By John Moyibi Amoda
IN going through newspapers, this comment attributed to Action Congress party in the Monday March 16, 2009 issue of The Nation caught my attention:
â€œEven then, we had hoped somehow that President Yarâ€™Adua will not miss a chance to leave a legacy. But with the way things are going, it is clear that the President cannot differentiate the interest of the party from that of Nigeria. It is clear that he is stuck with the mind-set of the PDP. It is clear that the President will rather be seen as a leader of aÂ political party than a national leader who can put aside narrow political interests in the interest of his nation,” AC said. (Page News Item).
Upon reflection on the above comment, it is apparent that political systems differ in their organisation of governments and that the role played by institutional leaders are not universally uniform but are products of circumstances whose lessons find expressions in their constitutions. Countries differ therefore in the way they organise their governments.
The roles of Head of State, Commander-in-Chief, Head of Government and Head of the Party are configured through interplay of political interests rather than according to constitutional logics.
What roles should the President play in the structure of the Nigerian Government? The President is by the Constitution Head of State and the Commander-in-Chief. But it is not clear that the President is the Head of the Party. His predecessor acted as Head of the Party deploying national and state party chair persons as his surrogates.
The reform of the party structure which he pushed through positioned the partyâ€™s Board of Trustees to be the Executive Board both of the party and the Party-in-Government. The role he assigned to the Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BOT) and the criteria to be followed in appointing the Chairman of the BOT seemed tailored to make him the first occupant of such a body.
This reform has been controversial and now not assured of future support. President Obasanjoâ€™s reforms were then in the direction of assuring him headship or the PDP whether as president or ex-president. These reforms show that the structuring of government is a function of politics.
In the United Kingdom the roles are organised differently. The Head of the Party is also the Head of Government. The Head of State, however, is the Queen, her role though largely ceremonial are nonetheless not rival. In the United States after which we have patterned our own political system, the President is the Commander-in-Chief but not the Head of the Party nor of the government.
The structure of the United States government is one of check and balance between arms of government, with roles assigned the President, the Legislature (both Senate and the House) and the Judiciary. The scope of government is also prescribed – theirs being an effective three tiers federal structures – the Federal, state and the municipal. At each level the provisions of checks and balance prevail.
The partyâ€™s main task in American politics is largely electoral and its structures are peculiarly confederal and episodic. It crystallizes its structure operationally during the elections of presidents, with election into other offices, legislative, executive and judicial being at the expense of the office seekers albeit in critical elections the party can rally support of their candidates.
European experiences, with the exception of the Russian, fall somewhere between the English and the American. Under Putin the President sought to be the maximum ruler, fusing in the role of the President, the power of Heads of State, Commander of the Armed Forces, the Head Government and of the Party. Now as Prime Minister, Putin acts as if he can operate his present office with the powers he exercised as president. Putin exemplifies the role of personal ambition which is manifestly at play in African governments.
Thus it is not a surprise to see that in Zimbabwe, that in the person of Robert Mugabe, the roles of Head of State, Head of Government, Head of the Armed Forces and headship of ZANU-PF are fused. This is what circumscribes the brave effort at the restructuring of government through the internationally brokered power sharing between ZANU-PF and the MDC.
While all of the above is largely descriptive, the functionality of such structuring of government is largely determined by the tasks undertaken by the parties. In Cuba, the party of Fidel Castro was an insurgent party organised to overthrow the political order of Fulgenco Batista. In his party the roles were fused – the Cuban Head of Government was Head of Government because he was head of the revolutionary party. The party and state were fused. And the country as a socialist society was a project.
The Cuban experience provides both an example and a perspective for the leadership of Venezuela and of Peru. In review of the structuring of governments, a functionalist method should therefore be the framework for decisions made on governance procedures, structures of governments and their operational constitutions. Agenda should govern structure and not structures determine agenda- for purpose directs and determines the efficacy of means instrumental to its execution.
This question must be asked of parties contesting for power in our polity-what is the mission, what is the purpose of their contests for power? Is their mission one of state making, to secure the society from within and from without from enemy-parties? Or is the mission one of country formation thereby to give each one a stake as a patriot in the ownership and defense of the country?
If the mission is country formation, then democracy becomes the process and ethics for mobilising the citizenry and the country becomes the product of that process. Reform, economic, political, cultural, Â Â Â etc, become necessary as existing structures of the economy, the polity and the society become hindrances to the formation of the country to be formed out of the mÃ©lange of societies brought together through alien conquerors and ruled as subject peoples.
Different parties in other societies have taken up the task of country formation and individually they have discovered the way of democracy as the process by which patriots are formed and their patriotism developed. Although their aim have been formally identical, the contexts of their commitment to the project of country formation have been different.
This difference in contexts, history and environments impact choices made by the drivers of the country formation process and projects. What price the way or democracy demands from them to make the country possible and achievable are chronicled in the history of reforms and opposition to reforms.
This is what makes a formalistic non-historical, non-stakeholders defined discourse or reforms of political orders confusing and confusion generative.
The present discussion of plans to review and or amend the 1999 Constitution or promulgate another need to be functionally situated. What is the purpose of the reform? What is the context of the review and the constraints that have to be addressed? The place of the people in the 1999 Constitution suggests and presupposes commitment to country formation.
A country presupposes proprietors who are also its defenders. A peopleâ€™s country presupposes a process of common commitment to the promises and prospects of the society the country will foster. Parties will be distinguished from each other by their class orientation to the country projects. In the context of contestations over the country project, the end in view will impact the role and relevance or parties, either as champions or as opponents to the ideal and ideas of an all-embracing egalitarian society of patriots.
The history of the process will be reflected in the organisation or the polity, its economy and its government. Thus the differences among nations were determined and thus the final products of the current reform exercises will be shaped.