Engineer Patrick Ekpotu, a former Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom State, has berated the leadership of the National Assembly, especially the Senate, for the continued shutdown of the nation's legislative arm over the lingering face-off with the presidency/All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership.

In a statement issued in Abuja on Thursday, Ekpotu, who was also a member of the National Assembly Service Commission during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, said the leadership of the Senate, "by this unfortunate development, is not only taking Nigerians who they represent for granted, but also unwittingly working against the same democracy they purportedly claim they are protecting, by exploiting the weaknesses in our democratic institutions just for personal political gains".

"While rational disagreement could be seen as healthy in politics, differing political and ideological postures between the National Assembly leadership and the presidency is absolutely unhealthy. And I certainly fault the National Assembly leadership and hold them responsible for whatever tension this has generated in the country," he said.

"The senate leadership is exploiting the situation for its political end. And it is not likely that the PDP government would have tolerated it this long.

"There is a sense in which truth is the end of freedom, and freedom must get defined, and confined to truth. The unnecessary disagreements that make working harmony impossible must be confined to truth.

"We are talking about an APC government with a surreptitious PDP National Assembly leadership first clothed in APC attire, before unveiling as full PDP who has established a minority rule in NASS under a majority rule governance system. It throws to the dogs, the democratic syndrome of number and voice in the Senate and by the awkward and crude arrangement, introduces parallel and crippling ideologies to distort the dictate and character of a majority rule democracy."

Ekpotu argued that "ordinarily, it is not even smart to hold out oneself as being capable of exploiting institutional weaknesses to hold onto office against all known norms, but this means nothing to them except electoral victory by any means, which should be discouraged".

"No sane society accepts one who lays claims to being a democrat without readiness to uphold democratic tenet," he continued.

"Since not only politics but also the nation’s future political development is at risk, in our age of conformity, he must be prevailed upon to quit the leadership and not wait to force him out. The important national democratic institution of the National Assembly should not be reduced to a mere committee that protects the interest of a few rather than a constitutionally backed institution that ought to put the interest of Nigeria above any other considerations."

Ekpotu went further to suggest ways to protect and nurture Nigeria's democracy, and to also check conducts of political personalities thus: "Establishment of an institutional framework outside of INEC but next to it that will compel strict compliance with all aspects of our electoral laws and political parties’ constitution. It could be identified as Electoral Practices and Values Commission with responsibility of ensuring that politicians, political parties and members play by the rules."

He emphasised that "just as the National Judicial Council regulates activities of and punishes erring judicial officers, so should this body deal with all manner of electoral conspiracies within and outside the electoral framework that contravenes the law by prescribing heavy punishments on defaulters to infuse sanity, check abuses, impunity of party officials and members, etc.

"This, in addition to the efforts of INEC and the judiciary, will be a milestone in the protection of the sanctity of our electoral system," he said.

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