Lawmakers must be courageous to protect democracy – Dr. Saraki

Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki

Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki

President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has urged lawmakers on the continent to be courageous and speak to power in order to deliver the essence of democracy.

In his view, the strength of democracy starts with Parliament and Africa must ensure that the lawmaking arm of government was made independent to stand to the power of the executive.

Delivering the keynote address at a symposium in Accra, on Monday, Dr. Saraki said “Parliaments are a stabilising force in democracy.”

“With regards to our oversight responsibility, we must be courageous and speak to power as difficult as it is because that is our responsibility,” he said, adding that, to fight corruption Parliaments must make space for stakeholder participation for this is the model of modern democracy.

The symposium, on the theme “25 years of Parliamentary Democracy in Ghana – Challenges and Prospects” brought together the leadership of the Nigerian senate and that of Ghana’s Parliament, civil society organisations, traditional leaders, heads of security agencies and students.

Democracy, he said, is not a destination but a journey and cannot be taken for granted. “Unless we are eternally vigilant and alive to our responsibilities to provide our people with effective and responsive governance, we guarantee that we listen to them at all times and ensure that their needs are met, we risk derailing our hard earned democracy on the continent. We must not be complacent.”

He said leaving constituents out on the roles and responsibilities of lawmakers, put the legislators in a position where demands, which are to be provided by the executive arm of the government are demanded from MPs, though recognising that MPs bring that upon themselves by the promises they make during electioneering campaigns.

For democracy to thrive on the continent which ensures free movement, the Nigerian Senate President said right security policies were needed to guarantee the safety of citizens in the face of the threat posed by the emergence of militant groups.

Giving statistics to back his claim, Dr. Saraki said trade opportunities abound in Africa but the continent does less than 11 per cent among itself compared to the over 80 per cent the continent transacts with the rest of the world.

He lamented that “Africa is the richest continent yet has the poorest people” and called for collaboration between ECOWAS and other regional blocks to cross pollinate ideas to get our people out of poverty.”

Dr  Saraki  underscored the need to build on the infrastructure in the areas of trade, transportation, education, among other areas to bring the needed development to the citizenry.

“My vision for Africa is one that is very optimistic. I am very open about the continent and there is more to build. Democracy is not only about elections, it is about putting knowledge at the disposal of our people”, he said to loud applause.

The Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, on his part traced Ghana’s democratic journey and paid a glowing tribute to all who ensured the fourth republic came into being.

The Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, bemoaned the “high attrition rate” in Parliament and wants political parties to give protection to long serving MPs for the betterment of Parliament.

Haruna Iddrisu, the Minority Leader, however, said the powers given the President under the 1992 Constitution are “excessive” and wants something done about it.




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