Nigeria’s dysfunctional government

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Assuming Nigeria was in a parliamentary system, where an innocent citizen (a Christian) was brutally attacked and burned alive by a mob of religious fanatics in the name of Allah, in the northern state of Sokoto, for committing a “blasphemy” and nothing was said, on camera, by anyone in government. Assuming, too, that the shoe is on the other foot, that the barbaric act was committed by a Christian, on an innocent Muslim, in the name of God. Do you imagine that the Prime Minister would have remained silent? And, if on top of that, the cost of living has skyrocketed during the lifetime of the government; dozens of innocent citizens languishing in various hideouts of kidnappers across the country; petrol and gas prices are rising every week; university students have been expelled from school for an entire school year due to industrial action; a “technically defeated” Boko Haram terrorist group that still enters and exits the Nigerian military establishment’s stronghold, the Defense Academy, in Kaduna unhindered and undetected. The prime minister, as head of government, would have faced a vote of no confidence in parliament and the government would have fallen. With a breath of fresh air, the nation would have gotten another shot at calm and renewal. As if that weren’t enough, let’s add the spectacle of a government literally tearing itself apart, ministers and elected politicians running like ferrets in a sack, chasing party political niches in the next general election. The Prime Minister would have been held accountable to Parliament within days, if not hours. Now, can you imagine a prime minister – retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari or Goodluck Jonathan or Olusegun Obasanjo – rising during a rowdy parliamentary session, answering pressing questions on his feet?

The presidential system functions as a shield for a silent leader, who communicates primarily through his “body language”. The system gives him control over security, the economy, education, road transport, electricity, etc., but without direct accountability to citizens. Once elected, it is virtually impossible to hold Mr. President to account, as the system operates on a “fixed time” interval. There’s the impeachment trigger in between, where warranted, but the process is deliberately cumbersome, to the point of making it almost unusable. This is the case in countries that apply a presidential system all over the world. Virtually no one is impeached. The only one in recent memory is the impeachment of President Park Geun-Hye in South Korea in 2016; accused of abuse of power, coercion and other crimes, she was not only indicted but also prosecuted and sentenced to 25 years in prison. It was the second time an impeachment of this nature had occurred since the country was born in 1948. The first time, in 2004, it was overturned by the country’s Constitutional Court.

Some say the presidential system provides stability, yes, but it depends on the checks and balances mechanism working as it should. Checks and balances don’t seem to make much sense in the Nigerian context, where the federal government exists only in name. All governmental authorities emanate from the center. The Nigerian federal government owns roads, hospitals, schools, power supply, army, police and other security agencies, oil rigs, minerals and pretty much everything else that matters. It is therefore not surprising that ministers mostly act with impunity. No conscience of service, no public morality, no shame. For example, Labor Minister Chris Ngige was in the middle of negotiations over the extended university strike, but his real interest turned out to be running for president. Federation Attorney General Abubakar Malami, supposedly a neutral arbiter for public justice, launched a campaign for Kebbi State Governor from his office, bought the nomination form for 50 million naira to APC, started disbursing largesse (“exotic cars” and all) to state stakeholders. The gubernatorial race in the state is said to be one of the most contested in the country. It is a state torn by factions; the APC has two parallel secretariats in Birnin Kebbi, the state capital. The Attorney General’s resources were meant to be used and were already deployed to benefit Malami in his quest for power. Faced with the choice of leaving office or running for governor, he hesitated. Being Attorney General even for twelve more months is too much to resist. He “retired” from the race and begged to be allowed to stay on. Malami is not the Attorney General of the Federation; he is attorney general of the All Progressives Congress.

The most egregious breach of public trust has come from Gordon Emefiele, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, who has been using his position, covertly, to campaign for the presidency for at least a year. Some ‘good Samaritans’ are said to have purchased the N100m nomination form for him, along with a number of branded vehicles driving around Eagle Square in the federal capital, Abuja, promoting his candidacy. When he was suddenly faced with the presidential directive to resign and focus on his ambition to become president, alongside other ministers wanting the same, he had the brazenness to mount a legal challenge against it at the open contempt of the president. He hired tweeter Mike Ozekhome, Nigeria’s sagacious Senior Advocate aka Senior Advocate for Political Street Fighters. Emefiele asked him to argue in court that Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act 2022, which states that “No politically appointed person at any level may be a visiting delegate or be elected to the convention or congress of a political party for the purpose of nominating candidates for any election” does not apply to him, as he is a “civil servant” and not a political appointee. clearly took his role as a lawyer a little too seriously. He should have advised his client that although he is expected to be “independent”, there is no central banker in the world who does not be politically appointed, and for very good reasons too.

If you think you can count on the legislator to control the excesses of the executive and its manifest contempt for the public, you are mistaken. Members of the National Assembly had originally passed S. 84(8) of the Elections Act of 2022, which prohibited them from participating in their party’s convention as delegates. They did so without realizing its wider implications, especially in an election year. They rushed together in an emergency session to modify the section to accommodate both elected delegates as well as “statutory delegates”, i.e. politicians of all colors, especially elected officials, to participate in the full range of primaries and general elections. process.

Finally, it is the position of the vice-president and the outgoing governors who run for the presidency. The resignation directive does not apply to them because they are not politically appointed by Mr. President. Thus, they are allowed to tap into government resources (official aircraft, money, personnel suite, etc.) to pursue their political campaign. It is simply wrong. Vice Presidents or Governors cannot and should not use office accessories to further their political campaigns. If and when the vice president uses his official jet for a political campaign, he must foot the bill from his own (already deep) pockets. But then, who cares? The financial market is watching all of this, especially how the CBN Governor has discredited the bank as capital moves away from the economy by the minute. So, again, who cares? Warning. A dysfunctional government, in a dysfunctional democracy, is a prelude to anarchy.

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Copyright PUNCH.

All rights reserved. This material and any other digital content on this website may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without the prior express written permission of PUNCH.

Contact: [email protected]

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