Federal lawmakers (senators and house members) demonstrated a beautiful streak of bipartisanship and patriotism when they received President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2019 budget presentation recently. In doing so, they defied a call by Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) for a boycott of the ceremony of the presentation of the N8.7 trillion federal budget. One of the reasons they gave was Buhari’s veto of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
However, senators and House members put aside party loyalty to take the budget from the President. They rejected CUPP’s call as not only “uncalled for and unnecessary” but “an invitation to chaos”. Therefore, it was “undignifying”. Speaking Sunday on the matter, Senator Sam Anyanwu, Chairman, Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public petitions, feared a boycott might be “misconstrued as insensitivity to the plight of Nigerians” on the part of the lawmakers. His colleague Senator Forster Ogidan of opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the boycott call should not have been made in the first place as it was “unnecessary”. His position was that the legislators should not be distracted from their work.
On his part, Muhammad Aliyu, an All Progressives Congress (APC) senator and former majority Leader, posited that “A budget presentation is a national assignment, not an invitation to an APC rally or President Buhari’s personal function”. He said “for anybody to ask the opposition lawmakers to boycott it is unfortunate and political questioning taken too far”. As for House members, they were just as critical of the CUPP’s boycott call. Hon. Lawan Abubakar of the APC said “as federal lawmakers, it was important for them to be present during the budget presentation regardless of their impressions of the Buhari administration’s performance.
A day before yesterday’s budget presentation, the lawmakers had sat in plenary Tuesday, defying protesting supporting staff of the National Assembly. Supposedly, they were complaining non-payment of salary and use of consultants by the management. But in truth, they called the strike to prevent the lawmakers from sitting yesterday to take the President’s presentation of the 2019 appropriation bill. The House’s plenary was presided over by Deputy Speaker Yussuf Lasun while that of the Senate was led by the Senate president himself, Dr. Bukola Saraki. Before rising, both chambers resolved that lawmakers be present yesterday for the presentation of the budget during a joint session. Bukola, who yesterday turned 56, decided not to fly to Ilorin, the Kwara state capital, where he traditionally celebrates the birthday anniversary, but to remain in Abuja for the budget presentation. This, in spite of his running battles with the Buhari government.
This is the second time the lawmakers have placed national interest above partisanship. We are seeing bipartisanship take root. This is good for our democracy because it shows that a truly democratic culture is emerging. With two months to the next elections and so much at stake, opposition lawmakers on the hustlngs could very well have boycotted the ceremony but they chose to honour the event in the national interest. We celebrate them and our democracy.