him that we will unite ourselves in the national assembly…”

Bottomline: The APC has earned a larger majority this time than it did in 2019, but a situation where the national assembly places its partisan affiliations above diligence in its constitutional responsibilities may threaten growth in the democratic space.

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