Choosing what we want as a nation



Just last week, some Nigerian were arguing over the vehicles that our legislators in the national assembly were planning to buy. To the people, the law makers are simply using the legislative platform to enrich themselves at the detriment of the common people. This perception is borne out of the seemingly poor disposition of the legislators to the making of people-oriented laws in relation to the huge salaries and allowances paid them.

There seems to be a favourable disposition towards the national assembly, as the House of Representatives, few months ago, moved for a change in the nation’s presidential system to parliamentary system with the hope of improving and saving the cost of governance drastically by initiating a bill towards that effect. The law makers that sponsored the bill cut across party divides, arguing that based on their findings, countries that are run by presidential regimes consistently produce lower output growth and more volatile inflation in their economies and not only that, social, political and economic instability are known to pervade therein.

As the discussant became more aggressive, they stated the disadvantage associated with our current system is that the income inequality under the presidential systems is worse when compared with that of parliamentary or other hybrid systems of government. Presidential regimes consistently produce less favourable economic outcomes, which prevail in a wide range of circumstances and due to the excessive powers resided in one man under the presidential systems, consensus building that is often required for economic decision, is always lacking. The level of instability and volatility of presidential systems makes it difficult to achieve these economic objectives. The over-centralisation of government decisions that are prevalent under the presidential systems always obstructs economic development when compared to what is obtainable under the parliamentary or hybrid system.

One of them even queried that what had become the lot of the country’s fortune is poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, and insecurity and despair. This is no longer sustainable and should be allowed to continue. Between 1966 and 1967, when the military regime toyed with the idea of federal system by imposing a de facto unitary form of government, there seems to be no real development experienced. Aside that, the political culture of allowing the constituent parts of the federation to develop their own economies, was truncated. With flagrant abuse of democratic tenets and through military fiat then, the entire nation was brought under the defunct Supreme Military Council (SMC), as the highest policy making body in the land.

This Council mainly took decisions binding on the people without necessarily making much impact on the people. The effect of the development is inefficient bureaucracy that is associated with the Federal Government, which has since been passed on to the 36 states governments. The states have since become poorer and now living on monthly allocations and doles that come from Abuja. This indulgence has made them to sit back by doing little or nothing till the next allocation when they repeat the over-reliance on the central government. Today, the truth is that there are several states across the country that cannot survive just a month without getting allocations from Abuja. It’s rather unfortunately that our regions that used to be formidable have been reduced to mere beggarly states.

On the other hand, those who criticise the return of Nigeria to the parliamentary system strongly believe that doing so would only weaken the central government without necessarily improving the quality of governance, as the operators of government, would always produce either good or bad governance. Contrary to what the proponents of parliamentary system feel, the prime minister under a parliamentary system could be more powerful than a president under the presidential system in the sense that the prime minister officially combines both the positions of the leader of parliament and head of government.

Under this arrangement, the prime minister does not need the confirmation of parliament to appoint any minister. This is not possible under the parliamentary system. Furthermore, if a vote of no confidence against him is passed, he can dissolve parliament and compel his critics to face a fresh election in which they might not be returned because the prime minister is president and at the same time, the speaker of the house of representatives. Despite the contrary views, the federal experience does not appear to have bettered the lot of the nation. This contrary to when regional governments were operational in the 1960s in which the various regional regimes experienced massive developments.

It would be recalled that under the Western Regional government in Nigeria for instance, many unparalleled achievements were recorded that are yet to be matched till date such as the magnificent cocoa building, liberty stadium and first television station, among others while regions also recorded massive developments at their own pace. It is for these reasons that the plan of our law makers should be seen as more committed to the cause of the nation and the people.

Even though it was not concluded whether the law makers should go ahead to purchase the vehicles or not, the discussant agreed that it is the legislature that drives democracy. If this position is true, then nothing may actually be too much to do to make them serve the nation. That’s just the truth.

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