Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
A Call for an Overhaul of Government Structure
Liberal Democratic Foundation Inc. USA
April 5, 2005
The Liberal Democratic Foundation, Inc. is a non-governmental grassroots organization dedicated to instilling liberal democratic values including but not limited to good governance, private-government partnership for public good and limited government influence on private lives as well as a new social order in Nigeria by educating the youths of our country especially those that are socialized across campuses in Nigeria and Abroad. We are indeed headquartered in Mushin, Lagos and Houston, Texas simultaneously.
We are based in three states in Nigeria- Lagos, Oyo and Delta as well as two states in the United States, Texas and Massachusetts. We draw our members from all major ethnic groups in Nigeria as well as the major religions. Minorities and women are well represented in our organization. This memorandum to the National Political Reform Conference is a dream fulfilled for us and we are determined to make a difference and we hope are suggestions would be well taken care of.
So far so good; that is the consensus of most Nigerians going by the quality of debate at the national conference variously seen as commendable, while the broader vision of the conference is being developed. Nigerians look up to the conference for real results and the premise on which this article is written is a consolidation of the widespread view in the media about deliberations that have already taken place since the inception of the conference about six weeks ago.
In selecting the various business committees of the conference, one major component of this was the model and structure of government. This article would explore the possibilities, as well as a compromise position that would achieve first and foremost, an efficient government that minimizes corruption, which empowers its constituent’s parts, that guarantees the rights and welfare of her citizenry and strengthens participation at all levels. Thus, along with the model and structure of government, the method of resource/revenue allocation would also be examined, as well as the functions and relationship of all arms and levels of government.
Core Values of Our Nation
In examining the possibilities, it is important to mention that in Nigeria some things are settled. But in departure from the President’s position, those settled things in my opinion do not include presidentialism. In our history, the President himself is the inventor and mentor of the Presidential system in its present form in Nigeria. He invented in 1979 and fulfilled it in 1999 till date. However, what is settled is the unity and diversity of our great country. Nigeria is stronger united than divided- the country cannot survive without the oil rich Niger-Delta, neither can we be truly called industrious without the enterprising East, it would be foolhardy to ignore the wealth of human and natural resources of the West along with the flourishing center of commerce-Lagos; and indeed where does Nigeria stand without the agricultural produce that feed our children that flow from the irrigated northern ends of our beautiful country.
However, our strength lies in our diversity- that is more the reason why unitary government should be rejected in every form. It is ridiculous to see the opponents of state police or localized electoral and judicial system hiding under the guise that our democracy is immature and as such cannot sustain such suggestions. To the contrary, may we posit that we are no less capable than other advanced democracies, including the United States, that have practiced these systems since the birth of their democracy- from day one, even when they were immature. It negates our sense of national pride to suggest to the contrary.
Competing Models of Government
Many calls have been made to revert to the parliamentary system of government while on the other side of the divide there have been passionate resistance to the idea of eliminating the position of the president- the prized position for any politician that knows his/her onions. In considering these appeals it should be mentioned that minimizing corruption, empowering opposition and increasing participation have been the reasons why the parliamentary system of government is being advocated; the sentiments of the opposing view is also understandable in our status conscious society.
A Compromise Position
However, the compromise position is a mixed concept. A parliamentary system of government is entirely acceptable at the local and state level, while a mixed concept is suggested for the federal level. For the sake of notice, a non salaried part time concept can be explored on the state level (using the two to three months session concept used in more than thirty states of the United States and Canada) or an all year round part time legislature that elects a Governor who is not a member of parliament who in turns appoint commissioners outside the ranks of the state legislature.
Federal/State Executive-Legislative Model
At the federal level there should be elected to a single five year term a President and Vice President- who would also double as Senate President. In addition, there should also be a Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister who should also double as the Minister for Economic Planning and development assisted by ministers of government ministries appointed from the ranks of members of parliament as obtained in a full blown parliamentary system. The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister should be empowered to call legislative elections within a five year term and may only assume the position for a maximum of ten years by one single person. The President should be the head of state, while the prime minister would be the head of government. Serving under the president should be the cabinet head of the defense and foreign affairs ministry, while all other government departments should report to the prime minister.
The federal level should maintain a bi-cameral legislature that is different in terms of method of election as it is obtained now. The basis of election to the Federal House of Representatives should be continued based on the 360 federal constituencies, and the Federal House of Representatives should elect the Prime Minister who would be the leader of the majority party, or ruling coalition as the case may be, based on the membership of the federal House of Representatives alone; The number of government ministries and their respective ministerial nominees should be specified and authorized by a law of the national assembly, and ministers should be appointed from within the legislative ranks and should enjoy no additional monetary benefit apart from the ones they already enjoy as members of the Federal House of Representatives. In addition to this, the opposition should be able to set up a shadow government to maintain oversight as it is obtained in the United Kingdom. This would make the federal bureaucracy more answerable to the people, since they would be controlled by the federal legislators under the watchful eyes of the opposition who should have full access to their activities as guaranteed by law.
Presidential-Prime Ministerial Powers
As suggested earlier, defense and foreign relations should be the exclusive responsibilities of the President who should be answerable to the Federal Senate only. The senators should be elected based on a formula that would require parties to present senators based on vote cast in the presidential election in each of the states of the federation. The representatives of such parties should be based on vote cast in individual states, and the assumption of three senators per state, with at least one being a woman. As such there would be adequate gender representation, and across board representation after certain parties meets the minimum requirement to present a federal senator. It should be posited at this point, that only when a party obtain more than ninety percent of the state vote will they be able to solely present the three senators; otherwise, at least one senator would come from an opposing party in such state. The presentation of state representatives to the federal senate should be done with due approval by the state legislature confirming nominees after intense politicking that abides by the aforementioned guidelines being completed. The power to recall erring senators should also be vested in the state legislature with a super-majority of two-thirds required after an intricate proceeding to guarantee fair hearing. Senators should be elected to renewable six year terms and legislation may not originate from the Upper House but their consent would be required to make law as it is obtained in some other parts of the world like Russia and United Kingdom. Other powers of the senate to solely consent and approve executive and judicial appointees should be maintained and would minimize abuse that might emanate from the fused executive-legislative liaison in a psudo-parlimentary system of government.
In terms of federal-state relationship, it has been severally suggested that stronger federation units are requirements for a virile federation. This would require a review of the exclusive and concurrent legislative list to favor the states, issues like state police is workable under the current conditions with some modifications to avoid abuse. In addition to this, the present framework that sees that local government as creation of the federal constitution should be jettisoned. State governments should be able to create as many local governments as they want and they should also fund them. As such, the only beneficiaries to the federation account should be the central and state governments. Furthermore, when states assume more responsibilities it would only be proper that they get more money from the central purse.
In terms of revenue allocation, the derivation formula should be made to apply to all resources including taxes. Not only this, a quarter of the national revenue should be dedicated for this purpose. As such, states should be able to keep a quarter of all resources they contribute to the national purse at no cost. The remaining should be shared on the basis of need, population and equality. This formula would encourage the states to look inwards, discourage corruption at all levels and allow the national revenue to seep closer to the grassroots where they are most required. The new constitution should also specify that the new governments at local, state and federal level should arrive at a manageable consensus on an education, welfare and health care system that would be funded by all the levels of government.
Last but not the least; it is necessary that we all examine ourselves as Nigerians. Because there is no perfect system of government; any system of government is as good as the people that practice it. If we are determined as a people to make Nigeria work, then it would work. We just need to desist from despicable acts of corruption that have permeated our public life, and strive towards leaving a better Nigeria for our children than we met it. God would not forgive any public officer that would negate this principle of collective responsibility, but would rather corruptly enrich themselves with millions of naira while Nigerians wallow in abject poverty and shame.
From the Sage:
As far as I am concerned, it is to the future- a future which we can make great and glorious by our united action and invincible benevolence towards one another- that I have dedicated the rest of my life. Under no circumstances will I be drawn into any sterile recriminations about the past which, in any case is gone, irretrievable and irremediable.
Excerpt of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Speech to the Press after his release from Prison on August 4, 1966. Only a Truly Federal Constitution Can Unite Nigeria.
Liberal Democratic Foundation Inc
C/o Mike Gbemi, P.O. Box 472 Prairie View Tx-77446 USA
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