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[email protected]: A nation and its political trajectories

By Kingsley Okoye

Nigeria attained political Independence in 1960. This came in the gale of independence agitation that hit colonised countries in Africa and Asia. Its quest for complete sovereignty materialised in 1963 when it was granted a Republican status.

The implication of this is that its political allegiance to Great Britain and the Queen was severed.

Since independence, Nigeria has experimented with the parliamentary system popularly known as the “Westminster Model”, and the presidential systems of democratic governance.

Nigeria’s Presidential system of government is modeled after the United States of America political system, arguably the two most notable political systems in the world.

There has also been military incursions into governance, culminating in the retrurn to civil rule in 1999.

Observers in the political and governance space have expressed divergent opinions about the appropriate form of governance system that can drive Nigeria’s accelerated development, while accommodating its over 250 ethnic groups.

Nigeria’s journey into self-governance started with a parliamentary system of government in which late Sir Abubakar Tafwa Belewa of Northern People’s Congress was the Prime Minister.

Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe of National Convention of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) was the ceremonial president.

The Senate President was Nwafor Orizu, the NPC and NCNC edged out the Obafemi Awolowo’s Action Group which became the opposition party in parliament.

Some Political commentators and scholars contend that given its cost effectiveness, the parliamentary system of government is the best option for Nigeria.

Mr Oluwagbenga Akinwande, a political scholar, posits that “the system is more democratic as we will see more people-oriented policies.

“Most of the policies will emanate from the legislatures who are elected representatives of the people-legislators who are in touch with their constituencies. It will give the people greater participation in governance.”

His submission is product of a research on Parliamentary System of Government: Nigeria’s Best Hope for Democratic Stability.
Similarly, a frontline politician and Peoples Redemption Party national chairman, Alhaji Falalu Bello has thrown his weight behind parliamentary system of government

“Parliamentary system is less expensive, it is the elected people that would go to parliament and from among them they would elect a prime minister who will in turn pick the ministers from the parliament.

“The prime minister has to go to parliament for any policy, decision and to debate his bill and expenditure.

“If autocratic, they can remove him, unlike the presidential system where presidents retain their position till their tenure expire,” he said recently at an event in Kaduna”, he said.

Dr Dele Oluwatade, chairman of City Gate Elders of Nigeria in Benin, also argues that the Presidential system which requires maintaining many states and two legislative chambers and a huge cabinet is too expensive for Nigeria’s economy to shoulder.

“Nigeria should be restructured into twelve or eight regions with premiers as the heads of each region for easy administration and reduction in the cost of governance”, he said at a recent public lecture.

However, another political school of thought holds that given the pluralistic nature of Nigeria, it is best to stick to the presidential system to which it switched in 1979 after years of post-civil war military rule.

After years of post-civil war military rule, Nigeria returned to democratic governance in 1979.

Under this political arrangement, Alhaji Shehu Shagari was elected the president, while Dr Alex Ekwueme was the Vice President. Mr Senate President, Joseph Wayas became the Senate President while, House Speaker Mr Edwin Ume-Ezeoke was the House of Representative Speaker in a bicameral legislature arrangement.

Advocates of presidential systems cite the democratic nature of presidential elections, the advantages of separation of powers

The presidential system of government is not complicated for Nigerians, posits Mr Anthony Akiola, a United Kingdom-based political analyst.

“The presidential system is more or less a form of coalition that brings a heterogeneous group together.

“The president has the entire nation as his or her constituency, while the powers of government are shared responsibilities between the three arms of government he was quoted as saying by the media”, he said.

Yet to another school of thought, the delivery of good governance and dividends of democracy far outweighs the system of government being practiced and ethnic and political differences.

“Regardless of all these challenges…we must learn from our past and from the experiences of other developed countries if we want to create an even better future.

“We must utilise the great strength we have in our diversity and the unique resilience that is second nature to us to achieve the Nigeria of our dream,” Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State said.

Dr Romanus Okoro, a Financial and Anti-Corruption crusaders Analysts say Nigeria was yet to maximise the numerous potential at its disposal, saying that the greatest challenge facing the nation was leadership and corruption related issues.

As Nigerians go to the polls in 2023, he advises that leaders at all levels

Leaders should be elected based on competence and ideologies rather than based contribe and other sentiments.

President Muhammadu Buhari has said that the main concern of his administration is to conduct an election that will produce the type of leadership that will deliver on good governance in line with his political ideology.

At the 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA77) in New York he declared: “as president, I have set the goal that one of the enduring legacies I would leave is to entrench a process of free, fair, transparent and credible elections.

It is through that mechanism that Nigerians will elect leaders of their choice,” adding that “we have invested heavily to strengthen our framework for free and fair elections..”

The political paths have their pros and cons, what matters to Nigerians now is how to improve on good governance, infrastructure development, job creation, improved standards of education, poverty alleviation, among other meeting other yardsticks for democracy dividends.

The Presidential system may have its challenges but for now, it is delivering on these expectations and things can only get better.

…Okoye is of the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN

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