There is no doubt that the survival of any democratic process and practice is anchored on the cardinal principle of the separation of powers among the three arms of government the executive, legislature, and judiciary.
The ability of the three arms of government in its true operation is to serve as check and balance, aimed at achieving good governance, purposeful leadership, and accountability to the people cannot be over-emphasized.
More often than not, one arm of the governance tripods, the legislative arm, is seen as the bastion and light of our democracy but sadly has come under criticism in recent times.
The criticism against the legislature being perceived as an appendage to the executives gave rise to the clamour for its autonomy. The seeming over-bearing attitude of the executive has remained a clog in the smooth delivery of people’s oriented legislations that will in effect engender good governance.
In the search of championing and promoting productive and gainful legislative practices, Nigeria Speakers of state assembly under the aegis of the Conference of Speaker (CoS) had embarked on what can best be described as a study visit of the legislative arm of government in faraway Canada, this is to sharpen and develop their legislative experiences and skill.
The idea for the Nigerian lawmakers at the state level was to interface with their Western counterparts to share ideas couldn’t have come at a better time than now when the clamour for good governance has become amplified more than ever before even as the 2023 general elections draw nearer.
The initiative which was conceived under the leadership of the conference of speakers across Nigeria converged in Canada for five days of inter-parliamentary engagements with their colleagues in Ottawa and Toronto.
The meeting afforded the visiting Nigerian lawmakers the opportunity to interphase with former and serving members of Parliament in Ottawa and Toronto where ideas bothering on inter-parliamentary practices were shared and learnt.
Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, who literally facilitated the discussion with the visiting lawmakers, had in a welcome letter sent to the delegation expressed Canada’s commitment and readiness to continue to foster and deepen diplomatic and democratic ties between the two nations.
Shielding lights on the visit and choice of Canada, the chairman of the group and speaker of the Bauchi State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Suleiman Abubakar said, “Our choice of Canada is strategic given our shared history of being commonwealth nations and our democratic experiences. Canada is no doubt one of the most developed countries in the world worthy of learning from.
“Canada ranks among the highest in the international measurement of government transparency, civil liberty, equality of life, economic freedom, education, and environment sustainability.
“In view of this, our mission to Canada is simple and clear. We are set out for robust engagement with our host with a view to learning practices and ideals that will reposition our country on the right trajectory for greatness through subnational legislative activities.”
The guided tour was facilitated by the executive director, OZ Consulting Firm, and former parliamentarian Hon Jim Karygiannis, of GTA Strategies, who took Nigerian lawmakers to the Institute of Governance, University of Ottawa, House of Commons, and the parliament where they observed legislative processes and also a visit to the Niagara falls, at the borders between the United States and Canada.
At the end of the conference, some of the lawmakers who spoke with LEADERSHIP described the visit as impactful and engaging, the Speaker of Bayelsa state House of Assembly, Rt Hon Abraham Ingobere, noted that the lawmakers will return better equipped with the new experience and lessons learnt.
In his words, “ We are indeed very grateful to the leadership of the conference of speakers for the opportunity to liaise with parliamentarians in Canada for engaging with them in processes of governance comparable with what is obtainable in Nigeria, and how we can improve on our capacity in law-making.
“I believe that the experiences gathered here have given us more knowledge about lawmaking and if practiced back home will be beneficial for our democratic development.
“We are particularly grateful for the various states’ government for making logistics available for the various states in attendance and to the government of Canada for giving us that opportunity”
While, Anambra state speaker, Rt Hon Uche Okafor, noted that the purpose of the study was to improve efficiency among lawmakers and noted that the critical role of legislators in democratic journey cannot be over-emphasized.
“We engaged with the institute of governance and we discussed electioneering and judicial reform. The Canadian system had similarities with that of Nigeria because we run three tiers of government and the good thing is that it is all about efficiency and that is one thing we will take back to Nigeria.
“Today, we are talking about corruption in Nigeria and for me, it is only the legislators who are the eyes of the people and with the sole right to get things right for our people because if they do, the executive will get it right as well. So, the onus and change we anticipate in Nigeria start from us because we are the only people that can truly bring about the reforms as empowered by the constitution”.
Okafor, however, lamented the legislature is still tied to the apron of the executive and called for its total independence adding that “ most of the things we do are from the advice of the governor because some legislators want to come back for second and third terms as the case may be and dance to the tune of the executives”.
While his Oyo state counterpart, Rt Hon Adebo OgunDoyin stated that the inter-parliamentary engagement provided them the opportunity to harness the outcome to be able to deliver democratic dividend.
“The highlights for me have been the difference and also the similarity in our legislative Processes both at the federal and state level. I’m very excited about how the Canadian government has been able to harness the parliamentary system to deliver a good dividend of democracy in this part of the world. I wish and I hope that we do our best to take some of these lessons home”
Also, the Edo state speaker, Rt Hon Markus Onobun in his remarks stated” The engagement has been very robust considering the impact of Parliamentary practice both in Canada and Nigeria. I understand now that we both operate the bi-camera kind of legislature and for me, there is a lot of take home so ours is to go back because we have the laws, the institutions are there but we will go and advocate for the willpower to strengthen and carry out their responsibility so that Nigeria can be a better place.
“Another thing I have been able to take away is that Canada and other countries of the world believe so much in Nigeria and it appears we don’t believe in ourselves. We must take the message of hope back home that the people out there believe in our strength, population, and youth power. It is just for us to look into the untapped resources and bring Nigeria back to where it ought to be”