Afenifere Backs Reps on Parliamentary System, Says Political Restructuring Must Begin Ahead of 2027

*Disagrees with 2031 effective date

By Segun James

Pan Yoruba socio-cultural and political organisation, Afenifere, has commended the National Assembly for waking up to the reality of the need to cut costs of governance and restructure the nation’s political system.

Afenifere, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Comrade Jare Ajayi, however added that while the proposed change in the political system from presidential to parliamentary “is okay, what the country needs now is not just a shift from one system of government to another.” 

A bill seeking to effect a change in the system of governance of Nigeria from the present presidential to parliamentary system passed through the first reading on the floor of the House of Representatives on Wednesday, February 14, 2024. 

Titled “The Bills Proposing Constitutional Alterations for a Transition to Parliamentary System of Government”, the bill was sponsored by 60 members of the House of Representatives.

The sponsors of the  bill at a press conference addressed by Honourable Abdussamad Dasuki (Kebbe/Tambuwal Federal Constituency, Sokoto State), said the presidential system that replaced the parliamentary system of the First Republic was “a new system of government, theoretically fashioned after the presidential system of the United States but in practice, imbibed the uttermost attributes of military rule”. 

Afenifere said as things were, Nigeria’s socio-political problem “goes beyond the system of government being run. It weighs more heavily on the structure. This is why we are insisting that the country must be restructured. Any tinkering with the constitution that fails to tinker with the present structure would be cosmetic.” 

The pan Yoruba socio-political group applauded Dasuki and his colleagues for recognizing the fact that Nigeria was better governed in the First Republic. 

Afenifere said the relative good governance that the country experienced at that time was “not only due to the parliamentary system in operation then. It was also because the constituent parts were allowed to direct their own respective affairs more or less as obtained in a confederal system. This was in addition to the greater sense of patriotism that those who held political offices then had. That is what we should return to”. 

Disagreeing with the plan that the proposed amendment should take effect in 2031, Afenifere said: “No. This should not be. All legislative works regarding restructuring along with the shift from presidential to parliamentary must take place within the first two or three years of this administration. The new law can be test-run in the states’ elections that will take place in 2026 while the 2027 general elections must be conducted on the basis of a constitution proclaiming United Regions of Nigeria under a Parliamentary System of Government. Such a system should be one that confers powers to the constituent parts on matters affecting their respective areas. In other words, the constituent parts must be able to determine a lot of things about themselves in as much as such determination does not negatively affect or threaten national interests.”

Afenifere recalled that in December 2018, a bill of a similar nature, calling for a shift to parliamentary system, was moved in the Lower Chamber of the National Assembly. 

“At that time, it was even 71 members from across political parties that moved the motion. But what became of it? It was then thought that serious work would be done on it for the new system to be used for the general elections of 2019. But what did we have? Mere fuss!”

It said the seeming unseriousness of the lawmakers seems to inhere in the time they are proposing for the implementation of the bills when passed into law. 

“You are proposing a law or laws to be made in 2024 and setting the implementation date for 2031! What do we know will happen between now and that time? Especially on an issue that is pivotal to the existence of the country, an issue that has to do with the corporate essence of the nation!, the organisation said.

Noting that the lawmakers said that the presentation of the bills was intended to “ignite, provoke a national conversation about the future of the Nigerian governance system” etc, Afenifere said while encouraging ‘constructive dialogue’ is good, “this should not be used as an excuse to prolong what ought to be done with dispatch, especially since there is already a template.”

Afenifere said: “The template being a synthesis of the 1963 Republican Constitution, the Report of 2014 Confab and APC Committee Report on Restructuring led by former Kaduna State Governor El Rufai. What the National Assembly needs to do now is to put these reports together along with 1963 Constitution and come up with something that would be in line with the present reality. This is what public debates should centre on.

“For us in Afenifere, the 1999 Constitution should be amended now to make Nigeria practise true federalism that enables constituent regions to be able to exercise powers over their own affairs in general times as we had it when we had regional governments. Afenifere wholeheartedly subscribes to the Parliamentary System because it cuts costs, makes government to be accountable, does not encourage power to be usurped by an individual among other benefits. But the shift to the imperial system must come with Restructuring that we have been advocating for all this while”.

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