Fashola’s Take on National Assembly: Refuting Criticism, Building a Stronger Nigeria.
Former Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, delivered a speech on Friday during an annual lecture organized by the Honorary Members’ Forum (HMF) at the Nigeria Air Force Officers’ Mess (NAFOM), Ikeja, Lagos, defending why it’s inaccurate to label the National Assembly as a “rubber stamp.”
Fashola argued that the term is dismissive of the legislature’s critical role in the democratic process.
Fashola pointed out that political parties actively campaign to secure a majority in the National Assembly precisely because they want “to get their agenda through” as efficiently as possible. He noted that parties make promises during elections and that elected officials are expected to work towards fulfilling those promises.
“The rubber stamp description that is usually associated with the national assembly is meant to ridicule them,” Fashola stated. He challenged the audience to consider: “When contesting for national assembly or house of assembly, which party goes there to have a minority figure? Do we not go there to have the largest number of people? What is that for if not to drive our agenda?”
Fashola acknowledged that the majority’s purpose is to push for their agenda, but it must be done within legal boundaries and in accordance with Nigerian laws.
He cited the recent example of fuel subsidies, where most presidential candidates campaigned on removing them. If the president, who belongs to the majority party in the National Assembly, seeks legislative approval for such a move, Fashola argued, “it does not mean they are rubber-stamped. They are perpetuating and implementing the agenda that we voted for. That is why they are the majority.”
However, Fashola also cautioned against a legislature exceeding its bounds. “Legislatures are not elected to go and fight,” he said. “They are there for three things: to make laws, provide representation, and then provide oversight.” He highlighted a past incident where the National Assembly held the executive budget hostage for seven months, questioning the benefit of such a delay for the nation.
Fashola concluded by reiterating his opposition to the “rubber stamp” label. “I think it is an improper appellation if it is meant to ridicule them because the reason why parties fight for a majority is to get their agenda through.”