RETURN TO PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM?

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It’s not necessary. The problem is with the operators and not the system

In recent times, there have been mounting criticisms by several individuals and groups that the presidential system of government is wasteful and does not serve as an effective platform for delivering good governance in the country. That whispering campaign got an official endorsement of sort on 13th December last year when no fewer than 71 members of the House of Representatives initiated a bill seeking to return Nigeria to parliamentary system of government. But a careful examination has revealed that the trouble with democracy in the country is caused more by the disposition of the political actors than the system of government in place.

For one, there is nothing new in the idea being proposed. Nigeria, we must recall, practised parliamentary system of government from the pre-independence era in 1954 until the post-independence coup d’etat of 1966 led by Major Kaduna Nzeogwu. However, after 13 years of military interregnum, the government of General Olusegun Obasanjo opted to jettison the parliamentary system and adopted a presidential system of government for the Second Republic era which started in 1979. It was modelled after the American presidential system where power is separated among the three arms of government as against the parliamentary system where power is fused between the executive and the legislature. Successive attempts at democratisation have followed the same pattern.

Unlike what obtains in other climes, where people seek elective positions to add value to the system and raise the living standard of their people, Nigerian politicians are rather pre-occupied with what they can benefit from the system. So, they ascend the seat of power with lack of both the political and intellectual will to deliver good governance and transform the country. Therefore, whatever may be the drawbacks in the presidential system, it is difficult to blame the greed which often results in massive looting of our commonwealth by corrupt few to the detriment of good governance, educational and economic growth on it. Nor can we blame it for the desperation for power, indiscipline, religious and ethnic bigotry, lack of vision, insight and foresight. As long as these factors pervade our political scene, changing a system of government will make no difference.

While we subscribe to the position that the current structure of Nigeria does not work for the people, we do not believe merely changing from parliamentary to presidential system will resolve many of the contradictions. What we have always advocated are bigger federating units that will allow for economies of scale on large infrastructural projects, will make for more economically viable and competitive federating units, and will reduce the undue pressure and burden on the centre. When complemented with mechanism for improving accountability, restructuring the country has the potential for strengthening good governance and human development in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, changing the system without changing the mindset of the operators will amount to a mere exercise in futility. This perhaps explains why the bill (for a change from presidential to parliamentary system) which has passed the first reading on the floor of the House of Representatives does not elicit any interest in Nigerians who can see beyond the noise. While those who seek public offices are expected to position their country for optimal growth and advancement, our own leaders will rather launder our money and travel overseas often to enjoy the resources built by their counterparts without being challenged to replicate such levels of development in their own country.

On the whole, we believe that the major problem we have in the country today is the absence of good governance at all levels government. Merely changing from presidential to parliamentary system will not address that.