When the the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC) announced the appointment of Sani Magaji Tambuwal as the Acting Clerk to the National Assembly (CNA) about a year ago, not a few heaved a sigh of relief. The good feelings the appointment generated was not only for the fact that Alhaji Tambuwal was a perfect fit being the former secretary of finance and accounts, but more so because of the need for an experienced and level headed leader, if you like a conductor, to direct and harmonize the discordant tunes coming out from the now restive workforce of the country’s parliament.
Yes, before Tambuwal’s merited ascendancy as the Clerk to the National Assembly, the music coming from the staff members of the Assembly was neither coordinated nor harmonious. It was neither sonorous nor sweet to the ear. Instead, the soundbites coming from the NASS workforce were largely defined by discontentment; conflict, restiveness, and threats of industrial action. All of these combined to present a toxic work environment with its attendant implications on industrial harmony and optimal productivity. Thus, the prevailing toxic environment at the time the current Clerk to National Assembly, Sani Tambuwal, was appointed was not salubrious for any meaningful legislative achievements at a time many Nigerians were looking up to their legislators for effective laws for the good governance of their country.
As we know, in a democracy, the legislature is regarded as the most important arm of government. And one of the reasons that stand out the parliament is the fact that among the executive, the judiciary and the legislator, the latter is the closest to the people, with every constituency having a representative in the lawmaking body. The second factor that distinguishes the legislature is the deliberative process of arriving at its decisions – whereby every member is allowed to express his/her opinion before the gavel falls.
This intricate procedural rule of the legislature places premium responsibilities on the administration of the National Assembly. Given the fact that Nigeria runs a bicameral legislature, the responsibility of providing efficient administrative support for the lawmakers both at the Senate and the House of Representatives is quite a huge one.
Yes, what many people easily see and notice are the laws passed by members of the national assembly. It is also a lot easier to observe members seat and debate on certain legislative agendas; conduct ministerial confirmation hearings; dissolve into committees; or undertake oversight functions, which are their core functions.
But like every piece of orchestra, there is always a steady hand conducting and coordinating the various instruments to achieve a harmonious melody. And that is principally what the Clerk of the National Assembly does. He sits behind the scene like a patient alchemist making sure that both the legislators and the staff of the parliament blend, by providing both the elected representatives and the civil servants who work behind the camera the proper environment to work efficiently in the business of lawmaking and over-sighting government agencies.
It can be safely argued that Sani Magaji Tambuwal has been an excellent orchestra conductor at the helm of the National Assembly administration since his appointment in acting capacity. He has managed to calm down all that restiveness that pervaded the workforce of the assembly before his arrival. And if we are true to ourselves, one of the triggers of industrial disharmony is the suspicion by staff members that their bosses are not appropriating funds and resources of the organization in the right manner. This is where the current clerk, Tambuwal, has been very exceptional. As a budget officer, the CNA has brought his professional experience and expertise to bear in the handling NASS budgetary allocations and in transparently doing so, Tambuwal has won the loyalty and admiration of the staff and the commission.
The calm ambience and enabling work environment in the National Assembly today, unlike in the recent past, is also traceable to Alhaji Tambuwal’s unflinching belief in justice and fairness when it comes to staff matters. The era in which some staffers of the National Assembly not only murmur but openly complain about being treated unfairly on ethnic or other particularistic grounds when it comes to issues of training, promotion and general staff welfare is indeed over. Interestingly, The CNA is not only concerned about the welfare of his staff at individual level, he is also ensuring that no directorate, department or division is left behind in the daily administration of the National Assembly.
Still on staff welfare which forms the cornerstone of Alhaji Tambuwal’s tenure as the Clerk to NASS, there are no more talks of staff members’ salaries and other benefits being delayed or not paid as and when due. Capacity building for staff through well designed training programmes is systematically being carried out to improve requisite skills for greater service delivery. This is targeted at both junior and senior staff of the NASS. In this regard, a segment of the staff just concluded a security training and orientation at the DSS training institute in Bwari.
Yet again, on staff members’ welfare package, Alhaji Tambuwal has rejuvenated the NASS staff clinic within the one year he has operated as the clerk. The clinic is now said to be a functional medical centre with drugs and well-trained doctors to attend to the health needs of staff members and according to those in the know, there are serious plans to further upgrade the clinic to a state-of-the-art clinic for the use of workers and their family members.
There is no doubt that Tambuwal has repositioned and breathed a new life into the administration of the National Assembly and the result is the unveiling of an institution of national pride functioning at optimal capacity with fully incentivized and confident workforce rearing to go. With the sagacity, cool head and humility Tambuwal has shown so far in blending together all the different instruments to produce a harmonious tune at the National Assembly, the nation will certainly in the days ahead reap bountifully by way of good laws for its good governance.
As Tambuwal continues in his stride as the Clerk to the National Assembly, it is hoped that this unseen orchestra conductor will create even more harmonious tunes as we build an efficient and effective bureaucracy behind our lawmakers.
- ● Mr Uhieneh, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of The Congresswatch magazine, contributed this piece from Abuja.