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Confab’ll move Nigeria forward — Ikokwu

Says delegates must discuss burning issues urgently

SECOND Republic politician and one of the founders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Guy Ike Ikokwu does not believe that the ongoing National Conference is a waste of time.

In a chat with Vanguard, he says if the delegates urgently discuss critical issues such as system of government (parliamentary or presidential), devolution of powers to the federating units, strengthening of the judiciary to fight graft and measures to boost the economy among others, Nigerians will reap dividends from the dialogue. Specifically, he says the adoption of 70 per cent voting benchmark on issues in the absence of consensus is a welcome development.


On resolution of voting benchmark controversy
The National Conference has approved the percentage required for the passage of matters not determined on a consensual basis to be 70 per cent instead of the 75 per cent presidential directive or the 66.67 per cent (two-third) proposed by some delegates which resulted in an impasse.

We thank the Chairman of the conference Hon. Justice Idris Kutigi, his Vice Bolaji Akinyemi and the conference delegates committee of 50 for their compromise formula. This is surely a sign of good things to come that the conference will surely move Nigeria forward in a way that will satisfy the majority of Nigerians who will surely approve their decision at a future referendum.

Urgent issues for deliberation
It is necessary at this point to remind the delegates to move away from frivolities and get on with some very salient issues required to move the nation forward. One of such issues is the system of governance.

Should it be the present presidential system or the parliamentary system of our former leaders or a mixture of both as proposed before the new civilian constitution came into force?
It has become very clear that the presidential system is very expensive and encourages a lot of corruption. Our present practice of the presidential system shows that a majority of the past executive have been very corrupt and looted our economy bracingly.

About 20 of them are still under prosecution by the EFCC for years and are still going about their political and economic functions without any remorse.
It is even disheartening to note that some of them are even members of the present National Assembly regardless of what they have done when they were in office as heads of state governments.

Parliamentary system
In the parliamentary system, the heads of government and their commissioners are members of the assembly and cannot behave in a dictatorial manner as our present governments behave.

They cannot monetise the passage of budgets by the assembly and thereafter turn around to implement the budget from their bedrooms the way they like and without necessary oversight enquires of the assembly. Suspected breaches are taken up in the assembly at once, not months or years after.

It is against our African culture for heads of government to be dictatorial as we now have and believe that they can defect from one party to the other even while in office, and believing that they have the right to commit the whole populace in their state without an election and without resignation from office.

Need for strong political parties
The new Nigeria needs strong political parties which have manifestoes based on issues and not personalities. The parliamentary system ensures discipline and strong political parties manifesting the will of the people and electorate.

Disciplined parties
With disciplined parties based on ideologies, the elected representatives under a parliamentary system are not permitted to cross carpet that is moving from one party to the other without losing their seats and going back to the electorate for another election since they were elected based on their parties and not their individual personalities.

Also the issue of candidates being elected on the basis of minority votes should not be permitted on a real democracy and on elected candidate should at least get 51 per cent of the vote. Where it did not happen the two electorates should go back to the electorate for adjudication.

To have good elections, there must be an efficient electoral commission. Nigeria should learn from leading countries like Turkey, India and Canada or even nearby Ghana to name a few, where in spite of the polarization of the political parties, the electoral commission is truly independent and efficient. The election results are respected by the parties and the number of election tribunals are greatly reduced or even nonexistent.

In such a case, the judiciary is no longer monetized and compromised as has been alleged in many instances in Nigeria. In an efficient situation, those elected can take up their new assignments without any subsisting election tribunal matters as we have had in the past in Nigeria. On the other hand, the presidential system does not encourage discipline and strong political parties. It rather encourages the proliferation of political parties which are personally based.

60 per cent minimum capital expenditure
The conference should discuss the issue of capital and recurrent expenditure in order to increase our development and growth rate indices. Our constitution should provide for a minimum of 60 per cent capital expenditure in our budget and not more than 40 per cent for recurrent expenditure.

This provision should apply to federal, zonal, state and local governments. It will therefore be criminal for any of the authorities by whatever design to manipulate the budget in order to decrease the capital expenditure.

Six zones as federating units, devolution of powers
Another issue is the implantation of a truly federal system of government.
The federating units should be the six zones and the exclusive list jurisdiction of the government in Abuja should be reduced to about 30 per cent of the present list.

Therefore it is the zones that have the majority of the developmental and economic list and have only devolved to the central government some concurrent matters and other list which are mainly for the overall regulation of matters which affect the whole country such as defence, security, immigration, foreign affairs, overall economic planning and census, etc. Local Government matters have nothing to do with the central government in a federal constitution.

Less powerful centre
Therefore under the new system, the zones will have more power than the present states as the federating units. There are other issues such as exemption from criminal and civil matters for those in authority (immunity clause), which need to be addressed and redefined so as not to make some individuals to be above the law of the land. There are other matters like the police for which in a federal system there should be a federal police and zonal police (not state) with defined powers and jurisdictions.

We know presently that the regulation of vigilantes have been of some assistance to the police and security organizations in various localities.


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