Building a vibrant legislature as a means of deepening democratic consolidation in nigeria


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Building a vibrant legislature as a means of deepening democratic consolidation in nigeria

  1. 1.  Building a Vibrant Legislature as a means of Deepening Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria.           By             Dr  Kayode  Fayemi   Governor,  Ekiti  State                 1    
  2. 2.                                        Being  the  Keynote  Address  at  the  Conference  of  Speakers  of  State  Legislatures  in  Abuja,   November  28,  2011.           2    
  3. 3.    Introduction  It  is  a  honour  and  indeed  a  privilege  for  me  to  address  this  important  conference  of  Legislative  Heads  from  the  States.  Alexander  Pope,  while  commenting  on  the  content  and  efficacy  of  governance  rather  than  its  form  noted  that  “for  forms  of  governments  let  fools  contest,  what  is  best  administered  is  best”.  Pope’s  predilection  is  certainly  for  the  performance  of  government  rather  than  its  form  or  institutional  structure.    While  the  content  of  governance  is  quite  important,  its  form  cannot  also  be  dismissed.  It  is  the  form  of  governance  and  its  institutional  structure  that  shapes  the  nature  of  the  relationship  between  the  governors  and  the  governed  as  it  determines  the  nature  of  parties,  electoral  processes,  constitutional  order,  issue  of  citizenship  and  rights,  and  other  institutional  mechanisms  that  promote  the  liberties  of  the  citizens,  and  limit  the  arbitrary  tendencies  of  the  state  and  its  managers.      In  other  words,  the  extent  to  which  a  government  is  able  to  realise  the  public  good  will  be  largely  determined  or  at  least  influenced  by  the  kind  of  institutional  structures  that  exist  in  such  system.  Undoubtedly,  other  factors  like  leadership  and  prevailing  political  values  go  a  long  way  in  determining  the  efficacy  or  performance  of  any  government.  In  spite  of  that,  institutions  and  forms  of  government  matter.    Within  the  liberal  democracy  strand,  there  are  two  major  forms  of  governmental  structures  or  arrangements.   These   are   the   presidential   and   parliamentary   systems   of   government.   Both   deal  essentially   with   how   power   is   consummated,   whether   concentrated   or   dispersed,   and   who  wields  what  power  and  how,  especially  at  the  central  level.  As  Arend  lijphart  noted,  “defining  democracy  as  ‘government  by  and  for  the  people’  raises  a  fundamental  question:  Who  will  do  the  governing  and  to  whose  interests  should  the  government  be  responsive  when  the  people  are   in   disagreement   and   have   divergent   preferences?1.   The   last   two   democratic   experiments   in  Nigeria   have   been   patterned   along   the   presidential   system   of   government.   These   are   the  second   republic   (1979-­‐1983)   and   the   current   fourth   republic   (May   1999-­‐present).   Even   the   3    
  4. 4.  stillborn   third   republic   was   of   a   presidential   mode.   In   spite   of   what  appears  to  be  a  settled  question  as  to  what  model  of  liberal  democracy  Nigeria  should  adopt,  there  are  serious  critique  of  the  presidential  system  of  government  and  trenchant  agitation  that  the  country  should  return  back  to  the  parliamentary  system  of  government  that  it  used  in  the  first  republic  (1960-­‐1966).    The  fact  that  both  models  and  experiments  have  failed  in  the  past  suggests   that   they   are   not   foolproof   or   infallible   systems   and   can   collapse   under   enormous  political  stress.  But  which  system  is  more  adaptable  to  the  Nigerian  political  condition  that  may  prove  more  durable  and  enduring?    What  are  the  mediating  factors  or  externalities  that  bear  on  the  durability  or  otherwise  of  these  systems,  and  how  can  the  goal  of  democratic  stability  and  consolidation  be  achieved  in  Nigeria?  These  are  the  issues  addressed  by  the  paper.    The   arguments   of   the   paper   are   twofold.   First   that   both   the   presidential   and   parliamentary  systems   of   government   are   bourgeois   political   crafting,   which   historically   the   ruling   class   in  liberal   democratic   societies   have   used   to   legitimise   their   power,   manage   intra-­‐ruling   class  struggles  and  stabilise  the  political  system.  The  indigenisation  or  local  ownership  and  efficacy  of  any   of   these   systems   will   depend   on   how   the   Nigerian   ruling   class   is   able   to   reproduce   the  context  and  political  culture  of  the  western  ruling  class.  In  other  words,  evolve  and  internalise  the  values,  nuances,  institutions  and  controls  of  those  systems.  Second,  beyond  the  façade  of  formal   political   structures,   the   survival   of   democracy   in   the   long   haul   will   be   determined   by  how   it   improves   the   life   chances   of   the   people   by   providing   them   basic   social   welfare   and  better  conditions  of  living.  Without  this,  the  people  are  likely  to  develop  a  “democracy  fatigue”,  which  may  sooner  than  later  undermine  the  system2    Two  Sides  of  Liberal  Democracy:  The  Presidential  and  Parliamentary  Systems  of  Government.      The   terms   “parliamentary”   and   “presidential”   systems   of   government   derive   essentially   from  where   the   locus   of   power   is   situated   at   the   centre.   A   parliamentary   system   is   a   government   4    
  5. 5.  under   the   rule   of   the   legislature.   Put   differently,   it   is   a   system   in   which   the  legislature   wields   enormous   powers.   The   executive   derives   its   existence   tenure   and   control  from  the  legislature.  The  president  is  elected  from  the  legislature,  so  are  the  members  of  the  cabinet.   As   Ben   Nwabueze   puts   it   “an   executive   elected   by   the   legislature   owes   its   right   to  govern   to   the   legislature.   This   is   indeed   the   central   feature   of   the   parliamentary   system.  Government   under   the   system   is   the   rule   of   the   legislature,   hence   it   is   called   parliamentary  government”3.    In  some  parliamentary  systems  there  is  usually  a  distinction  between  the  formal  authority  of  the  constitutional  head  of  state  and  the  real  authority  of  the  head  of  government.  The  main  features  of  the  parliamentary  system  are  as  follows:  1. The  executive  is  parliamentary  in  composition.  2. It  consists  of  a  plurality  of  persons  who  as  a  cabinet  constitutes  the  government  3. It  is  made  by  and  responsible  to  the  legislature4.    There   is   the   phenomenon   of   parliamentary   accountability   in   which   the   executive   periodically  gives  account  of  its  stewardship  to  the  parliament.    In  the  event  of  which  the  parliament  passes  a   “vote   of   no   confidence”   on   the   government   or   its   policies,   the   government   has   to   be  dissolved   and   in   most   cases,   the   parliament   will   also   be   dissolved   for   new   parliamentary  elections.      In   the   presidential   system   of   government,   there   is   the   concept   of   a   single   executive.   The  president  is  the  fulcrum  of  executive  power.  He  owes  his  appointment  and  tenure  not  to  the  parliament  but  the  electorate  and  the  constitution.  He  takes  responsibility  for  his  cabinet,  and  has   the   power   to   hire   and   fire   them.   The   cabinet   members   are   seldomly   members   of   the  executive.   In   the   presidential   system   of   government,   the   concept   of   separation   of   powers   is  well  enunciated.  The  three  arms  of  government  are  well  demarcated,  with  specific  spheres  of  responsibility.   These   three   arms   of   government   are   to   serve   as   countervailing   power   on   each  other.  This  is  the  principle  of  checks  and  balances  inherent  in  the  presidential  democracy.     5    
  6. 6.    There   has   been   argument   in   the   literature   as   to   which   of   this   institutional   arrangement   of  liberal  democracy  is  more  effective  and  durable.  The  urge  has  been  to  identify  the  strength  and  weaknesses   of   those   models.   Parliamentary   system   of   government   is   considered   to   be   more  inclusive,   less   expensive,   and   accountable.   It   encourages   coalition   building   and   the   actual  involvement   of   political   parties   in   the   governmental   system   through   its   role   in   political  bargaining   and   coalition   processes.   Added   to   this   is   that   the   stakes   are   much   higher   in   a  presidential   democracy   than   in   a   parliamentary   system,   as   the   desperation   to   win   the   oval  presidential   office   is   usually   very   high   in   presidential   democracy.   Furthermore,   presidential  democracy   may   also   generate   executive-­‐legislative   stand-­‐off   especially   in   situations   in   which  different   parties   control   the   two   arms   of   government.     In   terms   of   its   weaknesses,  parliamentary   system   of   government   may   create   friction   and   tension   between   the   two  executive   offices,   of   the   constitutional   head   of   state   (president)   and   head   of   government  (Prime   Minister).   Also,   the   doctrine   of   separation   of   powers   is   not   clearly   delineated   in   the  parliamentary   system.     Furthermore,   governmental   activities   are   usually   constrained   by   the  overriding  influence  of  the  parliament  in  executive  operation.    For  the  presidential  system  of  government,  the  major  persuasion  is  that  the  locus  of  executive  power  is  clearly  delineated,  which  may  engender  rapidity  of  actions  and  decisions  and  make  for  executive   responsibility   in   a   clear   and   concise   manner.   As   Victor   Ayeni   noted   the   major  conviction   for   presidential   democracy   is   that   “society   is   best   run   by   a   government   that   is  effectively   organised   under   a   clear   and   definite   authority.   A   plural   authority   situation   often  leads  to  confusion,  unnecessary  conflict  and  inability  to  locate  responsibility”5.        Extant   studies   suggest   that   parliamentary   system   of   government   is   more   durable   than   the  presidential   democracy.   Scholars   like   Joan   Linz6   and   Adam   Przeworski,   Michael   Alvarez,   Jose  Cheibub  and  Fernando  Limongi  7  have  pointed  out  in  different  cross-­‐country  studies  the  basis  of   6    
  7. 7.  this   and   provided   statistical   data   to   justify  such.  Adam  Przeworski  et.  al.  in  a  study  of  about  one  hundred  and  thirty  five  countries  between  1950  and  1990  noted  that  the  possibility   of   survival   of   parliamentary   system   is   much   higher   than   that   of   the   presidential  system.  Their  finding  is  quite  revealing:    The   Constitution   Drafting   Committee   (CDC),   which   was   saddled   with   the   responsibility   of  drafting   the   1979   constitution   in   Nigeria,   also   made   the   same   submission   in   justifying   the  recommendation  of  a  presidential  system  of  government  for  the  country.  According  to  it,  “the  separation   of   the   head   of   state   from   head   of   government   involves   a   division   between   real  authority  and  formal  authority  (which  is)  meaningless  in  the  light  of  African  political  experience  and  history”13.        Endgame   of   Power:   The   Travails   of   Both   the   Presidential   and   Parliamentary   Systems   of  Government  in  Nigeria.      Independence   in   Nigeria   in   1960   was   heralded   with   pomp   and   pageantry.   The   British  Westminster   model   of   government   was   bequeathed   to   the   nation   at   independence.   There   was  the   office   of   Prime   Minister   and   the   President,   with   the   latter   being   a   ceremonial   head   of   state  and  the  former  the  head  of  government.  There  was  a  central  legislature,  while  there  were  three  major   regions   that   were   relatively   autonomous.   The   expectation   was   that   this   political  arrangement   would   engender   some   form   of   political   interaction   and   bargaining   at   the   centre  amongst   the   regionally   based   political   parties   and   thereby   promotes   consociational   politics.  David   Apter   shortly   after   independence   eulogised   the   Nigerian   experiment   as   a   model   of  consociational  institutional  politics  in  Africa  that  is  worth  being  emulated.  According  to  him,  the  arrangement  is  one  in  which  while  the  constituent  parts  joined  together  in  some  form  of  union,  they   have   not   lost   their   identity.   It   is   a   system   that   accommodates   variety   of   groups   of  divergent  ideas  in  order  to  achieve  unity,  and  in  which  its  corporate  or  collective  leadership  is   7    
  8. 8.  acceptable  to  all14.      Initially  some  form   of  consociational  politics  was  unfolding  with   the   coalition   of   the   two   parties   that   formed   the   government   at   the   centre-­‐   Northern  Peoples  Congress  (NPC),  and  the  National  Council  for  Nigerian  Citizens  (NCNC).    The  other  party  was  in  opposition  and  was  supposed  to  form  the  shadow  government.      Although  the  decolonisation  process  witnessed  some  tensions  amongst  the  political  parties  as  to   when   and   how   independence   should   be   consummated   and   the   issue   of   numerical  representation  in  political  institutions,  such  was  largely  insignificant  to  undermine  the  system  or   the   processes   leading   to   political   independence.     However   by   1964,   the   signpost   of   systemic  collapse   had   begun   to   manifest   in   the   country.   Political   parties   had   become   quite   desperate  either  to  expand  or  protect  their  base  of  political  and  electoral  support.  In  addition,  some  of  the  weaknesses  of  the  parliamentary  system  had  also  begun  to  show.  Cracks  in  political  coalitions  especially   the   ruling   coalition   of   the   NPC   and   NCNC   was   palpable,   as   some   independent  candidates  switched  to  the  NPC  giving  it  the  needed  majority  to  form  a  government  and  as  such  making   the   NCNC   an   “irrelevant   party”15   in   the   coalition.   This   problem   was   to   threaten   the  stability  of  the  political  system  when  after  the  1964  elections,  which  the  NPC  won,  the  NCNC  leader,  Nnamdi  Azikwe,  who  was  the  president  refused  to  invite  Tafawa  Balewa  as  new  or  re-­‐elected  Prime  Minister  to  form  a  new  government.  This  left  the  nation  without  a  government  for  three  full  days16.        The   constellation   of   forces   and   events   that   led   to   the   fall   of   the   first   republic   has   been   well  documented17,   it   therefore   need   no   rehash.   The   important   point   to   emphasise   is   that   the  parliamentary  system  of  government  could  not  be  a  safeguard  against  systemic  breakdown.  It  could  not  diffuse  the  internecine  struggles  for  political  power  amongst  the  political  parties  and  its   elite;   prevent   election   rigging   or   construct   relative   autonomy   for   the   state,   which   would  insulate  it  from  being  the  basis  of  primitive  accumulation  of  wealth  by  the  politicians.     8    
  9. 9.  In  order  to  avoid  what  was  considered   as   the   pitfalls   of   the   first   republic,  there   was   a   deliberate   attempt   towards   an   alternative   model   of   political   engineering   in   the  second   republic.   The   political   transition   programme   (1976-­‐1979)   that   ushered   in   the   new  republic   saw   tremendous   political   reforms,   which   include,   local   government   reforms,   a   new  process   of   constitution   making,   reform   of   the   electoral   body,   and   the   creation   of   states.   The  1979  constitution  was  predicated  on  the  presidential  system  of  government.  As  Alex  Gboyega  noted,   the   distasteful   political   experience   of   the   first   republic   rather   than   any   hopes   of   the  future  informed  the  making  of  the  1979  constitution18.        The  quest  for  a  stabilising  formula  as  Rotimi   Suberu   points   out   was   a   major   driving   force   in   the   making   of   the   1979   constitution19.  Some   of   the   features   of   that   constitution   include   the   presidential   system   in   which   a   clear   focus  of  executive  authority  was  created  in  the  president.  The  president  was  to  be  popularly  elected  un-­‐subordinated  to  the  legislature.  The  president  was  also  to  command  enormous  powers  and  be  a  rallying  point  and  embodiment  of  national  unity.    As  such,  the  constitutional  provision  for  the  election  of  the  president  was  more  than  wining  a  majority  vote,  but  a  vote  with  a  national  spread  of  122/3  of  the  votes  cast  in  the  19  states  of  the  federation.            Some   other   stabilising   measures   in   the   constitution   include   the   entrenchment   of   the   federal  principle   in   the   constitution.           These   include   the   creation   of   19-­‐state   structure,   a   single   tier  local  government  system  that  had  constitutional  recognition  and  specified  functions,  and  a  bi-­‐cameral   legislature   at   the   centre-­‐Senate   and   House   of   Representatives.   In   addition   the   “federal  character”  principle  was  introduced  into  the  constitution,  which  was  an  ethnic  formulae  for  the  sharing   of   public   goods20.   That   is,   all   parts   of   the   country   were   to   be   represented   in   state  institutions   and   parastatals,   which   include   ministerial   portfolios,   the   bureaucracy,  ambassadorial  appointments,  and  boards  of  public  corporations  and  agencies.  The  essence  was  to  prevent  claims  of  ethnic  domination  and  marginalisation  by  groups  in  the  country.  This  was  to  make  for  group  rights,  fairness  and  social  justice  in  the  country.       9    
  10. 10.  The   other   stabilising   devices   in   the   constitution   include   the   provision   that  political   parties   must   be   national   in   orientation   and   spread   before   qualifying   for   registration.  This  was  to  prevent  the  emergence  of  ethnic  based  political  parties,  which  was  a  major  bane  of  the   first   republic.     Those   parties   were   to   be   locally   funded   with   the   Federal   Electoral  Commission   (FEDECO)   regulating   the   funding   of   those   parties.   Also,   the   Code   of   Conduct  Bureau   was   established   in   order   to   check   corruption   and   financial   malfeasance   by   public  officials,  while  civil  liberties  were  guaranteed  by  the  constitution21.      However,   in   spite   of   what   seemed   to   be   a   well-­‐crafted   constitution,   the   second   republic  collapsed   barely   four   years   after   its   inception   in   December   1983.   How   can   this   collapse   be  explained?  Billy  Dudley  would  argue  that  poor  political  virtues  or  lack  of  civic  culture  among  the  politicians   led   to   the   collapse   of   the   second   republic   just   as   it   did   for   the   first22.   Samuel  Huntington   would   likely   blame   weak   political   institutions   for   the   nation’s   apparent   political  decay23.   Eghosa   Osaghae   may   likely   direct   our   attention   to   the   problem   of   ethnicity   and   the  need   for   an   appropriate   federal   solution24.   Richard   Joseph   identifies   prebendal   politics   as   the  cause  of  political  failure  in  Nigeria25,  while  Julius  Ihonbvere  and  Toyin  Falola26  focused  on  the  crisis   of   the   Nigerian   political   economy   especially   the   crisis   of   accumulation   as   leading   to  irresponsible   political   behaviour   by   the   political   elite.   Whatever   the   reasons   that   may   be  adduced   for   the   collapse   of   the   second   republic,   what   became   apparent   is   that   Nigeria’s  presidential   system   could   not   safeguard   the   nation’s   second   attempt   at   democratic   rule.  Indeed,   some   have   argued   that   the   presidential   system   of   government   itself   was   part   of   the  problem   rather   the   solution.   The   presidency   because   of   the   enormous   powers   it   commands  became   the   focus   of   inordinate   ambition   as   the   party   or   individual   that   controls   it   has  command  over  “life  and  death”.    As  such,  the  endgame  of  politics  in  the  second  republic  was  to  capture   presidential   power.   The   presidential   system   of   government   could   therefore   not   solve  the   question   of   political   power   in   Nigeria.   This   was   the   context   in   which   the   second   republic  collapsed.       10    
  11. 11.  The  Obasanjo  Regime  and  the  Politics   of   Presidential   Monarchism-­‐  Babacracy    The   collapse   of   the   second   republic   led   to   fifteen   years   of   military   rule   (1984-­‐1999).   A   brief  period  of  three  months  of  an  un-­‐elected  Interim  National  Government  (ING)  contrived  by  the  military  junta  of  General  Ibrahim  Babangida  was  the  only  interregnum  in  this  period.  This  itself  (ING)  could  be  regarded  as  part  of  the  military  process  since  it  was  installed  by  the  military  and  served   its   purposes.     Successive   military   regimes   during   this   period   took   the   nation   on  circuitous,   but   dubious   political   transition   programmes,   which   did   not   produce   any   civilian  rule27.   It   was   the   brief   Abubakar   regime   (1998-­‐1999)   that   quickly   transferred   political   power  given   the   circumstances   in   which   the   regime   was   born,   and   the   political   pressure   it   came  under28.    Even  when  transferring  political  power  the  regime  itself  was  not  an  uninterested  actor  in  the  process,  and  sought  to  carefully  manage  the  disengagement  agenda.  The  political  context  of   the   disengagement   also   ensured   that   a   particular   geo-­‐political   zone   was   a   beneficiary   of  political   power   at   the   centre29.     The   new   civilian   political   arrangement   was   also   factored   in   a  presidential  mode.  A  new  constitution  was  put  in  place-­‐the  1999  constitution  to  serve  as  legal  framework  for  the  presidential  system.    The  1999  constitution  takes  after  the  1979  one  except  that   the   number   of   states   in   the   country   by   1999   had   increased   to   36   and   over   700   local  government  areas  had  been  created  by  this  period.  The  PDP  won  the  presidential  polls  held  in  February   1999,   with   its   candidate,   General   Olusegun   Obasanjo   emerging   as   president   of   the  country.      The  trend  with  the  Obasanjo  presidency  has  been  the  emergence  of  what  Robert  Fatton  refers  to  as  “presidential  monarchism”30.  According  to  Fatton,  presidential  monarchs  often  dominate  their  political  environment.  He  described  it  in  these  telling  terms:      The   centrality   of   the   presidential   monarch   is   continuously   emphasised   by   the   ideological   apparatuses   of   the   state.   In   an   effort   to   legitimise   his   rule,   these   11    
  12. 12.   apparatuses   incessantly   nurture   the   cult   of   his   personality,   imparting   to   it   supranatural   power   and   unlimited   knowledge…the   presidential   monarch   has   an   all   encompassing   sphere   of   competence.   His   presence   is   felt   everywhere;  he  is  the  father  of  the  nation  to  whom  filial  respect  is  always  due31.      Fatton   continued   that   the   presidential   monarch   is   the   “the   only   sun   of   the   political   system;   the  courtiers’  radiance  can  only  be  reflection  of  his  rays.  People  must  be  led  to  believe  that  without  him   there   could   be   only   darkness   and   disorder.   Presidential   monarchs   know   that   their   rule  depends   on   their   capacity   to   suppress   alternative   centres   of   authority.   A   ruler   does   seek   to  keep   his   courtiers   at   his   mercy   and   makes   sure   that   they   all   know   it.   He   is   the   ultimate  dispenser   of   favour   and   disfavour,   of   gift   and   confiscation,   of   privilege   and   ruin.   He   places  himself  above  the  law;  indeed,  he  is  the  law”32.        The  point  being  underscored  is  that  the  presidency  in  the  current  democratic  conjuncture  has  assumed   enormous   powers   and   the   entire   political   system   tends   to   revolve   around   the  personality   of   the   president.   There   are   structural   and   behavioural   dimensions   to   this.   The  structural   basis   is   that   the   1999   constitution   grants   enormous   powers   to   the   federal  government   to   be   exercised   by   the   president.     He   appoints   and   controls   his   cabinet,   fill   the  boards   of   parastatals   and   government   agencies,   and   also   appoint   members   to   virtually   all  federal   commissions   including   sensitive   commissions   like   the   Independent   National   Electoral  Commission   (INEC),   and   National   Population   Commission   (NPC)33.   The   federal   government   also  controls  enormous  financial  resources,  which  leaves  other  tiers  of  government  at  the  mercy  of  the   federal   government.   This   reinforces   the   centrality   of   the   position   of   the   president.   The  behavioural   dimension   to   it   has   to   do   with   the   urge   to   consolidate   political   power   by  counteracting  alternative  source(s)  of  political  power  and  contest.  Some  have  adduced  this  to  the  military  and  authoritarian  background  of  the  president,  while  others  argue  that  it  is  a  simply  one  of  deft  political  manoeuvring.     12    
  13. 13.    Making  Democracy  Work  in  Nigeria:  Beyond  the  Parliamentary  and  Presidential  Systems.      The   foregoing   analysis   clearly   suggests   that   institutional   arrangements   between   the  presidential  and  parliamentary  systems  of  government  have  not  been  a  safeguard  against  the  collapse   of   democracy   in   the   country.     The   feat   of   the   first   republic   was   repeated   in   the   second  and  signposts  in  the  current  political  dispensations  are  not  too  promising.  Intra  and  inter  party  feuds   have   assumed   dangerous   proportions,   politically   inspired   assassinations   are   occurring  and   virtually   all   the   current   elected   officials   have   taken   it   for   granted   that   they   would   be   re-­‐elected  back  to  power  through  all  means  possible.  This  situation  has  led  some  to  suggest  that  there   is   no   marked   difference   between   the   presidential   and   parliamentary   systems   of  government  on  the  political  fortune  of  the  country.    Rotimi  Suberu  argues  this  quite  poignantly:           The   supposed   advantages   of   the   presidential   system   of   government   over   the   parliamentary  system  are  nebulous  if  not  preposterous.  While  it  has  been  argued   that   the   executive   presidential   system   furnishes   a   clear   focal   point   of   loyalty,   which  not  only  avoids  the  clashes  and  conflicts  inherent  in  the  separation  of  the   head  of  state  from  the  head  of  government  in  the  parliamentary  system,  but  is   also   functional   and   indispensable   for   national   integration,   there   is   indeed   no   a   prior  basis  on  which  to  determine  which  form  of  government,  the  presidential  or   the   Westminster   type   is   more   suitable…   In   a   word,   the   change   from   the   parliamentary   to   the   presidential   system   can   be   seen   as   cosmetic   and   of   no   consequence  in  ensuring  governmental  stability40.        (Emphasis  mine).        Suberu   further   argues   that   the   departure   point   on   government   stability   should   be   the  underlying  social,  economic,  and  cultural  forces  as  the  decisive  factors  influencing  the  dynamics   13    
  14. 14.  of   political   processes   and   the   prospects   of   stable   and   effective  government41.       Suberu’s   observation   is   quite   relevant.   A   critical   analysis   of   the   issue   of  governmental  stability  and  the  survival  of  democracy  in  the  country  would  turn  our  attention  in  three  directions.  First  is  the  issue  of  federalism.    The  whole  logic  of  federalism  is  about  power  decentralisation.   Nigeria’s   federalism   has   tended   towards   the   concentration   of   power   at   the  centre   such   that   the   challenge   for   politicians   and   their   parties   is   to   seek   to   capture   federal  power.  In  order  to  diffuse  the  internecine  political  struggles  that  characterise  the  centre,  there  is   need   to   devolve   more   powers   and   resources   to   the   sub-­‐national   units   and   make   federal  power   less   attractive   than   it   is.   The   federal   government   ought   to   simply   co-­‐ordinate   things  general  to  the  commonwealth  -­‐  customs,  immigration,  external  defence  and  national  security,  currency  issuance  and  all  other  matters  that  may  be  mutually  agreed  to  by  commonwealth.  It  is  these   issues   about   federalism   that   constitutes   the   crux   of   the   national   question.   Confronting  the  national  question  through  the  federal  idea  may  be  an  easier  but  politically  expedient  way  than   the   convocation   of   a   sovereign   national   conference.   There   should   be   no   illusion   that  adopting  a  much-­‐decentralised  federal  system  will  fully  resolve  the  question  of  political  power  in   the   country.   It   would   not.   What   it   would   have   done   is   to   change   the   site   of   political  contestation   from   the   national   to   the   sub-­‐national   levels.   However,   this   would   have   changed  the   constellation   of   inter-­‐ethnic   group   relations   and   tensions   as   it   currently   manifests   and  produce   patterns   of   political   behaviour   and   negotiation   in   the   different   sub-­‐national   units.   This  is  where  state  Assemblies  become  critical.      The  second  issue  germane  to  the  question  of  democratic  stability  and  consolidation  in  Nigeria  is  that   of   institutions.     Key   state   institutions   need   to   be   reformed   and   restructured   for   them   to  support   the   democratic   process.   This   will   include   the   INEC,   the   judiciary   and   the   security  apparatuses   especially   the   police   force   and   also   the   political   parties.   With   regard   to   INEC   the  major  kind  of  reform  to  be  carried  out  is  in  the  composition  of  the  body.  A  situation  in  which  the   federal   government   appoints   members   of   INEC   is   unacceptable,   which   cannot   make   for  fairness  in  the  electoral  process.  The  composition  of  INEC  should  be  broad  based  representing   14    
  15. 15.  key  social  interests  and  forces  like  civil   society   groups   of   labour   and   the  human   rights   community,   and   political   parties.   The   second   reform   with   concern   to   INEC   is  about  the  electoral  process.  The  “first  past  the  post”  or  majoritarian  electoral  process  that  the  country   uses   makes   for   a   deadly   contest   for   political   power.   It   is   a   “winner   takes   all”   game.  Those  who  win  do  so  handsomely  and  those  who  lose  are  bad  losers.    There  is  need  to  change  this.  The  proportional  representation  system  may  provide  an  alternative  electoral  model  for  the  country.       The   reform   of   the   judiciary   and   some   other   state   institutions   will   take   the   dimension  of  relative  autonomy  for  them  to  act  independently  of  executive  control  and  to  be  accountable  to  the  people  rather  than  the  executive.    These  institutions  need  to  be  purged  of  corruption,  especially  the  police  force.      The  third  dimension  of  democratic  stability  in  Nigeria  is  the  foundations  of  the  economy.  The  Nigerian   economy   must   one   at   the   same   time   promote   economic   growth,   distribution,   and  social   welfare.   If   this   does   not   happen   politics   will   remain   a   bourgeois   class   project,   social  alienation  would  intensify  and  political  participation  will  continue  to  dwindle.  The  net  result  will  be  the  promotion  of  what  Thandika  Mkandawire  referred  to  as  “choiceless  democracy”.              Conclusion.  The   search   for   democratic   stability   and   consolidation   in   Nigeria   will   go   beyond   the   institutional  differences   between   the   parliamentary   and   the   presidential   systems   of   government.   The  solution  will  also  not  lie  in  a  mixed  model  of  both.  So,  will  the  logic  of  presidential  messianism  take   the   nation   too   far.     What   would   guarantee   democratic   stability   in   Nigeria   will   be   a  confluence   of   three   things.   First   is   re-­‐examining   the   federal   idea   as   presently   practised   in  Nigeria.   In   terms   of   political   and   administrative   management   Nigeria   currently   tends   towards   a  unitary   state.   The   federal   idea   should   be   reclaimed   with   considerable   degree   of   political   and  economic   decentralisation   to   sub-­‐national   units.   The   second   dimension   is   to   begin   to   rebuild  institutions   and   strengthen   them.     The   two   foregoing   issues   will   have   to   be   accomplished   15    
  16. 16.  through  a  process  of  constitutionalism.   The   third   dimension   of   democratic  stability   has   to   do   with   the   economic   bases   of   society.   The   triple   cord   of   economic   growth,  distribution   and   social   welfare   must   go   hand   in   hand.   Extreme   and   pervasive   poverty  constitutes   a   threat   to   democracy.     It   is   when   this   socio-­‐economic   context   is   re-­‐engineered   can  the  politics  of  consociational  democracy,  which  Arend  Lijphart  talks  about  begin  to  germinate  and  take  firm  root  in  Nigeria.      From  the  foregoing,  you  would  no  less  agree  that  the  Legislature  is  a  crucial  institution  and  one  of  the  pillars  of  government  in  most  advanced  and  transitional  democracies  in  the  world;  and  this  is  largely  due  to  the  frameworks  for  good  governance  which  it  provides  through  the  making  of  popular  laws,  the  control  of  public  funds,  and  its  oversight  and  monitoring  of  other  levels  of  government   in   order   to   promote   transparency   and   accountability   in   the   management   of   public  resources.   Hence,   as   representatives   of   the   people,   you   are   holding   sacred   mandates   as   the  faces   and   voices   of   so   many   constituencies   and   people   whose   sovereignty   you   are   giving  expression  to.    Under   the   Presidential   system,   the   relationship   existing   between   the   Legislature   and   the  Executive  is  defined  through  the  doctrine  of  the  Separation  of  Powers,  which  declares  that  each  branch  of  government  –  whether  the  Executive,  the  Legislature,  or  the  Judiciary  –  has  powers  that   are   unique   and   exclusive   to   it,   and   which   cannot   be   exercised   by   any   other   branch.   As  such,   the   doctrine   ensures   that   the   three   levels   of   government   are   separate   and   check   each  other  from  excesses.  Also,  there  is  a  veto  inserted  in  each  of  the  branches  to  guarantee  against  possible  abuse  by  any  domineering  organ  of  government.    Whilst  the  notion  of  the  separation  of  powers  in  the  Nigerian  Constitution  specifies  distinct  roles  for  the  different   organs   of   government,   the   reality   and   complexity   of   governance   necessitates   increasing  interrelationships   among   the   branches   of   government,   yet   the   critical   challenge   that   has   faced   most   16    
  17. 17.  presidential   democracies   is   how   the   various  organs,  particularly  the  Legislative  and   the   Executive,   will   be   able   to   work   together   amicably   while   avoiding   a   deterioration   in   their  relationship.  It, therefore, becomes a significant issue for those of us in the Executive to continue to makeefforts to reach out a hand of support and cooperation to you our dear colleagues in our stateLegislatures, as we are essentially partners in progress, with the promotion of the welfare of ourpeople as the raison d’être for our intervention within the public space. And, we hope that ourhonourable members of parliament will take on the gauntlet of being genuine collaborators indevelopment with us in good faith, because it is only when there is such synergy that ourprogrammes and policies can enjoy meaningful passage through the Legislature, devoid ofbureaucratic hindrances or bottlenecks. Any Executive worth its salt would understand thebenefits of having vibrant members of the Legislature who can run with its programmes on itsside.As a country, having just come out of decades of authoritarian rule, this not only erodedconstitutional federalism through the centralisation of power and resources by the military, it alsoled to the elevation of a culture of arbitrariness and impunity, the violation of the rights ofcitizens, high levels of corruption, etc. And, these and other concerns can only be effectivelyreversed through a harmonious working relationship between the Executive and Legislature –between the policy/legal formulators, implementers, and the monitors; and this will ultimatelyenhance the efficiency and transparency of government.Still, with our various States espousing and making very bold statements about the direction ofprogress in which their Executives seek to take the people (such as through the attainment of theMDGS), and with the larger Nigeria being committed towards the eradication of HIV/AIDS,illiteracy, etc and the realisation of ascending to become one of the 20 principal economies in theworld in a few years, the achievement of some of these key targets can only be met if strong andvibrant institutions such as the Legislature are built and continuously nurtured. As such, theLegislature has an important responsibility in the creation of people-oriented public policy, andin the monitoring of the implementation of such by the Executive, because it is only when we 17    
  18. 18.  work in unison, devoid of rancour, that we can attain the greatest possible goodfor the greatest number of our people, within the shortest possible time.Our dear honourable Heads of Parliament from the farther and nearer reaches of this country, Iwish you a very productive engagement as you set about sharing ideas and best practices on howto build vibrant Legislatures in your home states. Do have rewarding deliberations. 18    
  19. 19.  Notes  and  References.                                                                                                                                1. Arend Lijphart, Patterns of Democracy: Government forms and Performance in Thirty-six Countries. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1999), p. 1.2. See, S. Adejumobi and A. Bujra, “Sustaining Liberal Democracy and Good Governance in Africa: The Road Ahead” in S. Adejumobi and A. Bujra (eds.), Breaking Barriers, Creating New Hopes: Democracy, Civil Society and Good Governance in Africa. (Trenton, New Jersey: Africa World Press, 2002),p. 353. Also, Claude Ake, The Feasibility of Democracy in Africa. (Dakar: CODESRIA, 2000).3 . Ben Nwabueze, Presidentialism in Commonwealth Africa. (London and Enugu: Hurst and Company andNwamife Publishers, 1974), p. 28.4 . Ibid, p37.5 . Victor Ayeni, “The Executive Presidency as a Concomitant of Multipartism in Africa: An Assessment ” in OmoOmoruyi et. al. (eds.) Democratisation in Africa: African Perspectives, Vol.1. (Abuja: Centre for DemocraticStudies, 1994), 213.6 . Joan Linz, “The Perils of Presidentialism”, Journal of Democracy, Vol.1, 1990, pp. 51-69.7 . Adam Przeworski, Michael Alvarez, Jose Cheibub and Fernando Limongi, “What Makes Democracies Endure? inLarry Diamond, Marc Plattner Yun-han Chu and Hun-mao Tien (eds.), Consolidating the Third Wave Democracies:Themes and Perspectives. (Baltimore and London: John Hopkins University, 1997), pp. 295-311.13 . The Constitution Drafting Committee Draft Report cited in Rotimi Suberu “Background and Principles ofNigeria’s Presidential System” in Victor Ayeni and Kayode Soremekun (eds.) Nigeria’s Second Republic. (Lagos:Daily Times, 1988), p. 17.14 . David Apter, The Political Kingdom of Uganda: A Study in Bureaucratic Nationalism. (Princeton: PrincetonUniversity Press, 1961), pp. 24-25.15 . see, Billy Dudley, An Introduction to Nigerian government and Politics. (London: Macmillan Press, 1982), p.62.16 . The constitutional practice is that the President was to appoint the Prime Minister, who should be the leader ofthe political party that had the majority in the House of representatives. Rather than do this, Azikwe was quoted assaying that he “would rather resign than exercise the power to call on a person to form a government”. See, OyeleyeOyediran, Nigerian Government and Politics Under military Rule: 1966-1979. (London: Macmillan, 1979), p 19.17 . See, Billy Dudley, An Introduction to Nigerian government and Politics. (London: Macmillan Press, 1982),Oyeleye Oyediran, Nigerian Government and Politics Under military Rule: 1966-1979. (London: Macmillan, 1979).18 . Alex Gboyega, “The Making of the Nigerian Constitution” in Oyeleye Oyediran, Nigerian Government andPolitics Under military Rule: 1966-1979. (London: Macmillan, 1979), p.258.19 . Rotimi Suberu, “Background and Principles of Nigeria’s Presidential System” in Victor Ayeni and KayodeSoremekun (eds.) Nigeria’s Second Republic. (Lagos: Daily Times, 1988), p. 17. 19    
  20. 20.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          20 . See, Said Adejumobi, “Citizenship, Rights and the Problem of Conflicts and Civil Wars in Africa”, HumanRights Quarterly, Vol. 23, No.1, 2001, p. 161.21 . See, Rotimi Suberu, Op. Cit.22 . See, Billy Dudley, Billy Dudley, An Introduction to Nigerian government and Politics. (London: MacmillanPress, 1982). Also, Billy Dudley, Instability and Political Order. (Ibadan: Ibadan University Press, 1973).23 . Samuel Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968). Also,Samuel Huntington, “Political Development and Political Decay”, World Politics, Vol. XVII, April, 1965.24 . See, Eghosa Osaghae, “The Federal Solution and the National Question in Nigeria” in S. Adejumobi and A.Momoh (eds.) The National Question in Nigeria: Comparative Perspectives. (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002), pp. 217-244.25 . Richard Joseph, Democracy and Prebendal Politics in Nigeria. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).26 . Julius Ihonvbere and Toyin Falola, The Rise and Fall of the Second Republic. (London: Zed Books, 1985).27 . Both the Babangida (1986-1993) and Abacha (1993-1998) military regimes undertook lengthy political transitionprogrammes which were designed to perpetuate themselves in power. The Babangida Transition was the most costlyand apparently deceitful transition that the nation has ever witnessed. See, Said Adejumobi and A. Momoh, TheMilitary and the Crisis of Democratic Transition: A Study in the Monopoly of Power. (Lagos: Civil LibertiesOrganisation, 1999). Larry Diamond, A. Kirk-Greene and Oyeleye Oyediran (eds.), Transition Without End.(Ibadan: Vantage Publishers, 1996). Oyeleye Oyediran and Adigun Agbaje (eds.), Nigeria: Politics of Transitionand Governance. (Dakar: CODESRIA, 1999).28 . The annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election by the Babangida regime, and the subsequent eventsthat followed, together with the sudden death of both Sanni Abacha and Moshood Abiola in 1998 heigtened politicaltension in the country, which made it imperative for the Abubakar regime to organise a short transition programmeof one year and transfer political power to elected civilian regime on May 29, 1999.29 . All the three registered political parties- the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Peoples Party (APP), and theAlliance for Democracy (AD) agreed to zone the post of the president to the South West as a form of compensationfor the annulment of the June 12 election, and the subsequent events in the country, which was threatening thepolitical stability of the country.30 . Robert Fatton, Predatory Rule: State and Civil Society in Africa. (Boulder and London: Lynne RiennerPublishers, 1992).31 . Ibid, p. 47-48.32 . Ibid, p. 47-48.33 . Most of the appointments are however to be approved by the Senate, especially that of the Ministers. Thepresident has the primary responsibility to choose whom he likes.40 . Rotimi Suberu, Op.Cit. p. 26.41 Ibid, p. 28. 20