COLLEGIATE PRESIDENCY AND NATIONAL HARMONY
BY: HENRY BOYO
There can be no end in the foreseeable future to a do-or-die fight for the presidency of our nation. The unbridled struggle for the position of top dog has generally been motivated by the attraction of the prospect of almost absolute power over our lives and our nation’s resources, particularly the proceeds from the oil wells of the Niger Delta. Indeed, if income derived from oil is removed from the federal purse, federal government may have to manage on less than 30 percent of its annual budgets. Indeed, the underbelly of the arbitrarily created 36 states and 774 local governments would also be exposed, as most of these would literarily collapse without what some people have described as ‘blood money’ from the Niger Delta.
“It is likely that if only modest resources and power devolved to the centre for the exercise of its exclusive responsibilities, there would be less attraction to committing huge financial investments to capture the Presidency on behalf of one’s political club (be it military, civilian, or ethnic).
“Our political godfathers in their wisdom attempted to bring some sanity to the acrimony, insecurity and instability generated by the struggle for the lucrative centre with the concept of rotating presidency along the North and South axis or less rigidly, amongst the six generally accepted geopolitical zones. However, this solution has not brought with it much comfort because of the implication that our current constitutional provision for a maximum of two – four year terms could mean that each geopolitical zone would produce a president every 48 years (that is, assuming that each geopolitical zone’s president enjoys his full eight years in charge of the nation’s treasury!) This also implies that all other eminently gifted, qualified and socially committed presidential materials from other zones would be wasted in every cycle of 48 years and there is no guarantee that the best available candidate at any point in time would be the one from the geopolitical region whose turn it is to produce the Head of State!
“In the above political dilemma, particularly where the plunder of resources take precedence over service and wealth creation, all of us Nigerians have become the victims of the greed of a parasitic political class – invariably championed by both pure and veiled autocratic leadership for the greater part of over four decades. Indeed, the greatest threat to our contrived democracy is dictatorship! If we are to have peace and stability in this country, our constitution should ensure that the best available presidential materials from each geopolitical zone at any one time have unfettered access to contest for and attain the highest post in the land. We should also adopt a constitution that ensures that no one person remains in power long enough to become so formidable as to successfully engineer term elongation and perpetuate a dictatorship!
“The National Assembly, demonstrated great courage in throwing out Obasanjo’s third term bid, and they appropriately received the commendation of all true lovers of this country, but discerning Nigerians have warned against complacency. If the rate of poverty deepens and injustice and disrespect for the rule of law by the executive remain unchecked, we can still end up with a National Assembly wholly made up of surrogates as witnessed in some states, vis-à-vis the godfather syndrome, in the recent past. Ultimately, we could transmute to a constitutional dictatorship and our people would have fallen into real bondage as the dark days of insecurity, instability and one-man-rule would be with us once again!
“So, how can we prevent such an ugly scenario in our political life as a nation in the grip of the irrepressible ethnic/regional aspirations for the post of President? In this regard, some eminent Nigerians have argued that the first requirement for a just, stable and egalitarian nation should be the adoption of a truly federal constitution where the centre devolves more of its powers to the states/regions as the engines of growth so that the states/regions freely exploit their internal human and mineral resources and pay appropriate dues to federal government at the centre. It is argued that such a structure would motivate each region to look inwards and develop its own God-given resources to the best of their ability, rather than wait for monthly handouts from government. All regions would be actively engaged in putting their citizens to work and commercially exploit their God given resources and create additional wealth with attendant improvement in social welfare.
“In addition, we may also consider the adoption of a six-year collegiate presidency to douse the tension and attrition created by the usual battles to install an all powerful one man presidency and the incessant clamour and grandstanding by each geopolitical group for their turn each time an incumbent’s tenure comes to an end. Under this arrangement, each political party would field a team comprising six candidates selected from each of the six geopolitical zones for the post of President to prosecute its party's manifesto. Every member of the victorious collegiate will serve as president for only one year while the other five members of the collegiate would serve as vice presidents with direct oversight responsibilities for a discrete set of ministries and/or parastals. Similarly, the Vice Presidents would also be rotated annually from one set of ministries to the other, so that in a six-year term, each member of the collegiate would have served for one year in every segment of federal administration with one year as defacto President.
“Thus, it will be impossible for one person to consolidate a hold on the seat of power and remain long enough to eventually constitute a dictatorship so that Nigerians can afford to sleep with both eyes closed! Furthermore, the abiding desire of geopolitical groups to see their own person up there would be realized as each region would perpetually have a member in the collegiate presidency. Nigeria would also be able to enjoy the advantage of the contribution of more eminently qualified and socially committed presidential materials in each six-year term of office. With such a model, the collegiate presidency would play as a team of stars to achieve their party's manifesto rather than a lone star in the firmament as in our current dispensation.
“On the level of states and local governments, the same collegiate system of administration comprising ethnic nationalities can also be put in place to ensure cohesion and harmoniously carry along the majority of the communities in each state. However, very cogent arguments can also be made for the abolition of the rather wasteful and unviable 36 states structure with oppressively huge operational costs that make little or no contribution to the well-being of most Nigerians while providing opportunities for more political adventurers to line their pockets. The choice is ours to make; do we want to live in apprehension and sustain acrimony in our body polity or do we truly want to break the chains of our bondage and release our true potential as a nation?”
This article was first published in June 2006 but is reproduced to commemorate the 55th anniversary of Nigerian's Independence this week.
SAVE THE NAIRA, SAVE NIGERIANS!