By Edward Usoro
On its inauguration, Nigeria’s 10th Senate made a solemn but profound declaration: it’s activities shall lift the masses from the dust! Nigerians had heard similar pledges before. So, following years of unfulfilled promises and dashed hopes, few took notice. It was just another political talk, some sneered.
But some keen observers and political pundits are often alert to such crucial pledges. They quickly recorded it for future checks as Senate President Godswill Akpabio’s undertaking rang clear.
“To the Nigerian people, I say this: your dreams, your aspirations, and your well-being will be at the heart of everything we will do in this Senate,” he said.
True, few months into the legislative calendar, the dreams and aspirations of Nigerians may yet have been met. But, it’s easy to note the focused attention to the people’s well-being by the Akpabio-led Senate, already.
Before now, the national legislature had often been accused of being selfish and merely focusing on playing politics. However, the recent people-focused orientation of national lawmakers signals a positive behavioral shift by the 10th Senate. This has taken long in coming!
Akpabio himself had hinted on the need for such needful social development, when he addressed participants at the National Policy Dialogue, on August 15,2023. His call was for a behavioral change among politicians, as a perfect solution to tackling the protracted issue of corruption.
For long, corruption has been blamed as the bane of Nigeria’s economic, political and social growth. The implication, therefore, is that a conscious shift from it can influence the fortunes of Nigerians, positively! If, for instance, the penchant for profligacy, selfishness, nepotism, overbudgeting, wastages, diversion of funds and outright pilfering of government funds are reduced, the derivatives can be targetted at projects and programmes directly beneficial to the masses.
The recent removal of the fuel subsidy, which had long drained the nation’s resources into private pockets, is a case in point. Although its sudden implementation has brought unforeseen hardship, the plans for the effective utilisation of the proceeds, if adhered to, herald new hopes.
Already, the resolve for positive change by the 10th National Assembly, particularly the Senate, is finding expression in people-focused motions and other legislative enterprises. As noted by one observer, some of the key initiatives from the national lawmakers are aimed at addressing the people’s welfare as well as “pressing economic challenges in the country”.
For instance, the Senate recently moved to fast track legislations towards the implementation of the new minimum wage, which President Tinubu recently announced. The aim, without doubt, is to improve the living standard of workers and cushion the rising level of poverty in the land.
A few weeks back, the Senate had given a speedy nod to the president’s request for about $800 million loan facility, meant to check the excruciating effect of the fuel subsidy removal. This Senate, in the words of Akpabio, is “the last hope of the common man”!
It’s gratifying that the Senate’s welfarist gesture isn’t limited to Nigerians within the country. The Red Chamber, very commendably, extends such move to those in the diaspora, too. Aside many other unreported efforts, Akpabio’s Senate recently intervened in the unfortunate issue of some Nigerians, who were either killed, bodily harmed, incarcerated or displaced in far away Ethiopia.
Frowning at the alleged inhuman treatment of Nigerians and the implied disrespect for Nigeria’s global stature by Ethiopia, the 10th Senate initiated a thorough investigation into the matter. That‘s a Senate actively alive to the nation’s expectations!
While always honest in admitting the deplorable state of the economy, the current senate is often quick to assure the masses of a better tomorrow. In the words of Akpabio, “…the Executive Arm is steering our country through turbulent waters”, assuring that: “The mark of a great sailor is not how he fares in calm waters; it is in how he powers through the rough seas.”
So far, such assurances of a positive behavioral change and people-oriented Senate seem to be building new confidence for President Bola Tinubu’s government. In consequence, fresh hopes are brewing while old ones are gradually renewing.
*Usoro, a public affairs commentator, writes from Lagos.