Making Democrats from Politician


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Making Democrats from Politicians through Education in Nigeria




Omo Omoruyi

Being a lecture delivered at the Conference on Nigeria in Bern, Switzerland on October 23, 2004 organized by the Nigerian Awareness Group.

At a time when the term politician seems or tends to convey some negative connotation in Nigeria , Nigeria seems to have in abundance, “politicians”, especially after 1999.   But the term democrat conveys some positive connotation.   

Nigeria seems to be short of democrats.    What is the difference between a politician and a democrat?   What is responsible for this gap?   How do we bridge the gap?   Can the gap be bridged through education?   What kind of education?   What instrument of education should be used?   This lecture will address these questions.        

Let me pay tribute to the organizers of this Conference for inviting me to this year’s conference.   You must have found something in me from what I said last year to warrant you to invite me to this year’s conference.  

Last year I devoted my presentation to the nagging problem of “civilian-to-civilian-election” in Nigeria and suggested as the solution the introduction of what I called the “ Bangladesh Formula”.   I recall that the person who reviewed my paper said then that Nigeria should not be made to copy from a poverty-stricken and a corruption-ridden country like Bangladesh .   This fellow must have forgotten to address the issue that I tried to deal with.   I was concerned with how to ensure the credibility of elections.   One method is the restoration of the “independence” of the instrument for managing the elections.   I still commend the innovation to Nigeria in preparation for the 2007 election.   

I am glad that the former Chairman of the Governing Council of the defunct Centre for Democratic Studies (CDS), Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule also raised the same question after the 2003 election and came to the same prognosis in November 2003.   According to Alhaji Maitama Sule,

An interim Government should be set up three months before the election so that all parties would be at par. What Alhaji Maitama spoke from experience especially from what the country went through in the 2003 elections.    What the respected nationalist was saying is that there should be ‘a level playing field’ for all political parties and for all candidates during the period of election.   This is the “ Bangladesh Formula”, in a nutshell.   

Today I hope I would not be accused of copying from other systems.   My view is that Nigeria is not an island unto itself.   Those who criticized me last year ought to have appreciated the fact the Nigerian Constitution makers copied copiously from the Bangladesh Constitution that in turn copied from the Pakistan and the Indian Constitution.   Those who are in doubt should read the “Fundamental Objective nd Directive Principles of State Policy”.   Today I shall be calling attention to the classical issue of citizenship that is based on education.   This is not copying.   It is universal.    But we have to deal with the ignorance that persists in certain quarters about political education for democracy.


There is a display of ignorance among some members of the political class that persisted in the country since 1989 when President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida introduced the idea of politicians undergoing some training program as part of the transition program of the time.   This ignorance is manifest in the thoughts and actions of some politicians.   One and only political theoretician of the extreme right in Nigeria , Alhaji Uba Ahmed will be used as a typical example.   According to this theoretician,

The Centre for Democratic Studies has taken most of the functions and works of the Presidency itself like……….the supervision of elections and teaching people politics.

He further demonstrated his ignorance when he stated thus:

I have never heard of any place in the world where politicians are called to go to school to be politicians except here.

(The Sentinel, December 19, 1994)

I am happy that the focus of this conference is on the present generation of Nigerian political leaders.   This has nothing to do with age.   My understanding of the present generation has to do with the Nigerian politicians who took over the governance of Nigeria at all levels since 1999.   

When I decided to pick the title “Making Democrats from Politicians through Education” I knew that there are some politicians represented by Uba Ahmed who strongly believe that politicians do not need to go to school.   This is unfortunate because Nigeria is a party to the Vienna Declaration of 1993 under which education is to be used to emphasize the indivisibility and universality of human rights and the primacy of democratic rights.

The problems that the current generation has today should be attributed to the defect in the preparation for the task that they have been facing since 1999.   Many if not all are politicians who are not democrats.   After all those who made up the five political parties that jointly “nominated” General Sani Abacha as their sole candidate to run on the ticket of those political parties were “democrats”.   They would have continued to be “democrats” along with the military strongman if he had not died.   The likes of Uba Ahmed who was one of the proponents of that kind of “democracy” would have continued to mislead his fellow politicians that what existed before 1993 was no democracy because according to the conservative theoretician, “professors, intellectuals exploited the good nature of IBB to create works for themselves and make money”.   This view persists in certain quarters in Nigeria that IBB’\s craze for education for democracy that he introduced, and which was championed by me was responsible for the crisis over June 12.    (See Uba Ahmed “I don’t Blame Babangida” The Sentinel, December 19, 1994).   I wish Nigerians would read in full the inaccuracies, distortions and the anti-democratic sentiments expressed in the interview by this distinguished Nigerian politician.   My view is that it is better to call that type of Nigerians (and they are many) politicians and not democrats.  


Are politicians made or born? The answer lies in the distinction between a social man or a man in society and a political man or a man participating in political activities.    

Another distinction is that not all people who live in a society are in politics or could be called politicians. But one could be both. This is empirically valid.

Not all people who live in a society or those who become politicians are democrats.  This is also empirically valid.   


For those who want to promote democracy in a society like Nigeria , there should be an understanding that no one is born a democrat and that democratic life is an acquired or learned behavior.   This also means that if we learn anti-democratic behavior, we can also unlearn it.   

One would recall that those who were communists in Nigeria and in the third world countries were in a dilemma after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.   The political leaders in the African countries who thought that the communist states were practicing their brand of democracy had to have a second thought after the collapse of the Soviet Union .   The old Soviet bloc could no longer serve as an alternative vision to developing countries.   

Those who read the debates over the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) would have noticed the different views about the concept of democracy.   There is virtually a consensus on the concept of democracy; hence the UN Human Rights Commission resolved this as a right in 1999.    Are we surprised that the Communist states had and still have to unlearn communism based on one party and learn to be democrats based on multipartism after the fall of the Berlin Wall?   This was not an easy feat. This was done with a lot of help from mature democracies in the West.   This was through education that many US organizations mounted in the various new democracies, as they were called after the collapse of the Soviet Union .       

What I am trying to demonstrate is that one would need democrats to help those who lived too long in a non-democratic life to transit to democracy.   This is based on the assumption that only democrats can make democrats. Nigeria lived too long under the military to appreciate democratic life. All these are some of the issues that are at the root of the political education in general and education for democracy in particular.    

The political education in communist states in the past followed some rigid program that is very different from the education for democracy. This should be my second occasion to address the questions raised by those who are ignorant about political education in general and education for democracy in particular.   They are many among the current politicians.    

The 1999 transition to civilian rule that gave birth to the current generation of politicians could not be said to be a transition to democratic rule for obvious reasons.   

One, the politicians were no democrats.    Two, they did not believe in democracy. Three they were party to the backsliding of democratization in the past. 

In my view, all those who are shouting democracy or 'we are in a democracy' cannot be expected to nurture what they do not believe in and what they actually did everything to undermine in the past.   We can see this from the way they have been carrying on since 1999 especially from the way they organize parties, seek election and run their government.

A colleague of mine once lamented that if the 400,000 'new breed' politicians that passed through the Centre for Democracy Studies between 1989-1992 were allowed to continue (i.e. if the democratization process were not interrupted in June 1993), Nigeria would have been different today. The interruption of the process in 1993 introduced new set of Nigerians who are non-believers in democracy.   Some even call themselves the godfathers of various kinds.   Why do we expect the Nigerian democratic experiment to commence with the non-believers in democracy?   

What I want to do in this conference is deal with how to convert non-believers in democracy to believers. This is a tall order; is it possible?   I’d say yes if the present generation of politicians would humble themselves and go to the first principle, education.   This is my contribution. 


Since 1999, it should be obvious to us that in the area of democratic rights or participatory rights we need an institution to enhance peoples’ democratic rights.    It is abundantly clear that in the area of democratic governance, the current office holders ought to be going through continuous civic education.  

are established anti-democratic tendencies in Nigerian politicians that we would have to correct. These are what I called 'political pathologies' in the past in my writings and lectures. If we are in difficulty identifying areas that need to be corrected in the current politicians, may I state that the Centre for Democratic Studies once identified them in the past? They are still evident today. Nigeria should not ignore them and think that they would go away.   They will not go away because we wish they would.    We can not leave this defect in the political life of Nigeria to all sorts of international do-gooders who would organize ad hoc programs called workshops for elected officers or for organizers of elections. Nigeria needs a permanent institution.   

I can point out some of the defects in the Nigerian political life, the political pathologies from the anti-democratic behavior of Nigerian politicians since 1999.    Consider these:

(1) The Nigerian politicians generally do not have faith in the ballot box.

(2) The Nigerian politicians do not believe that they could lose an election.

(3) The Nigerian politicians who glaringly lost an election or were rejected by the voters in their various communities still go to the tribunal and cry foul that their opponents or the managers of election or the government or police robbed them of victory fortheir opponents.     

(4) The Nigerian politicians believe that winning is the only option in an election even if it is very obvious that the voters do not want them.

(5) The Nigerian politicians believe that all is fair in elections.

(6) The Nigerian politicians believe that the election officers are purchasable and could be bought to deliver victory to the losing party.

(7) The Nigerian politicians do not believe that there would be another election.

(8) The Nigerian politicians believe that they are only involved in the last election.

(9) The Nigerian politicians do not believe that one could work for and actually earn votes in an election based on one's vision and appeal.

(10) The Nigerian politicians do not believe that democracy is anchored on a series of elections. 

(11) Nigerians, especially those who call on Allah and God to show them the way do not seem to have faith in tomorrow and in subsequent elections.

The first task of education for democracy today in Nigeria is to address these pathologies. They are the sources of anti-democratic attitudes and behavior (mind set) in Nigerians.   The next task is to devise training programs to combat the discovered political pathologies through workshops, seminars, conferences etc.   

The blame game should end.   We blame the Independent National Election Commission INEC; we blame the security agents; we blame the ruling political party. 

We fail to blame ourselves.   More critically we fail to address the issue of incumbency during period of election where office holders are also candidates in the election. One would recall that I first raised this issue in 2001 at an academic conference at Houston , TX in the US . This was at the annual Conference of the African Studies Association where I argued that an office holder cannot preside over a free, fair and credible election in which he is also a candidate.   I cited the experience of 1964 and 1983. 

Later during the crisis over the electoral law, I called the attention of the country's politicians to the political consequences of an electoral law. One would recall that at Vienna (2002) and Zurich (2003), I went so far as to dig up the unique case of Bangladesh where an office holder must vacate his office at the end of the term leaving the election of a successor to an interim government. With the best will in the world, INEC cannot be independent as long as the President that appoints it is also a candidate. So too one should not expect the police during an election to be even handed as long as the President is a candidate.

This is an opportunity to respond to the issue raised by the former Chairman of the Governing Council of CDS, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule that the current government should have no hand with the 2007 election. He, in fact, called on the use of an interim government during the election. It is too late to make this proposal; I wish he had made this point in 2002 before the commencement of the process leading to the self-succession election. In 2007, there would have been what the Americans call "open seat" in Aso Rock (Presidency).   The incumbent would not be a candidate. 2007 is more open because the President and most Governors by the Constitution cannot run for the third time.   Enough to this digression that should properly be a constitutional matter and we should focus on the issue of political education for politicians.   

It is high time we focused on the individual candidate. Is he prepared for the election? Does he have the right democratic attitude? Is he a democratic man or just a political man?   These are questions that individual candidates itching to seek political office should answer.     Many of them are ill-prepared for election; many if not all of them do not possess the democratic attitude and all of them are just politicians.  


Nigerian politicians do not believe that the Nigerian politicians and would-be politicians should be sent to school to learn to be democrats.   You train for other jobs; but in politics every Nigerian believes that it is a profession of anything goes.

Trade unionism and journalism used to be like that in the past for misfits and school dropouts. It was fashionable that as soon as one could be an agitator or provocative writer, he was called a trade unionist or a journalist.    Has that not changed today?   Unfortunately, politics has become one trade where politicians think that there is no need for education.   Can we use this forum to advice the Nigerian political class that they need reorientation?.  This should be obvious from what Nigeria went through in the hands of the military.   Should we not have made some effort to deal with the aftermath/     

A commentator once took me on that I should consciously search for and support a Nigerian with no military background for an elective office.   I wrote back that he should show me one.   He fired back that it is a tragedy of our time that no Nigerian of civilian background has faith in himself when placed side by side with a retired General.   

Some would say that it is money that makes iron to float in politics. Unfortunately, no one ever mentioned “vision” as one attribute that politicians should cultivate. Maybe this is what General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida was referring to when he said recently that Nigerian politicians aspiring to elective office should stop playing the ethnic card and deal with ideas and programs. Is this not a factor in the political pathology to rely solely on money and ethnic or zone as the bases of politics? Could this not be dealt with through political education?  

My view is that Nigeria since 1993 should have embarked on the fundamental reconstruction of society and the fundamental reorientation of attitude to politics as the German and the Japanese did after the WW II. Is it late?     What Nigerians passed through in the hands of the military from 1966-79 and from 1983-99 should have convinced Nigerians that Nigeria passed through war.  

The issue today in an era when all politicians are all knowing is who would push for this in Nigeria .   Maybe a mere resolution from this conference can do the trick.   Can this conference convince the political class that they need education?   

One would not expect the Nigerian politicians to be knowledgeable in the philosophy behind political education, which is a special field with many authorities behind it.   What one would have expected of them is to allow those who are trained in the area of political reconstruction to reconstruct Nigeria ’s political culture.   There are many books on the reconstruction of the political culture of Germany and Japan after the WW II.   There are many books on how the West took on the fundamental reconstruction of political culture of the former Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall.   Africa in general and Nigeria in particular is yet to undergo a fundamental reconstruction that could be compared with what happened in Germany and Japan after the WW II and in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall.   The question is why?        


There is nothing unique in my proposal. The experiment of President Babangida that I pioneered in the past was not unique to Nigeria .   It is a requirement in all democracies today. As a matter of deliberate policy, Government should set up an institution for education for democracy. This innovation belongs to a body of like-minded institutions in developed democracies. May I call attention to the Centre for Democratic Studies (CDS)?

Some would dismiss it as a military thing; it is not. Others would dismiss it as Omo Omoruyi looking for job. And so what!   I am not; but I can advise under this auspices. There are many Nigerians who can handle what I am preaching at home. Quite seriously, an institution for education in democracy really should have been embraced by a democratically elected political order since 1999.  

The US Vice President, Dan Quayle who led a team of US officials to Nigeria in 1991 had this to say about the CDS:

"Marilyn and I would like to extend our most sincere thanks to you and your staff for our extremely informative and useful visit to the Center for Democratic Studies. In addition to the tour of your fine facilities, we found the discussion of the transition to civilian rule very valuable. We leave Nigeria with greater understanding both of the challenges the transition program must overcome and the great promise it offers. I assure you that the United States supports your efforts on behalf of democracy in Nigeria , and I congratulate you on what is clearly an institution making a difference in shaping Nigeria 's political future".

This was the first institution that General Sani Abacha killed as soon as he became the military strongman in 1993.   He later brought the Nigerian Law School from Lagos to occupy its site at Abuja . Those who knew of the beauty of the campus (what the US VP called fine facilities) should visit it today.   I had opportunity to visit it in August 2004 and I wept with what I saw.   

The CDS idea should have been the first institution that a democratically elected President Obasanjo should have set up after May 1999. It would have complemented his anti-corruption campaign.   It should have had a pride of place under his reform agenda on my strong belief that no meaningful reform can take place that would not fundamentally start from the Nigerian attitude to politics.    Again we could use the examples in post WW II Germany and Japan and in the period after the fall of the Berlin Wall in Europe .  

If I were President Obasanjo’s adviser, I would have counseled him that the reform of the attitude to politics should have been seen as the key to other reforms.   It should have commenced with the President.   This was what he should have done under one term of six years and no more.  

I am afraid we cannot deal with corruption in Nigeria when the various office holders especially among the elected ones have no faith in tomorrow.  Many of them believe that they are one-term officers.  There are even cases at the federal level where Ministers are made to sign undated letters of resignation on assumption of office. Did we see the turn over in the National Assembly? Some are victims of zoning. How do you zone a Senatorial seat?    

All the mistakes we noticed in 1999 and repeated many folds in 2003 would be multiplied many times in 2007 unless we embark on fundamental reorientation of the Nigerian politician to adopt a democratic habit.    


The kind of institution that I am proposing like the CDS of the past fits into the category called, Quasi-Non-Governmental Organization (QUANGO).   This will be in the tradition of such democracy-promoting institutions like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) of the U.S. , the various German Foundations and the newly established Westminster Foundation for Democracy of the United Kingdom . What is common among all these organizations and the CDS are as follows:

(1)     They are not non-governmental organizations (NGO).

(2)     They are creations of statute.

(3)     They receive continuous government funding.

(4)     They have bi-partisan control. 

(5)     They have bipartisan policy making organs,

(6)     They are committed to the twin mission of research and training.

(7)     They enjoy autonomy in the policy formulation and execution. 

Those who raised questions about the use of the CDS in the democratic transition in the past ought to have taken up these points. They should have ticked each of the foregoing issues as to whether the CDS met any or all of them. 

The CDS in its short life met all in varying degrees and could have done more but for the uncertainties that engulfed the transition program after 1992.  One would recall that after 1992, the CDS twin mission of training and research was subordinated to a firefighting function in its attempt to rescue the democratic transition from collapse.  It should be noted that rescuing the transition program was not part of the original mission of the CDS. To name a few, the CDS came to the aid of the military government in resolving the log jam in the implementation of the program of democratic transition after the botched presidential primaries in November 1992.   

Like the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy (NED) that was created by the U.S. Congress and funded by the Congress annually or the Westminster Foundation for Democracy of the United Kingdom that was created by an Act of Parliament and funded by the Parliament annually, the CDS was created by a Decree and under the same Decree it was to get subvention from the annual budgetary allocation. 

The first recommendation that I will propose here is for this august body to call on the Nigerian political class to propose a legislation like the Decree 60 that set up the CDS in the past. There is still something else that we could learn from the CDS experiment.


For the mission of the CDS one should call attention to Decree 60 of 1993. The CDS role in the area of education for democratic political behavior can be found in Decree 26 of 1989 and Decree 52 of 1992 where CDS was specifically named as the instrument for organizing training, workshops and seminars for politicians.    We need this kind of law today in Nigeria .

The CDS was also assigned more roles in major policy pronouncements by the President. As I said above, the CDS assumed new roles after 1992 when the transition program ran into difficulty and was on the verge of virtual collapse. The CDS had to be used to (a) ensure the take off of the National Assembly on December 5, 1992 ; and (b) assure the credibility of the process leading to the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election.

On (b) here again the CDS served as the "Game Commissioner" while the National Electoral Commission (NEC) served as the "Game Referee". In Nigeria , it should have been obvious that it would be unusual for one body to do both. This was what INEC was made to do in 1999 and 2003. This was why INEC was over exposed.  

No nation leaves its election to another nation to pronounce on after a one-day safari as international observers. Again that was what we had in 1999 and 2003.    The issue of credibility of an election is more than that. The international observers and domestic observers or monitors only functioned on the Election Day in 1999 and 2003. It is empirically valid that most elections are won and lost from the pre-election day activities. International observation should have commenced with the pre-Election Day activities and extend to the Election Day and beyond.  It had to take the Florida event of 2000 to impress on the US election managers that they should invite international observers to the pre-Election Day activities, a practice that EU adopted since the fall of the Berlin Wall.     


There should be a bipartisan control and policy making measure in these institutions to guarantee the support and confidence of all the parties.

The U.S. Endowment besides having equal number of members from both parties, rotates its Chairmanship. The US by practice and NOT by law operates as a two-party system. If one party produces the Chairman, the other party produces the Vice-Chairman.   It has nothing to do with the party that controls the White House.

The UK variant has members in proportion to their strength in the House of Commons in the governing board. The number of parties is never more than three in the history of the UK . The number is manageable.   

But in Nigeria , the Decree 60 that set up the CDS provided for equal number of representation for the two political parties in the Governing Council.   Today, can we have a body made up of equal representation of thirty political parties like in the US ?  Today, can we limit the composition to the parties in the National Assembly? The later is plausible.

Speaking seriously can we not bring some order to the chaotic situation where political parties simply function in the living room of some so-called politicians?   One does not want to name names; those who are functioning under the auspices of Conference or Coalition of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) are not democrats. They are taking the certificate and the initial grant given them by INEC as the means to make themselves heard in Nigeria .  

You have cases where so-called politicians simply walked out of one party and became presidential candidates of other parties within 24 hours!    Are these democrats?  


On the twin issue of research and training, like the CDS in the past, this should not come under the control of the governing council. From experience, the CDS did not have to go to the Government on the method to use for its training and research. Herein lies the issue of autonomy, which the CDS enjoyed in the past. How many Nigerians knew that it was in furtherance of this, that the CDS entered into a link arrangement with the University of Michigan , Institute of Social Research (ISR), Ann Arbor , in 1991?

The CDS sourced for funds. It did not have to rely on subvention from Government. One still recalls how the two institutions jointly wrote a Grant Proposal and competed for and won a Research Grant of over a quarter million dollars from the US Government to mount a research program on Political Participation and Electoral Behavior in Nigeria . Nigerians have never reported this issue in any book on Nigeria .

The June 12, 1993 Presidential Election was to be the beginning of the four-yearly election circle to be covered by the Grant. This would have followed the pattern of the American Voter Project at Michigan , which follows the four-yearly Presidential Elections. This was part of the Democracy Initiative of the U.S. government administered by the United States Information Agency. 

What is important in the episode is that the two institutions, CDS in Nigeria and ISR in the U.S. were relating to one another as "autonomous research institutions" to secure grants from the U.S. government to conduct research on democratization in Nigeria

This was my concept of autonomy for the Centre for Democratic Studies.  The Centre did not have to seek permission from the Federal Military Government to enter into this bilateral agreement.  The Centre did not have to clear with the military government on the joint research plan. 

The CDS staff visited ISR and the ISR staff visited CDS between 1991 and 1992 in preparation for the June 12, 1993 Presidential election. The full research team from the US with their Nigerian counterparts had assembled in Nigeria before the June 12 election. They were to work through the election and post election period.  

At no time did the CDS have to seek clearance from the Federal Military Government on the implementation of the research effort. This is not to say that President Babangida did not know about the link.   He encouraged it in many ways, the discussion of which I will leave to other occasions. 


     The political class at all levels need training program.  

(1) for the party functionaries (ward local, state and national);

(2) for elected government officials (local, state and national);

(3) for the policy briefings for elected party officials and elected government officials;

(4) for the various groups in society such as the press, labor;

(5) for the political empowerment of the marginalized groups such as the young,  women.

 On what should be included in the program, let me use the examples from the CDS. The training program of CDS covered:

(1) The notion of democracy;

(2) The value basis of the Nigerian Constitution;

(3) The democratic features of the party Constitution;

(4) The Party Finance and Accountability;

(5) The Language and Rhetoric of Political Campaign;

(6) The Constraints of Party Programming.

For the competence enhancement program for government officials elected on party platforms at the local government, state and national levels, let me use the CDS examples from the local government levels.   The Councilors all over the country should be exposed to such issues as:

(1) The Meaning and Purpose of Grassroots Democracy;

(2) The Status of Local Government under the Nigerian Constitution;

(3) The Local Government Autonomy and Intergovernmental Relations;

(4) The Powers of Local Government;

(5) The Local Government Administrations;

(6) The Local Government Finance; and

(7) The Financial Control and Accounting Procedure. 

The elected councilors today should have availed themselves of the kind of program that the CDS did in the past. It is sad that the constitutional position of the local government system as the basis of grassroots democracy is dead today. Who is at fault, the President or the Governors or the National Assembly? The three of them are. They are doing away with the genesis of grassroots democracy in Nigeria . In most democracies local government is a training ground for higher offices.  

The CDS divided training at the State level into three parts:

(1) the Governors and their Deputies;

(2) the political leaders in the State Legislatures and

(3) the State Assemblymen and women.

      The state governors today like in the past should be exposed to or be briefed on such issues as 

(1) National Security (internal and external)

(2) National Defense;

(3) Police;

(4) National Economy;

(5) Petroleum;

(6) Social Sector (Education and Health). 

The idea of Policy briefing was devised in the past as a forum for a mutually beneficial dialogue and an exchange between the current managers at the Federal level and the State level.    Some may call this a form of an exercise in brain washing.  It is not.   But from the assessment of State Governors when the CDS ran it in 1991, some wanted the matter to be repeated on an annual basis. Many of the Governors that assumed office in 1999 did not know what they were getting into.  

This is an exercise that the new President and the new Governors should have been led through by the outgoing military before they assumed office. That would have served them well in their first year. 

Recently President Obasanjo told the Nigerian people that he underestimated the enormous problem that he would face in his first term.  What about the Governors!    Is it not sad that the President is issuing what he called the Executive Order to decide on the allocation of revenue among the three tiers of government?      


President Babangida rightly diagnosed the underdevelopment of the legislature in the Presidential System caused by many years of military rule and asked the CDS to fix it.   The situation has not changed since1999. In fact it is worse with the President and the Governors calling themselves EXECUTIVE this or that.   Who can fix it today?    A training program for both the Executive and the legislature is desirable to emphasize the power of and the relationship between the two elective arms of government.  

President Babangida called the Assemblies the weakest link in the democratization program in 1992; but the situation is worse today.   There is a dire need for a variety of training programs for the legislators (national and state).   Let me cite what the CDS in the past that can still be done today with the legislature.

From the CDS experience, the training program should take two forms: the political leaders of the legislatures covering the Chief Executive of the legislative arm of the Government including other political leaders such as the Majority and the Minority leaders and key Committee Chairmen.   We noticed in the past that most legislators were not sure of their roles and some were scared of the enormous power of the President and the Governors. This is still the situation today.   Generally most Assemblymen and women did not know of their powers Vis a Vis the President and the Governors.  Has this changed since 1999? It is in fact worse.

If democracy is to survive in Nigeria (which we believe it should) we must deal with the "status insecurity" problems that affect the Assemblies in the face of the powerful President and the state governors. Who is to fix this?  

My experience in the past was that the legislative arm was neglected in the past at all levels of government, which arose from the interruption of democratic life in Nigeria . The military did not help with the way they converted State Assemblies into offices or Community Centers for wedding receptions.

This program should be repeated at the national level. The situation is even worse as the National Assembly men and women do not know how to deal with a President who just feels that the National Assembly is a mere debating club and nothing more.  

It is a pity and a tragedy that the notion of the Presidential System of Government means that only the President or the Governor is the government since only the President or the Governor governs. The Executive arrogates to itself the power to decide on how money would be spent. What is sad in this claim of the Executive is that various Assemblies believe that to be so.

If the legislature suffers from status insecurity, it is suffering from serious procedural problems arising from the grafting of the Standing Order of the Westminster Model on the Congressional System.   This is a serious problem because the unwritten enormous power of the President/Governor is a carry over from the Parliamentary System where the Premier (with his Ministers) was an integral part of the Legislature and he served as the Legislative Leader.  But even though the advent of the Congressional system under the Presidential system gives enhanced power to the legislature, the Nigerian legislators are still not able to take advantage of the Constitution.

The Assemblies at all levels need to revert to the Committee System.   Who can tell them to discard the Standing Order that is a carryover from the House of Representatives of the First Republic modeled after the House of Commons in the United Kingdom ? Who can make them change?    Since the legislatures have power under the Constitution to change it, one would recommend to this body that there should be a workshop to educate the various Assemblies as to their power over the Standing Order that should be based on the Committee System.  

It should be noted that the Committees in the National Assembly since 1999 only function in name. They have no power to summon the Ministers to answer to questions about their Ministries. The situation is even worse during the confirmation of Ministers and Ambassadors. Here the Senate had since 1999 not been able to adopt a procedure that would subject the nominees to rigorous questions as to their suitability in respect of their assignment. How can they do this anyway when the President is never asked to name Ministers to offices and Ambassadors to countries? It is sad that the Senate only approves a list of nominees and the President does what he likes with the list. On what basis do the Senators adjudge the nominees suitable? This is the same practice at the State level where the Assembly only approves a list sent to it by the Governor. This practice should change. They go to the US , but the US does not go through them. They see what nominees of the President go through as part of the rigorous process in order to fulfill the function of "advice and consent".  

The Assemblies ought to be educated on the status of the State/national finances and the bill submitted by the Governors/President. This is one area where the legislators need a thorough understanding of their powers. One would not be surprised that the President and the Governors would consider such training program as subversive so it would seem. Both elective arms should be brought together and educated on their respective roles

There should be a training program geared to the understanding of the complex issues of (a) the separation of powers and (b) the divided government. Where the voters exercise their right and give power to different parties at the executive and legislative arms, the voters expect the two elective arms to compromise. What that shows is that the voters are not comfortable handing over power to one party.     This is what is called a ‘divided government’.  

How the CDS dealt with this case in Lagos , Cross River and Kano in 1991/2 has not been discussed in any book. This will be in my forthcoming memoir.  

One would recall that the only known case of a divided government in Kaduna during the Second Republic led to the only successful impeachment of a governor in Nigerian history.   Both the Governor and the State Assembly did not know what the voters wanted when they voted that way and refused to entrust the two arms to one party.

The operation of 'a divided government' requires the highest form of democratic behavior that was absent in the conduct of the various actors during the Kaduna episode. It should be noted that even President elect Alhaji Shehu Shagari was in difficulty as to how to handle the clear case of 'a divided government' at the federal level after the 1979 election.   Of course, the one he knew was the experience of the 1959 when the NPC that did not have a single member from the south went into alliance with the NCNC with members from the south in order to form the Federal government.

What should be noted is that the NPC-NCNC alliance was possible under a system of government where the Executive and Legislative arms of government were fused.   But under the Presidential System where both elective arms were separated, different parties could control the two elective arms.  This was what happened after the 1979 election. Shagari's party (NPN) won the Presidential election and a combination of four parties (UPN, NPP, GNPP and PRP) had a majority in the National Assembly.   They could control the National Assembly if they had chosen to work together. In my view, President-elect Shagari did not need a formal accord of the NPN-NPP type in order to function, if he properly understood the Presidential System of Government. 

But for the NPN-NPP Accord that was brought about by forces outside the two parties in the accord, the beginning of the Second Republic was in trouble if the four-party plan of the 12 Governors had materialized.   How the Accord came about was discussed in my book, Beyond the Tripod and in Shagari's memoirs, Beckoned to Serve.  

Another area requiring some education has to do with the nagging issue of oversight and investigative powers of the legislatures.  If the President really wants a solution to all cases of corruption the power of the National Assembly with respect to the power of oversight should be emphasized.   Oversight is part of the notion of checks and balances. This is a unique characteristic of the system. This still remains the least understood by the legislatures and the Executive today.

Again the legislators need a lot of support from varieties of workshops to give them the confidence and knowledge to enable them to check the excesses of the executive. The legislators need to be prodded to be bold enough to implement the relevant section of the Constitution, which gives the Assemblymen and women power to conduct investigation on:

Any matter or thing which it has power to make laws; and the conduct of affairs of any person, authority, Ministry or Government Department charged, or intended to be charged with the duty of or responsibility for executing for administering laws enacted by that House of Assembly, and disbursing or administering moneys appropriated or to be appropriated by such House.

This is the least developed aspect of the function of the Legislature in Nigeria . This is an enormous power that the Assemblies should wield. Who can educate them on how to use that power?


The last and certainly not the least is how to make the candidates adopt modern campaign techniques. This was an area that CDS pioneered in the past. I strongly recommend it to this audience.

On the influx of retired military officers into politics, we need to revive the program I called from Khaki to Agbada that I commenced in 1991.   That program was meant to serve as the conversion program for the retiring military officers who were planning to go into partisan politics. It is obvious that the many retired generals jumping into politics in Nigeria need some form of conversion program.  

Finally one would like to end this short presentation with what I kept telling the new breed politicians between 1989 and 1993 during the various training sessions that  "no one is born a democrat; only learning makes one a democrat". It should have been obvious by now that democracy being an acquired or learned behavior should have been amenable to the rules governing learning.

One hopes that this Conference would be able to prevail on the President of Nigeria in particular and the political class in general that Nigeria needs an institution devoted to enhancing political education for democracy. They should immediately send a Bill to the National Assembly like the anti- Corruption Bill. This should be modeled on the Act setting up the National Endowment for Democracy in the US, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy in the UK and the various Foundations in Germany and the CDS in Nigeria.

I rest my case and thank you for giving me the opportunity to make my case for how to make democrats from the politicians through education in Nigeria .

Thanks for listening to me.


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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.