Why Nigeria Jettisoned Parliamentary System of Govt

64 Views Comment Off
The executive frustrates the presidential system, Ghali  Na’Abba retortsThe former President of the Senate, Dr. Joseph Wayas Wednesday revealed that the decision by the  political elite in Nigeria to dump the parliamentary system of government  and adopt the presidential system at the threshold of the Second Republic was predicated on the assumption that the new system was devoid of  friction.

Wayas  spoke at the opening of the National Conference on Executive-Legislature Relations organised by the Office of the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters.
The conference had in attendance, cabinet ministers and members of the two chambers of the National Assembly.

The authors of the 1979 Constitution, Wayas said,  reasoned that the rancour and  bickering  that characterised  governance during the First Republic,  culminating  in the January 15, 1966 military intervention would cease once the Nigeria adopted  the  new system with its principle of  separation of powers.

The seasoned parliamentarian  was part of the Constituent Assembly set up by the regime of the then General Olusegun Obasanjo to chart a new course for Nigeria as the military prepared to withdraw to the barracks in 1979.

He however,  said from the benefit of hindsight,  it had become evident that there was neither a government without challenges nor an absolute separation of powers in any governance system.
“It was our view that the crisis we had in the parliamentary system would cease once we adopted the presidential system that had the principle of separation of powers. But in practice there is no separation of powers. If there is separation of powers the way we think, there would be no government because it means everyone will be doing what they like and there will be no sense of common purpose in governance,” he said.

According to Wayas, the right thing to do was for both the executive and legislature to close ranks and work together to do what is right for the country.

Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji  Ghali Umar Na’Abba, who was a participant at one of the  discussion panels, said there had been no love lost between the executive and the National Assembly since the return of democracy in 1999.

He lamented that the friction being experienced in Nigeria’s presidential system was largely due to the negative  attitude of the executive towards the legislature.
Na’Abba whose  tenure  as Speaker of the House of Representatives (1999-2003) witnessed a lot of turbulence, said the executive under President Olusegun Obasanjo did not give the legislature a fair chance to operate.

He recalled that in a bid to ensure better relationship between the House and then executive, a  conference was organised for both parties to rub minds and agree on how to work together.
According to him, the meeting turned sour when Obasanjo  addressed  them in a manner that portrayed the legislature as subordinates in the power equation.

“The president told us that our salaries were illegal; our allowances were illegal and that everything we were doing was illegal. We felt there and then that  that was not a good way of beginning a cordial  relationship.

When you have a  president who comes with a sectional and  personal agenda to execute you find that the party  people see themselves as working for the president rather  than the people and that  is very unhealthy for democracy,” he said.

Na’Abba said the executive must avoid a situation where selfish  and sectional interests hold sway.
He said the principle of separation of powers and its inherent checks and balances must be  allowed to prevail if the legislature must deliver on its constitutional mandate.

He  advocated more synergy between  the  legislature  and the executive on one hand and the ruling party on the other hand, adding that it does not  serve any useful purpose if a party is in the majority in parliament and cannot  convert  its numerical strength to  majority for positive purposes.
The Chairman, House Committee on Diaspora Affairs, Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa, who was also part of the panel, said the legislature must be allowed to take its rightful  place among the three arms of government.

Dabiri-Erewa said legislature had demonstrated its preparedness to be independent when it chose to elect its leadership without interference from the executive and other external influences.
She advocated for a stronger legislature, stressing that if  the parliament as an  institution was  weakened, it could be a threat  to democracy.

According to her the summon which the National Assembly  issues  on the executive at various times was  not personal but part of its constitutional responsibilities.

“We will work with the executive but not at the expense of our independence. Criticism should be constructive and not because of the hatred for someone. The manifestos and  policies of the political parties must  be well thought out and understood by the legislators. The parties  should endeavour to  send their  best brains to the parliament as a way of strengthening the institution,” Dabiri-Erewa advised.

Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs  Diezani Allison-Madueke, observed that the executive also needed to be supported and strengthened  for it to deliver the dividends of democracy to the people.
She argued that if the majority party has the mandate of the people and appoints ministers to help it achieve the mandate, such appointees also have the mandate of the people.

She said there would always be some friction between the executive and legislature but such friction should be managed in such a way that they do not become adversarial.


In : Articles

Related Articles