Over the years, despite its constitutional and statutory authority to screen and confirm the nominees of the President, the Senate has been derelict to its responsibility of properly vetting candidates. For example, prior to the 2015 general elections, despite the overwhelming public outrage over former Lagos State Senator, Musiliu Obanikoro’s role in the Ekiti rigging scandal, the 7th Senate, under the leadership of then-Senate President David Mark, approved his appointment as the Minister of State (II) for Foreign Affairs. Many considered this politically insensitive, morally contentious, and purely partisan development as an affront to the sensibilities of everyday Nigerians.
Since taking office, the President of the 8th Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has promised Nigerians that this time around, the ‘Red Chambers’ will strive to change the status quo and be alive to its constitutional responsibilities. Saraki, given his previous experience as the former Governor of Kwara State, and Chairman of the Nigerian Governor’s Forum, has since proven to be someone who is up to the task of steering the upper legislative chambers down previously unexplored legislative precedents – namely, the proper vetting of appointees.
As an independent branch of the legislature, and the institution tasked with the role of ensuring that capable candidates with unquestionable characters are chosen to guide Nigeria’s affairs, the Senate needs to be aware that screening exercises are not inconsequential activities. Additionally, although the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has a clear majority in the Senate, the Senators should understand that the selection of qualified hands to steer our ship of state is not a partisan or nepotistic affair. In view of this, the Senate must move to ensure that it tests the intellectual capacity and investigates the moral and ethical records of all nominees before approving their appointments.
Additionally, as a President that campaigned on a promise of ‘Change,’ President Muhammadu Buhari must ensure that in line with this promise, he nominates competent individuals who have demonstrated to have characters devoid of unethical blemishes.
As a case in point, the thorough screening of the Service Chiefs by the 8th Senate was indeed a welcome development, as it was not conducted as a formality as usual. The Senate, on the day of that screening, set aside all other business to rigorously vet the President’s appointees – despite their impressive and intimidating credentials. This is the sort of change that Nigerians want to see.
As we continue on in the early stages of this political dispensation, many Nigerians are hopeful that the new posture of intensive and extensive scrutiny by the Senate will continue to be comprehensive, exhaustive and unbiased. This will help Nigerians to know that the best hands are truly being nominated to run the nation, and it will help us all believe that we can rely on the decisions that they make – as these decisions affect our lives and livelihoods every day.