Nigeria may have started with the West Minister or cabinetry system popular called parliamentary system of government in the first republic. The good thing about this system is that it is very cost effective as the members of parliament are also the cabinet ministers. It also allows for a vibrant opposition and shadow ministers who serve as checks to the ministers from the ruling party. It encourages debates and the principle of collective responsibility falls on the Prime Minister who like other parliamentarians is also present in the House to defend or convince the parliamentarians to vote for any policy or decisions to be taken.
In the parliamentary system there is no tenure limit, as long as a party gets the majority seats in Parliament, that party continues to form a government and the leader of the party becomes the Prime Minister. The good thing is that even in less than a year, month or week in office, once a vote of no confidence (there is no impeachment) is passed on the Government or even any of the government sponsored debate, the party/ government is removed. It is cheaper to conduct a vote of confidence or vote of no confidence than to conduct impeachment proceedings.
Gbam! The military struck in 1966 and we summarily passed a Vote of NO Confidence on the first republic? After the coup and counter coup of 1966 and a 30 months bitter civil war between Nigeria and the former Eastern region known as The Republic of Biafra we had another attempt to return to civil rule but Uncle Jack (General Gowon) didn’t keep to his time and the ruthless Murtala came in 1975 promising to hand over. After his assassination his deputy General Obasanjo promised to complete the transition programme which he did. Rather than stick to the parliamentary system, he opted to return Nigeria to democratic rule in 1979 via the Capitol Hill model i.e. the American presidential system. Unlike the former, the argument is that the Presidential system is based on the principles of separation of powers because the Executive is different from the legislature.
They snag with this system apart from been so expensive is the over concentration of power in the President. Unlike the parliamentary system of government where the Prime Minister is the head of Government and a president even albeit ceremonial is the Head of state, there is fusion of power in the Presidential system of Government where the Head of State and Head of Government is one and the same person. This is called the Executive President. The fusion of the executive and parliament (many people) of the 1960 gave way to the fusion of the head of state and government (one person) in 1979. We jettisoned check and balances for separation of powers which in essence was not the truth. The time bomb with this is that it gives room for a civilian dictatorship.
Thank God the first Executive President of Nigeria Alhaji Shehu Shagari was either not a dictator; or Buhari didn’t allow him to rule long enough to translate into one, but unfortunately the Palace coup of August 1985 gave birth to a military dictator who saw the Presidential system as an opportunity to practice diarchy.
Babangida would not have used the title of a military prime minister because there can not be a Prime Minister without a parliament, but he found it perfect to use the title of a military president because as earlier stated, the fusion of the two offices into the executive presidency is already an almighty formula to dictatorship and what better dictatorship than to have a military dictator who was also a president? At the height of his diarchy he had a civilian Vice President, civilian state Governors and mockingly a legislature at not only the state levels but at the federal level. A military President, giving or withholding his assent to a bill by a National Assembly.
When invariably the third republic was aborted and the military continued their adventure until 1998, another era of returning to democratic rule finally came. Since we used the Parliamentary in the first republic and presidential in the second republic, and the 3rd republic failed why didn’t we use the French system called the Hybrid system which is a combination of the Parliamentary and Presidential system? What do we love so much about the Americans that we stick so to their Presidential system as expensive as it is. Yet we do not practice their accountability and transparency .The Presidential system concentrates so much power in one man and in developing countries like Nigeria, the President even exceeds his limits by dictating to state governors in a federation where the states are supposed to be autonomous?
If I was complaining about the Presidential system placing too much responsibilities and powers in the hands of one man, the Nigerian solution is been worked out. We are now drifting into our own model of Presidential system called a Co Presidency. This will enable the excess responsibilities and powers on the President be shared by his wife. This will then call for an amendment to the constitution. If we vote for the party in a parliamentary system, and vote for the candidate in a presidential system, will it be out of place to ask that we should amend the constitution to ask voters to vote for husband and wife in a co-presidential system?
Patience Jonathan is becoming as strong as Goodluck Jonathan. The constitution recognises only the man or woman elected as President or who succeeds a President but we are faced with a scenario now where the wife has become a Co-President. Gradually but fiercely, she is consolidating her hold on power with her retinue of aides and its attendant cost to the economy. She is trying to outdo Maryam Babangida in glamour and has assumed the motherly role of Maryam Abacha. Patience is now blatantly addressed as the Mother of Nigeria. She will out pace Stella Obasanjo in travels and jewelleries.
The impoverished tax payers’ money is used to sponsor her women for change initiative which is a decoy for her going round to campaign for her husband’s election .She is trying not to talk as fast as Turai Yar’adua but she talks rather too slow that before the end of her sentence one would have forgotten what she said at the beginning, she doesn’t bother to take a cue from the professional Fatie Abubakar. The constitution does not recognise the office of the first lady but here in Nigeria we have turned that office to that of an Executive First Lady. I have no grudges with that but it should be enshrined in our constitution if it must be.
I can not wait for us to have a female President so that I will see how the husband will be addressed. Will he be called the First Gentleman or the First Husband? Will he influence his wife to create the ministry of Men affairs and have the Minister of Men affairs who is a member of the federal executive council follow him like an orderly? Will he meet with state governors or husbands of state governors? Will he arrange a meeting with all male political appointees and go round states asking for affirmative action?
It is high time we demanded for a constitutional amendment to include a clause insisting that people taking a shot at the presidency must have spouses who are professionals and gainfully employed to save us from wasting public funds. But until that is done, the Goodluck- Patience co-Presidency may after all be the Nigerian home grown model of democracy we have all been praying for.
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