By: Emmanuel Utibe
If there is a unique and defining feature of democracy that makes it spectacular, it is the distinctive separation of the legislative arm of government. The people’s ability to elect those strictly representing their interests in governance, while also retaining power to make society-guiding laws on their behalf, really sets democracy apart.
Given the noteworthiness of what their tasks are, even within the University of Ibadan students’ community, legislative members simply called Honourables function to represent the general students’ populace. From the above, it is not hard to know that legislative plenary is strictly a serious business, which should not be handled with levity, as there is so much at stake when one shoulders the interest of people in the society and formulate life-altering decisions that would bear on everybody.
At the premier University of Ibadan, it only follows the flagged culture of knowledge which the University is known for, that student Honourables should be individuals who embody learning and intelligence. It is worth noting that intellectualism should not just be seen in knowledge but also in improving one’s conduct. Simply put, intelligence is the distance between problems and solutions. Like every other day, the UI’SRC is home to plenary sittings appropriating budget, listening to financial reports, disciplining erring officials, discussing other considerable concerns, where intelligence creates a buffer zone between problems and solutions.
On Saturday, 2nd September 2023, the first ordinary meeting of the 10th assembly of The University of Ibadan Students’ Representative Council (UI’SRC) was held. This convergence commenced significantly with an orientation for the new set of legislators in order to better equip them with what it means to be an Honourable member and then how to conduct themselves on the floor of the house as Honourables. With this serving as a welcome meeting, it appears that the presence of dishonourable conducts within the hallowed walls of the legislative council needs to be earnestly addressed. The SRC as the motherboard for all legislative councils, has therefore set a good precedent for all other legislative councils to follow.
If there is one vortex that almost any legislative house has consistently shown, it is the propensity to fall time and again into a degenerating rowdy session. Called a hallowed chamber for a good reason, once the Council proceeds a plenary, it is expected that it must be conducted with utmost solemnity as weighty matters of concern would be discussed. But then, in many legislative sittings, it has not been uncommon to see the chief whip battling to keep the house in order. That, unbridled side talks and other distractions go on during plenary proceedings stirs noticeable concern.
It must be said that this unruly behaviour, seemingly slight, should not be seen aggravating among legislators. While we are all human beings, and occasions might arise where we have to make a side comment to a person on the house floor, it becomes deplorable when it is used to constitute noise-making while solemn proceedings are expected to be ongoing.
Also, in this category are those who, against acceptable practice, answer phone calls on the house floor. As it is known, indiscriminate use of gadgets on the floor of the house is not allowed, and so it makes no sense for an Honourable not to mute their phones when a legislative session is ongoing.
In the face of this, Chief whips as expected of their principal office are required to go stern, appropriating the right punitive measures as recommended by the Disciplinary Committee. The presence of the press should be a secondary signal to Honourables that there is a need to conduct themselves in a manner that is suitable or proper in the circumstance.
Lack Of Basic Legislative Know-how
Another salient issue noticed in not a few legislative members and by extension councils on campus is the basic lack of knowledge on legislative proceedings. Disorderly conducts, ranging from not knowing how to properly move a motion, to sitting down while addressing the house, or not knowing how to go about properly addressing the house when one has the floor to speak, and interjecting into another person’s speech when they still have the floor to speak, among other inordinate behaviors, simply can scale down the value of the arm. In the same manner are other misconducts like Honourables throwing open or, more commonly, subtle insults and attacks at each other. While it is human to disagree, members of the parliament must do so only to peacefully progress.
While not common, thankfully, nevertheless, it has been witnessed, not once, that some members of the Council obscurely flaunt the ‘eat-not’ conduct. Perhaps it needs to be restated that one of such weighty taboos during legislative proceedings is eating. More commonly seen, is the case of littering the house during and after proceedings. As has been said, the house is a hallowed chamber, and it makes no sense to desecrate it with litter everywhere. It’s an eyesore when the room where legislative proceedings take place is overrun with dirt. Uncommon of UI’SRC student legislators, the need to open individual folders where personal copies of leaflets or documents can be kept cannot be overstressed.
Lastly is the seeming disdain for the mace. It has been commonplace over time to observe people moving in and out of the hallowed chamber without bowing before the mace. It must be noted that the mace is present in the house as a symbol of legislative authority. The presence of the mace in the house creates a difference between a legislative debate and a LnD punchlining debate.
Having thus far examined those unacceptable conducts which have been noticed in several legislative houses, it then goes without saying that it is now expected that Honourables take note and try to ride their horses of conduct better. I would advise that following in the footsteps of the SRC, each legislative body should, as early as possible, hold an orientation for their members so that as needed, it could afford them requisite knowledge on basic legislative proceedings and acceptable conducts. Also, for such an orientation, all members should be mandated to be present. It defeats the purpose of an orientation if a significant number of representatives are not present to benefit from the sensitisation.