Executive – legislative relations: Now Talking

By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor

A two day conference for members of the National Assembly aimed at strengthening relations between the two arms of government opened Wednesday. It promises to douse bellicose relationship between the two arms

It is an important gesture from the two chambers of the National Assembly. Both chambers are closing their doors today in response to an invitation from the presidency to a two day conference in Abuja on strengthening the relationship between the legislative and executive branches of government.

Principal Officers of the two critical arms of government had since 1999 seen themselves as rivals. That is despite the fact that the two arms had since the advent of the fourth republic been led by members of the same party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

President Jonathan; Senate President, David Mark and Speaker, House of Reps, Hon Aminu Tambuwal

President Jonathan; Senate President, David Mark and Speaker, House of Reps, Hon Aminu Tambuwal

The rivalry between the executive and legislative arms of the Federal Government may have weathered several storms, including stormy tit-for-tats during the Olusegun Obasanjo era.

The advent of the Goodluck Jonathan administration with its proclamation of détente, it was assumed, would steer the relationship between the two arms off the path of acrimony as had been characteristic of the dealings between the National Assembly and the two previous administrations. Alas, it was not. Despite the appointment of Senator Joy Emodi, a likeable former senator as the president’s Special Adviser to the National Assembly, distrust has continued to pervade the relationship between the two arms.

Indeed, it took extraordinary efforts on the part of Senator Emodi and the two presiding officers of the National Assembly, for the 2013 budget of the Federal Government to be passed before the end of last year. Even when it was approved, signing the budget became another issue and it was not until the end of February that the president signed it.

So, given the historic frictions that have characterized the relationship between the two arms, stakeholders are thus welcoming a two day conference aimed at strengthening the relationship between the two arms. The conference which is an initiative of the office of the special adviser to the president on National Assembly matters is the first talk shop between the two arms since the advent of the fourth republic.

Other capacity building initiatives had largely been focused on building capacity of individual arms of government. Before inauguration members of the National Assembly are usually passed through induction programmes aimed at boosting their capacity in lawmaking. However, such induction programmes rarely prepare them for the cantankerous wheeling and dealing they are usually faced with in their practical deals with the executive arm of government.

It is thus welcoming that the conference whcih opened yesterday with the theme, ’Strengthening Executive-Legislature Collaboration in Governance” has as participants, some international figures among whom is Ms Baleka Mbete, the chairman of South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, ANC. Mbete’s has remarkably had experience in both arms of government of South Africa first as speaker of parliament and deputy president of the country.

Also expected to speak is former US Senator Norman Coleman who like Mbete had experience on the executive arm as Mayor of Saint Paul, Minnesota before proceeding to the US senate.

Coleman it would be recalled lost reelection in 2009 by 312 votes out of about 3 million votes.

The conference is coming against the background of sentiments that Speaker Aminu Tambuwal and the House of Representatives as a bastion of opposition to the administration.

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