”The background and history of United States of America do not justify the application of presidential system of government to Nigeria. The adoption and wholesale application of American federalism and Presidential System of Government by the Military is a monumental mistake in the first place. The importation of the system has not done the Country any good at all. That is the bitter truth”.
The media yesterday reported that the President had approved a bailout of about 413.7 Billion Naira for the Federal Government and State Governments. The money is meant to permit the payment of outstanding salaries to workers across the Federation. This is in addition to other measures designed to alleviate the economic crisis currently being encountered by the Country which is directly traceable to the huge cost of governance in the country, a topic which I have addressed on several occasions and which I again, given the present realities, reintroduced last week. As I stated last week, the cost of governance was not always this high and the current problems have been brought about by a host of factors including mismanagement and the unnecessary adoption of the hugely expensive American Presidential System of government.
HOW WE GOT HERE
The Presidential system of Government was introduced into Nigeria by the military through the 1979 Constitution. This system of government traditionally has at its head, an executive President who presides over the Federal Government. It is characterized by a bicameral legislature. The Executive and legislative arms of government are normally replicated across the Federating states. In foisting the Presidential system on Nigeria, the military had little regard for the peculiar nature of the country. It has been argued, albeit lamely, that in deciding to jettison the parliamentary system of government put in place by the founding fathers of the country, that the military wanted to avoid a situation in which the two heads of state, one ceremonial and the other executive (as exists in a parliamentary system) would work at logger heads leading to unnecessary ethnic or tribal strife if they hailed from different sections of the country. However events in Nigeria since 1963 continue to show that the decision to adopt the Presidential system was not well thought out.
Firstly the American form of Presidential System of government currently being experimented by Nigeria is too expensive for our resources to conveniently accommodate. It is high time we faced the reality of our existence. Having regard to the history of America and its resources of the American Presidential System of Government is perfectly suitable for its federalism which is being operated religiously and in accordance with the tenets of their union. The same situation, background and history do not justify its application to Nigeria. The adoption and wholesale application of American federalism and Presidential System of Government by the Military is a monumental mistake in the first place. The importation of the system has not done the Country any good at all. That is the bitter truth. The application of the American presidential system in Nigeria has been nothing but a huge failure. We simply cannot afford 36 Houses of Assembly, 36 Cabinets of Commissioners, large number of State Legislators, National Assembly of more than 400 Legislators, thousands of staff for all these offices, over 40 Federal Ministers and numberless staff and assistants. On the 10th of September 2010, THISDAY Newspaper reported as follows:
”The amount expended annually to sustain members of the legislature in the states and National Assembly, many believe, is mind-boggling. Sources close to THISDAY revealed that the country spends N27 billion per annum on the salaries and emoluments of 109 senators while 360 members of the House of Representatives gulp down N73 billion, bringing the total to N100 billion ($667 million) expended on just 469 elected public officials.
When the emoluments, “constituency allowances” and other visible and invisible benefits paid to state legislators in each of the 36 states as well as the 7,888 councillors who make bye-laws in the 774 local government areas, the annual cost of sustaining the entire army of 17,500 individuals holding political offices in the executive and legislative arms of government in Nigeria would amount to N1.3 trillion.”
The consequential fragmentation of Nigeria into 36 states is unhelpful. Most of the so-called states were formally local governments or provinces. Such local governments were manned by District Offices and or Assistant District Officers. The provinces were manned by Residents, supported by Chief Clerk and Clerks. The substitution thereof of these District Offices and Residents with Governors, Deputy Governors, Legislative Houses is most unreasonable and uneconomical. The sight of these governors driving round in convoys of as many as 30 to 40 cars and motorcycle outriders worries the ordinary citizens who cannot afford three square meals, whose taps are dry and whose children are either unable to attend school due to non-payment of school fees or who are unemployed after laboring to get an education.
In the United States of America, the Federating States still possess a huge measure of independence. Thus each state is within clearly defined but expansive limits responsible for a remarkable number of aspects of its existence. The Federal Government is limited only to such matters as defense, foreign policy etc.
It is worthy of note that the entire revenue of the Federal Government of Nigeria is lower than that of Texas which is the second most populous and second largest state in the United States of America. If Nigeria’s revenue is therefore lower than that of one of over 50 states in the United States how can we hope to continue to copy and fund the Presidential system of government as practiced by the Americans?
THE BICAMERAL LEGISLATURE
A critical feature of the American System is the Bicameral Legislature comprising of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate is made up of 109 Number of senators, the house of Representatives has 360 members. However, the problem in Nigeria is that so much funds are expended yearly on maintaining the National Assembly. Each Senator and each member of the House of Representatives is entitled to high remuneration inclusive of benefits. They also employ staff who aid them in the discharge of their legislative duties. As legislative work is not limited only to attendance of the sittings of each chamber of the National Assembly, Senators and Members of the House of Representatives also functions at Committee level, the said committee having been established to oversee every aspect of national life. The work of these committees often involves a lot of travel within and outside Nigeria. To assist the National Assembly is a sector of the civil service dedicated to these tasks alone.
To be continued…
AARE AFE BABALOLA SAN, CON