By Mon-Charles Egbo
For keen observers, Ahmad Lawan’s dispositions on critical issues of governance always bring to the fore a seeming demerit associated with democracy as a form of government. By the doctrine of separation of powers, the legislature makes laws for order and good governance, the judiciary interprets and enforces the laws while the executive formulates and implements polices flowing from those laws. Therefore, the ultimate delivery of governance tangibles lies exclusively with the executive, irrespective of outputs from the other arms. For instance, there are cases where the legislature would seek to fully assume its responsibility of connecting the people to governance, but is routinely limited relative to constitutional provisions. This innocent defect has become the bane of rapid development in democracy.
Objectively, Lawan embodies a contemporary realization that the welfare and security of citizens which constitute the primary purpose of governments are practically beyond economic and infrastructural developments. He elevates whatever that offers social fulfilment or can liberate people from limited choices, as in deed deserving of governments’ attention. It is his leadership ideology that education, wealth and job creations as well as functional health system should be the paramount ambition of governments, especially in the developing countries such as Nigeria.
Similarly and within the context of UNDP’s description of human development as “expanding the richness of human life, rather than simply the richness of the economy in which human beings live”; Lawan’s passion for human development is utterly profound. By words and actions, he recognizes it as a sure path to sustainable national development. But unfortunately, there is a certain limit he is constitutionally-empowered to attain, though he is uncompromising and speaks up whenever it matters.
Acknowledging the dire consequences of unemployment especially among the youth populace, as well as possible repetition of the recent #ENDSARS protest, with attendant devastating outcome, Lawan offered some patriotic warnings. According to him, “recently we had some of our youths protesting. Some of them very genuinely. They were seeking the attention of leaders and they got the attention of leaders. So our budget, especially for 2021, should be mindful of what we do to provide employment opportunities for these youths. They demonstrated. They protested because they could do so. There are so many other people who may not be youthful but are also in the same need and they didn’t protest. Let’s meet them where they are. We don’t have to wait until they also try to grumble or protest. We should be proactive. We should reach them and they are in the rural areas. Most of them. So we should meet them there. Give them what we can and what they need to some extent, within the purview of our resources and give them there, to make them live a productive life and that is the only way we can make a difference in the lives of the people”. This is just one among the litany of his patriotic outcries!
Elsewhere and reechoing Nelson Mandela’s postulation that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” Lawan had again warned that “today, the education sector suffers a lot. I keep on saying the 11 or 10 million children out of school; we owe them that responsibility to do something about them. That is taking us back to the implementation of the Universal Basic Education Act. How do we ensure that we reduce and eventually eliminate the number of out-of-school children in our streets? But even if we needed that kind of programme, we have to do something and the government has to take responsibility, both at the state and federal levels. At the tertiary level, we produce graduates who have nothing to add to the development of the country. We must face the reality of making our economy work for the people. We need our graduates, both in the universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education to actually be graduates that have some functionality. Either they can engage themselves in some productive activities or when they are employed, they should be able to perform if we want our economy to function. Today’s economy is about what capacity your citizens have. Many countries don’t have more resources than the kind of resources we have but they have been able to develop the capacities of their people. India and China have done that.”
Then at the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic even when not yet reported in Nigeria, Lawan was overtly proactive. He variously interfaced with critical stakeholders to ascertain the level of preparedness to combat the virus in the event of possible outbreak. Yet again, he warned that “while the Federal Ministry of Health and associated agencies may be doing their best, I think this best is not good enough and we should not take anything for granted. I imagine that we should have a standard set by the ministry or National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) rather than allow states do what they want to do on their own. Personally, I feel that we; the Federal Government, should provide such centers. If states want to have as they want to do now, they can have through other means, but we should have standard centres by the Federal Government at least one in each of the six geo political zone. For now, only the one in Lagos that is standard and functional. We need to step up because we are in a period of emergency. Even if it didn’t happen now we should do whatever it takes to provide those centers and make them functional so that we make use of them if there is a need, and even when there is no need to use them now, the expenditure will not be in vain”.
During his assessment visit to the Abuja isolation centre, Lawan equally warned that, “we need to do something dramatic. Like what we have in Gwagwalada, Abuja now is temporary and my understanding of temporary is, we are not praying for it, if something happens in Abuja, Kogi or Nasarawa states, what do we do since we don’t have isolation center in Abuja. As members of the National Assembly representing Nigerians it is only appropriate that we engage with you and know the level at which our country is ready to prevent the disease from harming any Nigerian or indeed anyone within the confines of our boundaries. We are in an emergency even if we don’t have people who are affected, we shouldn’t just rest on our oars. We have to do everything and anything possible to fix that temporary isolation centre to be prepared and ready to receive any one who falls sick in this respect. We are indeed sad that the N620 million that was supposed to be released to the NCDC for fixing of everything here, not a kobo has been released. There’s no way that Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa, with a population of 200 million, and yet the Federal Capital and six surrounding states of the North-central, you don’t have one room that you can call an isolation centre, where anyone who unfortunately falls into this crisis will be taken to. This is not acceptable.
Let’s spend money on our people, we waste money on some things that are less important. This is about the health and lives of the people of this country, and therefore, no investment is too much.”
Though the list is as all-encompassing as it is inexhaustible, this particular timely intervention heralded several others that indeed substantially-minimized the impacts and leading to the eventual decimation of the pandemic.
So empirically, Ahmad Lawan is very outstanding in his advocacies for deliberate opportunities towards effective realization of individual or social potentials of the people, as a panacea for sustainable national development. He is passionate about things that have direct bearings on the lives and livelihood of the people. He believes that educated, healthy and empowered people translates to national development. But because his powers as a legislator, even as senate president, are limited by the constitution; these expressed commitments would certainly take long to become relatively-tangible. Nonetheless in the interim, he surely deserves the commendation of all and cooperation of the executive arm of government, especially.