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Nigeria and presidential democracy: any better alternative? (1), By Hassan Gimba

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Nigeria and Presidential Democracy: Any Better Alternative? (1), by Hassan Gimba

This article on Nigeria and Presidential Democracy first appeared on September 23 2019. Because it’s first of a part as indicated, many people have been asking for its conclusion. Having been written almost two years ago, there is a need for it to be republished as a refresher before going further.

Since man became aware of himself and realised that whether by a mutual arrangement or contrived by nature there are always leaders and followers, communities fashioned out ways and means in which to live together under organized systems to regulate and conduct their affairs.

From primitive father figure leadership to animalistic instinct of the strongest leading the flock, man has experimented with many ways in which to live in harmony with one another and with the larger community.

Since then nations have tinkered with various forms some of which evolved into an absolute monarchy (absolutism), limited monarchy (constitutional monarchy), direct democracy and representative democracy. Others are dictatorship, oligarchy, totalitarianism and theocracy.

The presidential system of governance, which we based our 1979 constitution upon, and first practised in governance that year, is modelled after the American system.

The presidential system is based on a tripod – the executive, legislature and judiciary, with the head of government called president leading the executive branch. It is both a democratic and republican system of government with fixed tenures for elected officials.

The presidential system of government is seen as democratic because the president is directly elected by the electorate and is, therefore, directly answerable to the people. There is also effective control by the president and also quick decision-making and execution of government policies.

Another advantage is the stability it offers because of the fixed term of office and where to locate responsibility for any acts of commission and omission.

While it can be said to have such advantages, the presidential system tends to degenerate into a winner-takes-all ‘dictatorship’ with individual liberties taken away, citizens’ rights trampled upon and views of political opponents suppressed.

Other disadvantages include the very difficult processes for change of government before the expiry of tenure even if the president’s policies are not favourable to the people as well as the thin line between national and partisan issues.

There may also be strained relationship between the executive and legislature where the president may refuse to accent to bills from the legislature while the legislature, generally multi-party in composition, may not cooperate with the president in some of his policies. Then there is the possibility of distraction and loss of focus by the executive who may be consumed with the ambition of winning the next election.

Another type Nigeria has tried is the parliamentary system of government. Parliamentary democracy is the system in which the executive derives its democratic legitimacy from the confidence the legislature has in it, typically a parliament, and is also held accountable to that parliament. In a parliamentary system, the head of state is usually a person distinct from the head of government. This is in contrast to a presidential system, where the head of state often is also the head of government and, most importantly, the executive does not derive its democratic legitimacy from the legislature. The head of government here is elected to power through the legislature.

One of the disadvantages of this system is that the government can be unstable. The prime minister is elected by the majority party and can be removed at any time if the majority party loses confidence in that person as a leader.

Another form is the semi-presidential or dual executive system of government in which a president exists alongside a prime minister and a cabinet, with the latter being responsible to the legislature of a state.

The Economist Intelligence Unit though does not see Nigeria as practising any of the above. In its Democracy Index of 2016, it rated Nigeria’s as a “hybrid regime”.

In its definition, a hybrid regime is a mixed type of political regime that manifests based on an incomplete democratic transition. Hybrid regimes combine autocratic features with democratic ones; they can simultaneously hold political repressions and regular elections. The term “hybrid regime” arises from a polymorphic view of political regimes that oppose the dichotomy of autocracy or democracy. Hybrid regimes are characteristic of resource countries (petro-states). Such regimes can be stable and tenacious.

Furthermore, hybrid regimes pay attention mainly to the decorative nature of democratic institutions (elections do not lead to a change of power, different media broadcast government point of view, the “opposition” in parliament votes the same way as the ruling party, etc.), from which it is concluded that authoritarianism is the basis of hybrid regimes, however, hybrid regimes also imitate dictatorship, while having a relatively lower level of violence.

We also have direct democracy or pure democracy which is a form of democracy in which people decide on policy initiatives directly. This differs from the majority of currently established democracies, which are representative.

Switzerland is the closest state in the world to have a direct democracy where citizens may challenge any law voted by the federal assembly. Switzerland’s Executive, Judicial and Legislative institutions are organized on federal, cantonal and communal levels. Switzerland, unlike many other European states, does not have a president or a prime minister, and the country’s citizens are at the pinnacle of power.

Its legislature is comprised of the National Council and the Council of States. The Council of States consists of 46 members who represent the cantons. After every four years, citizens of Switzerland vote for 200 members to constitute the National Council. The two chambers of parliament undertake legislative duties, and their sessions in parliament are open for citizens to attend. Any citizen can challenge any law or amendments proposed by the federal assembly.

Six members constitute the Executive branch – the Federal Council of Switzerland. They engage in what can be termed as a collective presidency and are elected by parliament. Each of these members leads a federal department (ministry). The country’s seven departments are Finance and Economy, Education, Internal Affairs, Defence and Sports, Energy, Traffic and Environment, and Justice.

The question here is whether Nigeria is served well by the forms of government it has had. We have experimented with the parliamentary system. Though it was scuttled midterm by the army, even then Nigeria was already in deep problem and wobbling as a nation.

We then went through the journey of nationhood under the military jackboots and yet again returned to representative democracy that was also scuttled and we found ourselves back in the stranglehold of the military.

Our current democratic journey is the longest in our nation’s history. From the short-lived Abbey Westminster form bequeathed to us by our colonial masters to another short-lived presidential system in the Second Republic, adopted because America was the bastion of democracy, we have come thus far and we have the belief it would last.

However, cries of marginalisation rend the air. Placing partisan interests above national interests is the order of the day; divisions along ethnic and religious lines have set in and the struggle for power and its retention have taken a “do or die” dimension, affecting the neutrality of the judiciary, the last hope of the common man.

By the day, the gulf in communication between the average Nigerian and his representative in government widen so much it seems they live in two separate worlds with nothing in common, perhaps except religion and tribe or party and town.

Can we continue this way? Is it the fault of the system? Should we scout for a better system? Should we look inwards? Will a system in tandem with our inner being be the answer to our multifaceted and ever-growing problems as a nation? Perhaps we have been imposing on ourselves systems that are alien to us, to our culture, to our souls? We shall be examining this issue ahead, God willing.


Hassan Gimba

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Opinion

UN-POLAC Appoints Dr. Adamu Dodo As Editor-in-Chief

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UN-POLAC Appoints Dr. Adamu Dodo As Editor-In-Chief

Nura Mohammed

The Senate of the United Nations-POLAC has approved the appointment of Dr. Adamu Muhammad Dodo as Editor-In-Chief of her new magazine; POLAC World.

The appointment letter dated February 24, 2021, signed by the UN-POLAC Director General/Advisor, Prof. (Obong) Halo B. Eton revealed that the appointment was sequel to the resolution to float both online media and mainstream magazine.

“In view of the above and based on your expertise in newspaper and online publications, you are hereby appointed the Editor-In-Chief.

“You are to work out the modalities for the rake off of the magazine,” the letter reads.

Dodo the head of information and media relations FMC Yola, ADAMAWA state, northeast Nigeria, the lead publisher of the Periscope Global, publishers of both online and Mainstream newspaper and the interim chairman, North East Online Network NEON, was appointed Peace Ambassador with the United Nations-POLAC on Saturday, December 12, 2015.

Dodo’s contributions in actualising POLAC’s peace mission and vision associated with restoration, promotion and strengthening of cultural heritage, earned him the position of state coordinator in charge of Adamawa state and national programme manager in the year 2016.

Dodo has won the best POLAC state coordinator awards for two consecutive years; 2017 and 2018.

Owing to his pieces and projects on peace and conflict resolution, Dodo has in 2018 bagged another honorary doctorate degree in Sociology of Peace by the UN-POLAC Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution. The same year he was upgraded to the position of North East Coordinator and Country Deputy President (Northern Nigeria). The position he holds to this day.

Dodo the communication tsar and public relations consultant is a governing council member of the Institute of Business Diplomacy and Financial Management IBDFM among so many professional bodies he belongs to as Fellow member.

POLAC stands for Positive Livelihood Award Centre established as an international autonomous institution in 2001 with the UN and UNESCO following General Assembly resolution, declaring 2001-2010 as a decade of peace and non violence.

It has the mandate to enhance the effectiveness of the UN millennium development goals, now sustainable development goals and UNESCO Culture of Peace Programme particularly the maintenance of peace and security and the restoration of human dignity.

It has the following goals:

  • To defend human rights and restore dignity to all persons

*To contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among groups and individuals through culture and education.

*To enhance the position of family heads through recognition as Peace Advocates for proper family upbringing.

*To recognise people (both late & alive( as legends to encourage the incoming generations for peace and sustainable development.

  • To stimulate reactions in all spheres of life.
  • the advancement of the international understanding, Goodwill and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons United in the ideal of service for peace

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Opinion

The closure of miringa market by the military and the agitation so far!

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THE CLOSURE OF MIRNGA MARKET BY THE MILITARY AND THE AGITATION SO FAR!

By Musa Salihu Kachallah, arpa

On behalf of the good people and law abiding citizens of Mirnga District, I write to appeal to the government of Borno State under the leadership of a selfless leader our amiable Governor Professor Babagana Umara Zulum the Executive Governor of Borno State to call the attention of the present Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Ibrahim Attahiru to in the name of almighty Allah as a matter of urgency to reopen Mirnga Market that was shutdown by the Military for close to 3 years under the guise that some suspected elements of Boko Haram terrorist do visit the market to shop for their daily need to resume for business activities.

Though we are not in anyway disputing the intelligence gathered by the Military authority in this regards, but I can categorically said without missing words that since the beginning of this Boko Haram crisis in North East Nigeria no single Boko Haram fighter was ever seen or arrested in Mirnga town or in the market the records are there for everybody to see but our market remained close for this unjustified reasons.

Your excellency sir, as you know Mirnga District is a peaceful Community full of people with integrity and positive thoughts as well as willing businessmen and women who are ever ready to struggle to earn money legitemately but this singular action of the military authority has plunged many families into poverty and lacking as our Fathers, Mothers, Brothers and Sisters who carryout petty trades are gradually loosing their means of survival and it is going to be irrational if the market further remains closed.

Sir, I want you to see reasons for ordering the reopening of the market bcoz millions of your subjects are continually loosing their means of livelihood for this act as you can see many people today cannot afford to care for their families anymore especially our energetic grain bag loader known as (Yan’Dako), Wheelbarrow pushers, Water Vendors and many more who feeds from my hands to mouths bcos until they go out for this activities before they earn some money but theirs means of survival has been thwart.

Furthermore, it may interest you to note that Mirnga Market is the central market that connects people from far and near like businessmen from Adamawa, Gombe and Yobe States respectively as well as our neighborhood like Biu, Damboa, Sabon-Gari, Mandaragirau, Gunda, Bumsa, Madlau, Buratai to mention but a few but this primitive decisions by the Army is not taken with a second thought or weigh the multiplying effect before closing the market for flimsy reasons that can be controlled bcoz we all know closing of Mirnga Market will not in anyway hinder Boko Haram logistics as they have many ways of getting stuffs, so why suffering our people unnecessarily.

In conclusion sir, we are begging you to please in the name of almighty Allah to investigate the rational/motive behind closing our Market and order for reopening as soon as possible. I write this appeal with dismay bcoz as we speak now all the markets that was closed along with Mirnga market that time from Biu Main Market down to Yadi-Buni Market all have resumed operation in full activities but for Mirnga Market reversed is the case and despite the attacks on Buni-Yadi, Buratai and others by Boko Haram terrorists in the past yet their market was open for commercial activities but Mirnga that had never has any and is relatively peaceful our market remained closed why? .

Finally, sir we are praying to Almighty Allah to grant you good health, guide and protect you and to give you more wisdom to discharge your duties with just to all sundry as you always justify in your governance.

Long Live Khadimul Unman!
Long Live Borno State
Long Live Federal Republic of Nigeria

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Opinion

Nigeria and presidential democracy: any better alternative? (2), By Hassan Gimba

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Nigeria and Presidential Democracy: Any Better Alternative? (2), by Hassan Gimba

In Nigeria and Presidential Democracy: Any Better Alternative? (1), we touched on how cries of marginalisation permeate the air. Partisan interests are placed above national interests while divisions along ethnic and religious lines have become the norm just as the struggle for power and its retention have taken a “do or die” dimension, affecting almost everything, including the neutrality of the judiciary, the supposedly last hope of the common man.
We also observed that the communication gap between the average Nigerian and his representative in government has widened so much it seems they live in two separate worlds with nothing in common except, perhaps, religion and tribe or party and town.
And then we asked if we can continue this way, going on to query if the fault is that of the system and to seek a better one, if so. But in doing that, should we look inwards? Will a system in tandem with our inner being be the answer to our multifaceted and ever-growing problems as a nation? Perhaps we have been imposing on ourselves systems that are alien to us, to our culture, to our souls? Of course, some believe the problem with us is not so much the system as it is the people. Well, could be. But can people be true to what is not their nature? Well, yes, if they put on an act. One can act like a saint but can the actor live the life of a saint? People are always at their best when they are true to themselves. Being yourself does not always give room for hypocrisy. And time has proved to us that it has a way of exposing hypocrisy.
Britain, which gave us the parliamentary system in 1960, still practises it. While the parliamentary system is over 750 years old there, ours lasted six years before it was scuttled by the march of the jackboot.
Surely while ours was an imposition, a sort of a deliberate wholesale adoption of a set system, Britain’s parliament was not created from a “conference”. It naturally evolved as out of daily necessities. Therefore, one is not far from the truth if one insists that the parliamentary system, which started in 1265 with the Simon de Montfort Parliament, is in the blood of the Briton; it is part of him. While the representative system began with the de Montfort (Earl of Leicester) Parliament, fifty years earlier, the check on impunity by leaders was rolled out. In June 1215, the Magna Carta was issued to become the first document to put into writing the principle that the king and his government were not above the law.
We can see how the homegrown parliamentary system has served Britons well.  It is because they looked inwards, derived from their nature which was in tandem with their inner being, rather than copy, adapt, borrow and impose on themselves a system that is alien to their culture, to their being. And so it works for them because they are at home with it. It is their roots.
America is another example. The democracy it is practising and proudly imposing it on other nations around the world is homegrown. After freeing itself from Britain, its colonial overlords, the leaders of the revolt set out to build its enviable democratic culture. In an article written for the Smithsonian Magazine of September 20, 2011, Joseph Stromberg said, “The dawn of American democracy didn’t come in 1776, with the declaration of Independence. It didn’t come in 1788 when the constitution was ratified by the states, or in 1789 when George Washington took office.” He continued, “According to Harry Rubeinstein, chair and curator of the Division of Political History at the American History Museum, the symbolic birth of our system of government didn’t come until its noble ideals were actually put to the test…” And that test was Washington’s resignation and handing over to John Adams in 1783.
We need not look far to see that nations tend to develop when their system of governance correlates with their innate way of thinking. Arabs in general, historically and by tradition, live in communities with close ties, respect family lineage and thrive under a strong paternalistic leader. The Arabs of Libya and Iraq that wanted to leave their roots and take up the American system are now rueing their folly. Despite America’s maximum pressure, arm twisting, blackmail and sometimes condescending cajoling, China, Russia and now Iran are holding tight to their roots. And they are stronger for it.
Therefore, one way for a political arrangement to work for a people is for it to originate from them. But humankind is a broadminded, flexible and adaptable species. Because of these and many other plausible positives, man can adapt and get adapted to any political plan for his development but with a proviso. That proviso is that he is sincere and patriotic.
And this is why we have seen thriving countries that borrowed alien systems of governance; their honesty in implementing the system and the love for their country have made it work to their benefit. You can count the Asian Tigers, many European, South American and African countries among them.
As all people evolve, the peoples of Nigeria were all developing at their paces and consolidating the substances that enhanced their lives. Colonialism came and disrupted our slow and steady but sure growth into modernity. It uprooted us, leaving us dangling in the air. We have left our roots but we are yet to grab the ever-elusiveĺ colonialists’ branches.
A ready example can be taken from the textile industry. We had ways of processing cotton and converting it to thread. There was a fabricated machine made from wood for that. From there, we formed yards that were used to sew dresses. Then, even the Whiteman bought them and transported them to his land. We also had methods of colouring clothes. Had our “primitive” textile industry been left alone, it might have evolved into something bigger than what the Whiteman has now.
But because we lack confidence in ourselves, we jettisoned ours that was improving by the day as our knowledge base got expanded, and embraced the Whiteman’s contraption. A contraption we cannot make or repair displaced what we were manufacturing. A contraption we cannot own supplanted ours. Such missteps took place in our iron smelting industry and in all other sectors of the economy. And so, like the bat which is neither a bird nor an animal, we became neither here nor there.
But our neither here nor there-ness does not just stop with our industries. Our dream became to behave like the Whiteman whose morals we see as worthier than ours. Our cultures, traditions and norms we saw as archaic and were ashamed to showcase. Even in our dressing, what is “corporate” to us is Whiteman’s idea.
This hankering for the foreign we knew not, understood not and which was never in sync with our nature also reared its head in our political preferences. Agreed we were conquered and made to live under the conqueror’s will but we have gotten our independence and with that our thoughts, presumably. They did divide us because they never wanted us united, to begin with, but we should know that for our sakes, and forge a united front.
Before the advent of the colonialists, the various peoples that constitute today’s Nigeria were practising various forms of governance. We had our ways of administration; we had our leadership structures and our economic systems. Perhaps, had our march not been truncated by colonialism, we would have continued to improve a system that is natural to us and possibly even export it. Recent actions of some politicians in the United States of America show that their political interests are bigger than national interest; surely, we could have taught them a thing or two. There is little doubt that a homegrown political system would have served us better in our current confusing, seemingly hopeless and daunting circumstances as a nation.

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