Addressing a gathering of elected lawmakers of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) stock at this time is an opportunity for deep reflection and self-assessment.
Last year by now, PDP was as strong as any ruling party could be. Some of you that were members of the National Assembly at the time represented the ruling party, as such, you were in control of the chambers both in leadership and numerical strength.
Now, all this is gone with the outcome of the last elections. You will be going back to the Senate as the minority. There is some sense of personal loss, but there are great opportunities for all and democratic practice in Nigeria.
With the loss of the federal government, you, as distinguished members of the National Assembly, are now the face of the PDP at the centre. Your carriage, your patriotism and honest contributions as members of the National Assembly will go a long way in reinventing our party and preparing it for a successful come back in subsequent elections.
As you are aware, the major thrust of legislative assignment is the dual roles of law making and oversight function. In fact, if legislators will strictly concentrate on these two roles, it is safe to assume that they are in charge of the government because they appropriate and track the appropriations to ensure implementation.
No one can do this better than lawmakers from the opposition that you are now. But to keep government on its toes, ensure fiscal discipline, minimise corruption in the system and ensure strict compliance to appropriation and due process laws, the guard – here, you the legislators, have to go to equity with clean hands. You must demonstrate personal will and commitment to be above board if you really want to checkmate others.
My first charge of you, therefore, is to urge you to be champions of probity in the workings of the National Assembly in itself, as well as in the Executive-Legislature relation.
If Nigerians do not know how monies earmarked for the National Assembly are spent or how much money a legislator earns, they will not support you casting any stone elsewhere. The first step therefore is to open up the National Assembly – ensure transparency and respect for the taxpayer.
Public office is what it is – Public. Also, at this critical time of austerity in national earning, be the champions of cut in recurrent cost by slashing your own budgets. I am happy some of you, such as my friend Ben Bruce, have already taken up this line.
You need this because it is this self-cleansing that will now give you the guts and the moral pedestal to face your job of legislation and oversight, headlong. And for you to excel in this you have to put in extra effort, more than your colleagues from the ruling party.
As I said earlier, PDP would depend a lot on your actions for its rebirth. We would therefore expect robust, enriching, in-depth and patriotic contributions from you that will define the PDP as a truly nationalistic party that it is.
Lastly, I would say, responsible opposition is not after planting booby traps and bottlenecks for the ruling party. It is, however, responsible to Nigerians in the sense of putting the government to task and ensure Nigerians get the best they deserve.
You should not be hostile but you should not be gagged to silence. This balance is good for deepening democratic culture. It is good for our country.
I wish you all a successful tenure.
Remark by Mallam Nuhu Ribadu at a retreat for PDP National Assembly members held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on Monday June 1, 2015.
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