Home Feature The Legislature as an instrument of social change

The Legislature as an instrument of social change

Being the text of a lecture delivered by the Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, and governorship candidate of pdp, his excellency, RT. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, con, ksc at the Champion Better Society Lecture Series held at Owerri, Imo State on Friday, December 12, 2014

Preamble:

I am delighted to be invited to be the keynote speaker for the 2014 Champion Better Society Lecture. It is instructive to note that the Lecture series which made its debut over a decade ago is in its ninth edition this year.
Over these years, it has featured very high profile intellectuals and celebrated scholars and technocrats as speakers. I therefore consider it a great privilege and honour to have been chosen by the Board of Editors of the Champion newspapers to present this year`s lecture.
Let me, at this juncture; express my appreciation to the entire Management and staff of the Champion Newspapers for finding me worthy for this evidently challenging assignment.
I hope I will justify the confidence you have reposed in me.
May I crave the indulgence of the Chairman to pay tribute to a great democrat, statesman, visionary,  and our revered leader, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, CFR, AhaejiagambaNdigbo, whose noble vision inspired the establishment of the Champion Newspapers about three decades ago to propagate the values of a better society.
We are indeed very grateful to this iconic political and business leader for the setting up of the newspaper conglomerate which has continued to serve as a platform for the advancement and deepening of democratic values in our society.
We must also salute Ahaejiagamba for the employment opportunities which the Champion Newspapers have provided for many Nigerians irrespective of tribe, religion or geography.
When the true history of our country is written, Chief Iwuanyanwu must be boldly acknowledged as one of the greatest leaders of his generation who used his enormous talents and God-given resources to champion the cause of an egalitarian and equitable society.
Before I proceed further, let me also thank all our leaders, my colleagues from the National Assembly, political stakeholders in Imo State and members of the audience for finding time to be with us at this historic event.
Introduction:
The theme for this year`s lecture as proposed by Board of Directors of Champion Newspapers is: “Good Governance and Sustainable Democracy”. Under this broad theme, I have chosen to speak on the topic: “Legislature as an Instrument of Social Change”.
This is quite understandable, given my direct involvement with the legislature as a Member of the House of Representatives since 2003 when I was first elected to represent AbohMbaise/NgorOkpala Federal Constituency.
In 2007, without being immodest, I was re-elected based on our outstanding representation and performance as evidenced in the surfeit of democratic dividends which we attracted to all nooks and crannies of the Federal Constituency and beyond.
In an unprecedented gesture, the people of AbohMbaise and NgorOkpala returned me again in 2011 to continue the good works. It was a wise decision for which I remain eternally grateful.
Within this period, I have had the privilege of serving in very critical positions; namely Chairman, House Committee on Marine Transport; Chairman, House Committee on Cooperation and Integration in Africa; Chief Whip, House of Representatives; Chairman, House Ad-hoc Committee on Constitution Review; Chairman, House Ad-hoc Committee on Legislative Agenda and of course, Deputy Speaker, just to mention but a few.
These legislative positions, undoubtedly, have adequately prepared me for the leadership challenges of the moment and future. I wish to thank the Almighty God for His abiding grace and benevolence. I also wish to thank the people of Imo State for the confidence and trust which they have continued to repose in me.
Conceptual Clarifications:
The legislature which is the law-making arm of the government is the only institution through which the people participate in the affairs of their government.
In the topic we have chosen, the concepts “legislature” and “social change” stand out prominently and therefore deserve some clarifications in other to ensure a better appreciation of the subject under discourse.
Legislature:
The legislature is an assemblage of the representatives of the people elected under a legal framework to make laws for the good health of the society. It is also defined as “the institutional body  responsible for making laws for a nation and one through which the collective will of the people or part of it is articulated, expressed and implemented.”
The legislature as the epicenter of all economic and comprehensive growth of a nation also scrutinizes the policies of the Executive.
In the light of the foregoing, we cannot really talk about democracy in any meaningful form or manner without the legislature. Indeed, the legislature is at the very heart of any democratic arrangement or what is often referred to as “representative governance”.
The significance of the legislature as one of the strong pillars of democratic governance (the others being the Executive and Judiciary), can therefore, be discerned from Abraham Lincoln’s classical definition of democracy as “government of the people, by the people and for the people”.
Central to this definition is the existence of the representatives of the people due to the technical impossibility of all the people ruling and carrying on the business of government, at the same time, as was the original thinking in the famous Greek City States of old.
Role of the Legislature:
Within the context of this paper, it is considered apposite to define what constitutes the Role of the legislature.
The National Assembly which in our case consists of the Senate and House of Representatives is vested with the legislative powers of the Federation.
Section 4(1) under Part II of the Constitution states inter alia: “The Legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be vested in a National Assembly for the Federation which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives”.
It goes further in Section 4(2) to state as follows: “The National Assembly shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the federation with respect to any matter included in the Exclusive Legislative List”.
For the purpose of explanation, the Exclusive Legislative List which is contained in Part I of the Second Schedule to the Constitution deals with specific items which only the National Assembly has the sole prerogative to legislate upon, to the exclusion of the States and Local Governments. For example, the items which are 68 in number include Defence, Aviation, Currency, Customs and Excise Duties, Citizenship, Drugs and Poisons, Copyright, Insurance, External Affairs and Meteorology amongst others.
On the other hand, there is the Concurrent Legislative List which is provided for under Part II of the Second Schedule to the Constitution. It includes 30 items. It is called Concurrent List because the Constitution allows both the National Assembly and the State Houses of Assembly to legislate on the items so specified.
In other words, the Constitution neither precludes the National Assembly from legislating on the items nor grants exclusive jurisdiction to State Legislatures over the same items.
The 30 items include the following amongst others: public funds at State and Local government levels, antiquities and monuments, collection of taxes, stamp duties, voter registration in the local government councils, agriculture, education, cadastral and topographical surveys etc.
There is also the Residual List. This List is not explicitly provided for in the Constitution. It is implied from S.4 (7). This provision is to the effect that matters not included in the exclusive list or concurrent list is reserved for the states.
A comparative study of the National and State Legislatures in the discharge of the enormous powers bestowed upon them by the Constitution since the inception of the current democratic dispensation clearly shows that whereas the National Assembly has been very assertive and proactive, most State Legislatures, regrettably have allowed themselves to be completely emasculated by the State governors who, in several instances, have been very over-bearing in the way they conduct the affairs of their various States.
Let me return to the basic roles of the legislature under the Constitution. In simple terms, the legislature performs three basic Roles namely: lawmaking, representation and oversight.
“It has been observed that the legislative functions under the 1999 Constitution include the following among others:
(a) law making and policy formulation functions;
(b) oversight functions;
(c) investigative functions;
(d) the role of the watchdog of public funds, derived from the legislatures powers and duties with regard to public finance;
(e) its representative or constituency responsibilities role.”
So, in the House of Representatives, we make laws, we carry out representative functions on behalf of the people who in our case, are demarcated in 360 Federal Constituencies, and we oversight the executive arm of government which include the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), to ensure that government is held accountable to the people from where it derives its sovereignty.
Social Change:
According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, social change refers to an alteration in the social order of a society. Social change may include changes in nature, social institutions, social behaviours or social relations.
Social change may refer to the notion of social progress or socio-cultural evolution, the philosophical idea that society moves forward by dialectical or evolutionary means.
It may refer to a paradigmatic change in the socio-economic structure, for instance a shift away from feudalism and towards capitalism. Accordingly, it may also refer to social revolution, such as the socialist revolution and Marxism, or to other socialist movements, such as Women`s suffrage and Civil rights movement.
Social change may be driven by cultural, religious, economic, scientific or technological forces; and I should add legislative forces.

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