• Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Controversy trails move to return to parliamentary system

Reps demand full implementation of extant disability act

…No system can work until serious electoral reform -Expert

The moves by some federal lawmakers to end the current presidential system and revert to the parliamentary system previously in operation in the First Republic have continued to generate debates among Nigerians and experts.

The lawmakers numbering about 60 and members of the Parliamentary Group, introduced a constitution alteration bill on the floor of the House of Representatives last Wednesday, setting in motion what could be a transition to a parliamentary system by 2031.

Read also: Afenifere backs bill for return to parliamentary government

Three constitution alteration bills were presented by the Minority Leader, Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers), and 60 others during plenary.

The members of the coalition include members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

Nigeria operated under the parliamentary system pre-independence and in the First Republic.

Read also: 60 Reps want return to parliamentary system by 2031

However, the coup of 15 January 1966 truncated that Republic.

The military suspended the civil government and ruled the country until the transition to democracy in 1979, but the Second Republic was built on the 1979 Constitution which prescribed the presidential system.

The proposal by the lawmakers is seeking to revert to the First Republic system with a prime minister, a member of parliament, serving as the head of government, similar to the British system.

In a parliamentary system, the executive branch derives its legitimacy and authority from the legislative branch.

The head of government (often the prime minister) is typically a member of the legislature and is accountable to it.

This system fosters a close relationship between the executive and legislative branches, allowing for efficient decision-making and policy implementation.

Abdulsamad Dasuki, Spokesperson of the group, expressed their frustration with the expensive presidential system and the overbearing powers of the president.

“No wonder the Nigerian President appears to be one of the most powerful Presidents in the world,” Mr Dasuki said.

“Over the years, the imperfections of the Presidential System of Government have become glaring to all, despite several alterations to the constitution to address the shortcomings of a system that has denied the nation the opportunity to attain its full potential.

“Among these imperfections are the high cost of governance, leaving fewer resources for crucial areas like infrastructure, education, and healthcare, and consequently hindering the nation’s development progress, and the excessive powers vested in the members of the executive, who are appointees and not directly accountable to the people,” he said.

However, for some Nigerians such move was a welcome idea since they have long canvassed for such. They argued that it was clear for everyone to see that the current presidential system was part of the problem of Nigeria and should be urgently discarded.

Many Nigerians argued that the move by the federal lawmakers was the right one, because if it succeed it would free the country of its current numerous socio-economic problems.

Akhaine Sylvester Odion, a professor of political science, noted that it is cheaper than the presidential system of government and also undermines the winner-take -all attitude.

“The party with a majority in parliament forms a government, if no majority, coalition government follows,” he said.

But some experts believe that the parliamentary system polarised the country during the First Republic especially as the prime minister needs not to be acceptable to the majority of citizens, which paved the way for the military to strike.

Some other experts also said calls for the parliamentary system by the federal lawmakers was self-serving, they doubt if it is in the interest of the people or for the sake of good governance.

Temitope Musowo, public affairs analyst, said much of the problems of the country was with the crops of politicians ruling the country now, noting that much may not change even with a parliamentary system of government.

According to Musowo, “Don’t forget that in a parliamentary system, executive power belongs to the prime minister who is appointed by the parliament.

“If you ask a gang of thieves to elect a leader, it’s not likely they will elect a policeman as their leader, except for the kind of police we have in Nigeria

“Just look at the way the national assembly is operating as if they were elected to better their own lot at the expense of the people who elected them, that will give you a clue of the kind of country we would have if we are running a parliamentary system under this crop of lawmakers”.

Musowo further added that if we don’t get our electoral system right and elect the right people into the parliament, nothing is going to change.

“Look at it this way, now that the executive power and legislative power are separated under the presidential system, the executive still tries to pocket the legislature and make it its appendage through financial control, now imagine when both legislative power and executive power are fused, one can only imagine how reckless they would be.

“The problem is not about the system we practice, it is about how we practice it in Nigeria. Is democracy not supposed to be a system of government where the people have a say in the governance process, is it working that way in Nigeria?

Until we have a serious electoral reform in Nigeria, no system of government can work here”, Musowo stressed.

Similarly, Kunle Okunade, political analyst, noted that returning the governance system to parliament is not the solution to the challenges facing the nation at this moment, noting that those pushing for it might not really understand the effect of the parliamentary system on politics before the 1966 coup.

According to Okunade, “The parliamentary system may be dangerous to Nigeria’s unity because the essence of the presidential system is to have a rally point of unity among the heterogeneous people in any pluralist state like Nigeria.

“What we need is a virile and strong legislature that would know its onion. A legislature that is independent and responsive to the constituents not the Presidency or Executive.

“We need a legislature that would not be after getting patronage from MDAs and the Ministries for personal gain”.

Okunade further argued that instead of coming up with a parliamentary system, the country needs a unicameral legislature that is operated on a part time basis.

“This implies, the legislators operate on part time and this reduces the burden on public funds and tax payers money, “he stressed.

Afenifere, others backs bill

Amid the controversy over the bill, Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural and political organisation Afenifere has lauded the National Assembly for waking up to the reality of the need to cut governance costs and restructure Nigeria’s political system.

The organisation, in a press statement last week said while the proposed change in the political system from presidential to parliamentary is welcome; the country needs more than just a shift from one system of government to another.

“There is a fundamental need to have the country return to the type of arrangement we had before the military incursion in 1966,” Ajayi stated.

Afenifere posited that Nigeria’s socio-political problem is beyond the system of government being run.

“It weighs more heavily on the structure. This is why we are insisting that the country be restructured. Anything tinkering with the Constitution that fails to tinker with the present structure would be cosmetic,” Ajayi stressed.

The Afenifere applauded the lawmakers for recognising the fact that Nigeria was better governed in the First Republic.

An elder-statesman and business mogul, Aminu Dantata, has thrown his weight behind the move by some members of the House of Representatives to return to the parliamentary system of government in Nigeria.

Speaking when a delegation of the sixty members paid him a consultation visit at his residence in Kano, Dantata said the parliamentary system of government is better in the country.

He said: “Parliamentary system is better, cheaper and less cumbersome. Presidential system is very expensive and cumbersome.

“I support you on this and pray for you to achieve this mission.

“As you are 60 for now, may your number increase and get more and more members to support this course.

“Our country has been in a difficult situation, so let’s try the parliamentary system. For your consultation to us, we are happy and appreciate that. We hope at the end, the country will have a better system.

“Look at now, 1 dollar is now N1,500. May Allah make it easy on us. May Nigeria be great again. May this insecurity bedevilling Nigeria and other countries be over.”