By Henry Boyo
This article was first published in June 2006, but its content has become increasingly relevant as we celebrate Democracy Day; it is represented once more as a wakeup call to abort the inevitable dire consequences which will jeopardize our relationship as a nation and thereby forestall an inevitable frustration of the hope of our people for a better life. Please read on!
“There can be no end in the foreseeable future to a do-or-die fight for the presidency of our nation. The unbridled struggle to be top dog has generally been motivated by the attraction of the prospect of almost absolute power over our lives and our nation’s resources, particularly the lucrative proceeds from oil wells in the Niger Delta. Ultimately, the underbelly of the arbitrarily created 36 states and 774 local governments would be exposed as they would literarily collapse without what has been described as ‘blood money’ from the Niger Delta.
However, it is likely that if modest resources and limited power devolved to the centre for the exercise of its exclusive responsibilities, there would be less attraction to committing huge financial investments to buy or capture power and the top seat of government on behalf of one’s political club (be it military, civilian, ethnic or regional association).
Our political godfathers, in their wisdom, attempted to bring some sanity to the acrimony, insecurity and instability usually generated by the struggle for the lucrative centre, with the concept of rotating the presidency along the North and South axis. However, this solution has not brought with it much comfort because the current constitutional provision for a maximum of two – four year terms could mean that each of the six geopolitical zones would produce a President every 48 years!
This also implies that all other eminently gifted, qualified and socially committed presidential materials from other zones would be wasted in 40year cycles with no guarantee that the best available candidate would be the one from the geopolitical region, whose turn it is to produce the President!
Thus, in a political culture where plundering takes precedence over service and wealth creation, all Nigerians become victims of the greed of a parasitic political class – invariably championed by autocratic leadership; indeed, the greatest threat to our contrived democracy is dictatorship! For peace and stability to prevail, our constitution should ensure that the best available presidential materials from each geopolitical zone can contest for and attain the highest post in the land. Without hindrance, we should therefore adopt a constitution that ensures that no one person remains in power long enough to become so formidable to successfully engineer term elongation or perpetuate a dictatorship!
The National Assembly demonstrated great courage in throwing out Obasanjo’s third term bill. The legislature, fortunately, pulled us back from the precipice, but discerning Nigerians still patriotically warn against complacency. Indeed, if poverty deepens and injustice and disrespect for the rule of law by the executive remain unchecked, a National Assembly wholly made up of surrogates may still prevail, as witnessed in Oyo and Anambra States, under Obasanjo’s administration, vis-à-vis the godfather syndrome. Ultimately, a constitutional dictatorship could evolve and Nigerians would fall into real bondage as the dark days of insecurity, instability and one-man-rule will return with a vengeance.
So, how can we prevent such an ugly scenario in our political life, as a nation, in the grip of irrepressible ethnic/regional aspirations for the post of president? Instructively, some eminent Nigerians have argued that the first requirement for a just, stable, egalitarian and progressive nation should be the adoption of a truly federal constitution where the centre devolves more of its powers to the states/regions as the engines of growth, so that states/regions will freely exploit their internal human and mineral resources and pay appropriate dues to run the federal government at the centre.
Arguably, such a structure would motivate each region to look inwards and develop its own God-given resources optimally, rather than wait for monthly handouts from the centre. Thus, all regions would become actively engaged in putting their citizens to work in order to achieve additional wealth creation with commensurate improvement in social welfare.
Consequently, we may consider the adoption of a six-year collegiate presidency to douse the tension and attrition created by the usual battles to install a “one-man” presidency and the incessant clamor and grandstanding by each geopolitical group for their turn each time an incumbent’s tenure ends. Under this arrangement, every political party would field a Presidential team comprising six candidates selected from each of the six geopolitical zones for the post of president.
Every member of the victorious party’s collegiate will serve as president for only one year while the other five members of the collegiate would serve as vice presidents with direct oversight responsibilities for a discrete set of ministries and/or parastals. Furthermore, the 5 Vice-Presidents would be rotated annually from one set of ministries to the other, so that in a six year term, each member of the collegiate would have served for one year in every segment of federal administration, with one year on the seat of the President, in joint pursuit of the party’s declared manifesto.
Thus, Nigerians can afford to sleep with both eyes closed as it will be impossible for one person to consolidate his hold on the seat of power and remain long enough to eventually perpetuate a dictatorship! Furthermore, the abiding desire of geopolitical groups to see their son or daughter in the number one political jersey would be realized as each region would perpetually have a member in the collegiate presidency.
In such event, Nigerians would permanently enjoy the advantages of the multiple contributions of more eminently qualified and socially committed presidential materials. We could also expect that the collegiate presidency would play as a team of stars rather than the culture of a dictatorial lone star complex.
On the level of states and local governments, the same collegiate system of administration comprising ethnic nationalities can also be put in place to harmoniously carry along the majority of the communities in each state and ensure cohesion. However, very cogent arguments can also be made for the abolition of the clearly wasteful and unviable 36 states structure with the huge oppressive operational costs that barely positively impact the welfare of most Nigerians. The choice therefore is ours to make; do we want to live in caged apprehension and sustain acrimony in our body polity or do we truly want to break the chains of our bondage and release our true potential as a nation?”
SAVE THE NAIRA, SAVE NIGERIANS!