COLLEGIATE PRESIDENCY AND NATIONAL HARMONY
BY: HENRY BOYO
This article was first published in the Vanguard edition of 29th May 2006, but its narrative has become increasingly relevant as we mark the 2017 Democracy Day; a summary of the article is published once more as a wakeup call to abort the inevitable dire consequences which will jeopardize our relationship as a nation and forestall the inevitable frustration of the misplaced hope of Nigerians for a better life. Please read on!
“There can be no end in the foreseeable future to a do-or-die fight for the post of President of our nation. The unbridled struggle to be top Dog has generally been motivated by the prospect of almost absolute power over our lives and our nation’s resources, particularly the lucrative proceeds from the oil wells in the Niger Delta. Ultimately, the underbelly of the arbitrarily created 36 states and 774 local governments would be invariably exposed as these political contraptions would literarily collapse, without, what some have described as the ‘blood money’ from the Niger Delta.
However, it is likely that if modest resources and limited power devolved to the centre for the exercise of its exclusive responsibilities, there would be less attraction to committing huge financial investments to buy or capture power at the top seat of government on behalf of one’s political club (be it military, civilian, ethnic or regional association).
Our political godfathers, in their wisdom, attempted to bring some sanity to the acrimony, insecurity and instability, usually generated by the struggle for the lucrative centre, with the concept of rotating the presidency along the North/South axis. However, this solution has not brought with it much comfort because the current constitutional provision for a maximum of two – four year terms could mean that each of the six geopolitical zones 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 40 year cycles with, unfortunately, no guarantee that the best available candidate would be the one from the geopolitical region, whose turn it is to produce the President!
Thus, in a political culture where plundering takes precedence over service and wealth creation, all Nigerians become victims of the greed of a parasitic political class – invariably championed by autocratic leadership; arguably, the greatest threat to our contrived democracy is dictatorship! For peace and stability to prevail, our constitution should ensure that the best available presidential materials from each geopolitical zone, can without hindrance, contest for, and attain the highest post in the land. We should consequently adopt a constitution that ensures that no one person remains in power long enough and becomes so formidable as to successfully engineer term elongation or perpetuate a dictatorship!
The National Assembly demonstrated great courage in throwing out Obasanjo’s third term bill. The legislature, thankfully, pulled us back from the precipice, but discerning Nigerians still patriotically warn against complacency. Indeed, if poverty deepens and social injustice and disrespect for the rule of law, by the executive, remain unchecked, a National Assembly wholly made up of surrogates may still prevail, as witnessed in Oyo and Anambra States, under Obasanjo’s administration, vis-à-vis the godfather syndrome. Ultimately, a constitutional dictatorship could evolve and Nigerians would fall into real bondage as the dark days of insecurity, instability and one-man-rule return with a vengeance.
So, how can we prevent such an ugly scenario in the political life, of a nation, which is in the grip of irrepressible ethnic/regional aspirations for the post of President? Instructively, some eminent Nigerians have rightly argued that the first requirement for a just, stable, egalitarian and progressive 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 these states/regions will freely exploit their internal human and mineral resources and pay appropriate dues to run the federal government at the centre.
Arguably, such a structure would motivate each region to look inwards and optimally develop its own God-given resources, rather than wait for monthly handouts from a potentate centre. Thus, all regions would become actively engaged in putting their citizens to work in order to achieve additional wealth creation with commensurate improvement in social welfare of our people.
Consequently, we may consider the adoption of a six-year collegiate presidency to douse the tension and attrition created by the usual battles to install a “one-man” president with all the incessant clamor and grandstanding by each geopolitical group for their turn each time an incumbent’s tenure ends. Under this arrangement, every political party would field a team comprising six candidates selected from each of the six geopolitical zones for the post of president. Every member of the victorious party’s presidential collegiate team 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. Furthermore, the 5 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 President, in joint pursuit of the party’s declared manifesto. In this manner, it will be virtually impossible for any member of the collegiate to pursue their own personal agenda while in office.
Thus, Nigerians can afford to sleep with both eyes closed as it will be impossible for one person to consolidate his hold on the seat of power and remain long enough to eventually perpetuate an oppressive dictatorship! Furthermore, the abiding desire of geopolitical groups to see their sons or daughters in the number one political jersey would be realized as each region would perpetually have a member in the collegiate presidency. In such event, Nigerians would permanently enjoy the advantages of the multiple contributions of more eminently qualified and socially committed presidential materials. It would be reasonable to also expect that the collegiate presidency would play as a team of stars rather than the culture of a dictatorial lone star complex, as is currently the case.
On the level of states and local governments, the same collegiate system of administration comprising ethnic nationalities can also be put in place to harmoniously carry along the majority of the communities in each state and ensure cohesion. However, very cogent arguments can also be made for t he abolition of the clearly wasteful and unviable 36 states structure with the huge oppressive operational costs that barely impact positively on the welfare of most Nigerians. The choice therefore is ours to make; do we want to live in caged apprehension to sustain acrimony in our body polity or do we truly want to break the chains of our bondage to release our true potential as a nation?”
The above article has been published annually since 2006 and the recent calls for restructuring suggest that the current political arrangement is unsustainable and requires serious adjustment to release the true potential of our economy. Evidently, however, this would not be to the advantage of self serving politicians, who would prefer to continue with the current inequitable and unjust social contract which accommodates their selfish interest, while the rest of us continue to wallow in poverty. It does not require the knowledge of rocket science to recognize that the current federal structure is horridly skewed against stability and development.
SAVE THE NAIRA,SAVE NIGERIANS!!