Parliamentary government: How to end insecurity in Nigeria, part 1


Last Updated on July 18, 2022 by Memorila

Nigeria can repair the sorry state of her economy and security if she reverts to the parliamentary system of government, Faruk Ahmed writes

When Muhammadu Buhari ascended the presidency of Nigeria in 2015, he met the country in the throes of Boko Haram. The terrorist organization had appropriated many local governments in Borno and neighbouring Yobe states to themselves.

They even established their system of government over the conquered areas.

But with courage, willpower, placing round pegs in round holes and making the right contacts, Buhari’s infant government was able to push back the terrorist organization and liberated almost all the local authorities.

Even though the outlaws still carry out spontaneous attacks and occupy large swathes of areas in the northeast, they no longer carry out on-your-face brazen onslaughts.

Muhammadu Buhari: Not built for the task?
Buhari: Seems to be clueless on how to tackle Nigeria’s security problems

Although Buhari met this fire blazing and is spending almost his entire eight years in office trying to extinguish its embers, other security challenges have sprouted up in areas which hitherto have been safe havens.

But the Buhari government with all its security apparatchiks had shown a nonchalant attitude and failed to draw up tactical strategies to confront and defeat the fresh new multi-headed security monsters replicating themselves every day in Nigeria.

Cluelessness

Today even the Federal Capital Territory Abuja isn’t safe from the audacious attack of the ISWAP (aka Boko Haram). Recently more than 300 members of the group broke into the Kuje Prison and set free more than 1,000 inmates that consisted of hardened criminals and the ISWAP members. The operation lasted more than two hours with no countering from any federal security agency.

Additionally, bandits have since overrun and driven away most farming communities of northwestern states like Zamfara, Sokoto and Katsina. This is not to mention the slap they gave to the president’s right cheek when they sprayed his advance team with bullets, and in so doing, killing security operators attached to the president.

The Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) is also using its militant arm to wreak havoc in the southeast, killing, maiming and burning down private and public properties. They have also issued a curfew of no work on Mondays, with the southeastern governors and the federal government looking the other way.

Further up Nigeria, kidnappers are having field days, depriving families of their hard-earned livelihood and lives. Petty farmers in Edo, Kogi, Ondo and many other states, including my mother, cannot venture into their farms for fear of being kidnapped.

Abuja-Kaduna train in billows

The booming multi-billion-naira Kaduna-Abuja rail trip has since been packed to one side after one of the coaches was bombed and the surviving passengers of the train herded off. To date, these abducted passengers are still in the custody of their abductors.

But as it seems the lives of these Nigerians and others are not the priorities of the government in power. In most of these cases, the presidency only dishes out statements condemning the attack. But no concrete action is carried out to match the rhetoric.

Besides, except for the recent Kuje Prison jailbreak, President Buhari had never visited any of the crime scenes himself. He prefers cushioning up himself and his family in the Aso Villa and sends his acolytes instead.

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Is the president playing the fiddle while merchants of death are singing the country’s dirge? What brought us to this standstill?

Are there political or religious undertones and permutations to these bloodlettings and haemorrhaging?

Could something different be done to stem this tide? And ultimately, how do we get out of these doldrums?

The sleepwalkers

According to Brittanica, a failed state “suffers from crumbling infrastructures, faltering utility supplies and educational and health facilities, and deteriorating basic human-development indicators, such as infant mortality and literacy rates. Failed states create an environment of flourishing corruption and negative growth rates, where honest economic activity cannot flourish.”.

As expected, Buhari will step aside on May 29, 2023. Any new occupant of the Aso Rock Villa might do as he has done, worse than him or better.

Should Nigerian youth stand akimbo and watch their dreams and future washed away by an incompetent leader?

What can we do to forestall a reoccurrence of a sleepwalker at the top echelon of Nigeria’s corridor of power?

SYSTEM OF GOVERNANCE 

The first thing that will pull Nigeria out of its current conundrum is to change its present mode of governance. There is a need for us to revert to the parliamentary system of government.

Outgoing UK PM Boris Johnson arguing a point in the UK parliament

Nigeria, like most African countries, operates a presidential system of government with a bicameral legislature that includes the Senate and House of Representatives. But this system has proven to be very expensive and divisive. Furthermore, it has not brought the desired goods to the nations practising it, bar Rwanda and perhaps Ghana.

The legislators in a federal system do close to nothing other than rubber stamp what the executives dish out to them. Most of them warm the benches of the legislature but smile home with their bank accounts overrunning with sovereign riches.

Contrastingly, in a parliamentary system, members of the parliament are very active and most of them participate in the actual act of running the government.

Even the opposition parties are not left out in the schemes of affairs. They create shadow governments, which are effectively governments-in-waiting.

Moreover, the opposition challenges the ruling party, carry out oversight functions over government functionaries and create and trial policies on a small scale.

Therefore in a situation where the ruling party is toppled, the hitherto opposition leader can hit the ground running. He or she would not need to draw out time learning the ropes of governance, just the way Buhari took six months to appoint ministers during his first term in 2015.

As an example, when the Australian Labor Party won the majority of the island’s parliament on 21 May 2022, Anthony Albanese, its leader, was sworn in two days later on.

Hours after swearing in, Albanese flew to Japan to attend a meeting of the Quad, a pressure group comprising the United States, Japan, Australia and India. In the interregnum, no government function stalled.

Therefore, the Nigeria of tomorrow has no need for a legislature which enacts laws that are not implementable or laws that are meant to be broken. We are also in no need of a legislature that gazumps money that could have been used for critical sectors of the economy.

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Heroes or villains

Africa is rife with sit-tight leaders who refuse to quit the scene after serving out their constitutional stipulated tenures. Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, Cameroun’s Paul Biya, and Rwanda’s Paul Kigali are the first that come to mind.

Mugabe, Mubarak and Ghaddafi had to be forced out of office

Ivory Coast’s ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, Libya’s Muammar Ghaddafi, Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, Egypt’s Husni Mubarak, Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe had to be eased out of office by force and/or popular protests.

But there also exist cases of benevolent leaders who left the stage so soon.

In Africa, we can only talk of Ghana’s John Kufuor. If you come home to Nigeria, the only person you can point at, from a distance, is Olusegun Obasanjo. But even the latter left reluctantly, screaming that he wanted a third term.

Now, most of us know the problem with African leaders. They tinker with their country’s constitutions just to stay around the corridors of power.

And because of this, the military men are gradually making comebacks to the presidential palaces of many African countries. Mali, Sudan, Burkina Faso, and Chad, are now under the throes of the khaki men.

But with a parliamentary system, the prime minister of a country can rule for as many years as he or she performs. Your performance determines your longevity.

And most importantly, no prime minister is bigger than his country or party in a parliamentary system.

When your usability or efficacy is over, your countrymen or party men shove you aside for a more able body. Take Israel (Benjamin Netanyahu), the United Kingdom (Boris Johnson) and Pakistan (Imran Khan) as case studies.

Long term plans

With the parliamentary system of government, a Prime Minister has the time to make long-term policies that can move his or her country forward.

At the basics, you have five years which can be multiplied by your dexterity, foresight, programmes and achievements.

Lee Kuan Yew, father of Singapore
Lee Kuan Yew, spent 30 years building Singapore of today.

Lee Kuan Yew, the father of modern Singapore, spent three decades as Prime Minister. In the process, he was able to turn the fortunes of the city-state from that of a third world into a first-world country.

Benjamin Netanyahu, served in office for a total of 15 years, making him the longest-serving Israeli prime minister in history.

Above all, the leader of a country using a parliamentary system is not afraid of life out of office.

Out of power doesn’t mean the end of life or government funds for you. No! You only stay on the backbench where you still get parliamentary salaries and allowances.

What’s more, an ex-Prime Minister can still muster a comeback in the future. A clear example is what Netanyahu is trying to do right now in Israel.

Governance vs insecurity

One might wonder what concerns the system of government with the security of a nation?

Insecurity is majorly caused by two things: scarce resources or the inequitable distribution of power.

Nigerian sovereign wealth is frittered away by a fortunate few leaving the multitudes to scavenge for their daily breads.

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This nation has 108 senators and 360 House of Representatives members, making a total of 468 federal lawmakers.

National Assembly, Abuja
National Assembly, Abuja

Let’s say, conservatively each of these legislators is paid N13,000,000 monthly as salary and allowances. The nation spends more than N6,084,000,000 monthly and over N73,008,000,000 annually to cater for the needs of these legislators who mostly are benchwarmers. That’s about N292,032,000,000 in a 4-year term.

Here, we have not factored in their quarterly take-home packages, car and house allowances, constituencies projects allowances, and lots more.

Furthermore, each of the 36 states of the federation also has an average of 40 state lawmakers per state who also drill humongous holes in the national cake.

Then there are the federal and state executives with their coteries of ministers, commissioners, advisers, political appointees, and hangers-on.

So, you will find out that before the national cake trickles down to the lowest rungs of the society, the political parasites have gobbled up the whole delicacy leaving scrubs for the citizens to scavenge.

As Emmanuel Olusegun Stober stated in his research ‘NIGERIA’S SENATORS, AND THEIR JUMBO PAY‘ in October 2018, “With a minimum wage of N18,000 ($50), it would take the average Nigerian worker 792 years to earn the annual salary of a Nigerian senator.”

Consequently, what will the peasants do? Take up arms, kidnap the fat-bellied politicians and demand their shares of the national cake.

People matters

The other reason why a presidential system of government could cause insecurity is the fact that the system only favours numbers.

A prospective president campaigns heavily in his or her stronghold. And after elections, rewards those that voted heavily for him/her, neglecting others in the process.

And if you cannot have the numbers, your ilk may never rule your country.

But that is different in a parliamentary system of government. The people matter.

A party can only lead a country if it has the majority of seats or if it could cobble together a majority in the parliament. Hence, every constituency is important to a party leader.

Ahmadu Bello opens Sultan Bello Hall Ibadan, Oyo State
Sir Ahmadu Bello courted Northern ethnic minorities

That was why in the First Republic, Ahmadu Bello, the leader of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) courted and empowered Northern ethnic minorities like  S. A. Ajayi, Joseph Tarka and David Lot.

This is why today, those people that feel left out in the presidential system are the ones taking up arms, requesting the secession of their regions. And as political analysts put it, this set of people are the real actors behind the scenes orchestrating the insecurities bedevilling Nigeria.

So the way to go in curbing Nigeria’s insecurity is to revert to a parliamentary system of government.

I will rest my thumb here today!

….

In my next article, I will discuss how we can improve the security of Nigeria through these sectors: defence, economy, education and agriculture.

If you don’t want to miss out on the next episode, join Memorila’s Whatsapp group now.


Faruk Ahmed

Faruk Ahmed is the founder of Memorila.com. Having previously worked with National Review magazine, he is a keen watcher of political events.

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