REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE CLOSING OF THE FIRST JOINT EXECUTIVE AND LEGISLATIVE LEADERSHIP RETREAT, ON THE 6TH OF OCTOBER, 2020
I thank you very much, distinguished senators and honorable members of the National Assembly, members of the Federal Executive Council and heads of agencies and parastatals for the time you have spent on these very important conversations at this joint executive and legislative leadership retreat.
The fact that we have all been here for two working days demonstrates our common commitment to collaboration. Frankly, we have no choice if we are not to fail the Nigerian people who have given us this incredible opportunity amongst several millions of our compatriots to serve at this high leadership levels we occupy today.
As Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha said earlier, this is all about Nigeria and Nigerians. This is the context for our operations. Let me say that every generation of leadership must understand the context. Law itself must be interpreted and implemented in context. What is the reality of the context that we operate in today? We all know, our nation has millions of extremely poor people, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened unemployment and poverty. We have huge deficits in infrastructure, many children are out of school. If that is our context, we will be callous and irresponsible if we don’t come together, work together to sort out these grave problems that threaten our people every day.
The dogmatic emphasis on procedural niceties is a luxury we cannot afford. In any event, there is no pure practice of the doctrine of separation of powers. The Anglo-American traditions that we hold on to in support of the separation of powers are not pure. For example, the US Vice President serves as the President of the Senate and presides over the Senate’s daily proceedings. In the absence of the vice president, the Senate’s president pro tempore (and others designated by him) presides. Even in the US which is the center of the great tradition of the separation of powers, they are realistic enough to understand that there must be a bridge.
In the UK, the convention is that every Minister must be a member of the House of Commons. If you don’t win elections in the House of Commons, they find a way to put you in the House of Lord where there are no elections, so you can be appointed in order to be a minister.
So, if that were in Nigeria, all the Ministers would be either Senators or members of the House of Representatives. There would be more competition because it would mean if you want to appoint a person as a minister, you’d put him up for elections first.
So, these countries we look up to recognize that there is no strict separation of powers and if it is too strictly enforced, we will impede development, impede governance and shortchange the people.
So, my brothers and sisters, it is time to focus on what we have been elected or appointed to do. This is about the welfare of our people. The law and practice as between parliament and executive is a means to an end not an end to itself. The means must not be allowed to jeopardize the end.
Our people just want food on their table, shelter over their heads, clothing on their bodies, healthcare, education for their children and themselves. The good legislator or good minister is not the one who is waving the law, and procedure, and doctrines, it is the one who says the spirit of our Constitution is that we secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity.
We mustn’t waste too much time on processes and procedures, we must do all that is in our power to serve the needs of our people, even if it means walking the fine lines between the law and reality, as Hon. Muhammad Wudil put it.
Excellencies, Distinguished Senators and Hon. Members, the real usefulness of this dialogue will depend largely on how we implement the suggestions that have been made. Mr. President, in his speech already said and suggested that we constitute technical working committees and that also emerges in the wrap up which was ably done by the Minister of the FCT.
Mr. President has already committed to the implementation and I trust that the leadership of the National Assembly will do the same.
I must commend the planning committee, the SGF, Senator Babajide Omoworare and Hon. Umar El- Yakub, Senior Special Assistants to the President on National Assembly matters – Senate and the House of Representatives respectively and all their collaborators in the National Assembly.
It is now my pleasure and privilege to declare this first Joint Executive-Legislative Leadership Retreat adjourned sine die.
Thank you very much.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity
Office of the Vice President