By Mike Igini
My views on different occasions and now on the implication of insistence on nominees of state governors as candidates for ministerial positions has always been that of a reminder of the nation of what we all went through between the 23rd of November 2009 up till February.
As a midwife of the leadership election process and an advocate for the good leadership and governance of Nigeria, I proffer my opinion based strictly on the ramifications for leadership and good governance given the recent history of Nigeria.
The importance of ministers to the stability of government, given the peculiar nature of our democratic structure, was underscored by the duty which fell upon the federal cabinet to activate section 144 of the constitution during the political impasse which engulfed Nigeria, from the 23th of November 2009 until February 2010.
But for our national tendency to succumb easily to collective amnesia, I am sure many of us would recall that the federal cabinet at that critical period was hit by a terminal inertia, because the ministers of the Executive Council of the Federation nominated by Governors refused to obey the provision of section 144 of the constitution because they were under the control and direction of the Governors, then referred to as the Cabal.
Why should governors alone determine who can contest election as Councillors, LGA Chairman, State legislators, House of Rep/Senate, commissioners at the state and also choose for a president who should be his ministers? Why should we concentrate so much powers outside the contemplation of the constitution in a body of persons through collective acquiescence ?
It is a quandary that there should be controversy over the choice of ministers which should be the prerogative of the president under section 147(2) of the constitution subject only to the approval from the Senate. Although, the political party that won election and has programmes should make inputs in a true party democracy, the president’s success or failure is determined by the quality of men/women of competence, integrity and passion for success that he brings into the cabinet. We should all acknowledge that the president’s promise of “the good life” to Nigerians should not be treated with levity as his historical legacy will depend on these choices.
But since the controversy rages on, the implications of undue centripetal forces from the states on the Federal Government should be tempered with caution. Although the need for the governors to work towards collective action as enunciated by Mancur Olsen in order to ensure their distributional interests is understandable, it must be remembered that powerful collective coalitions by small groups also leads to rent-seeking attitude which is bad for the prosperity of the collective.
The reality of the power of such coalitions was visible to us during the last impasse when a small group held the nation to ransom and we must keep it in mind always, because while Nigerians were demanding for the respect of the constitution, coalitions in the frame of a governors forum that narrowly focused on who should not occupy the position of Acting-President imposed a severe “”moral hazard”” upon the governance of Nigeria.
Since such activities have a bearing on the sustainability of democracy in Nigeria, in which we all have a stake, a word of caution is necessary at this point, so that we do not jeopardize a democratic project which Nigerians have sacrificed so much to attain and maintain.
Mike Igini is the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Cross River State.