COLLEGIATE PRESIDENCY AND NATIONAL HARMONY
By Les Leba
The tenacity of the pro Yar'Adua cabal to hold onto Aso Rock through whatever means must be a testimony to the sweetness of power! Under normal circumstances where political and public offices are geared towards the service of the people, there will be little or no personal gain in capturing power or its retention.
If anything, selfless service is a peculiar personal sacrifice and a practice in self discipline. In such 'fairyland', the issue of an incapacitated leader holding onto the seat of power would certainly never arise, as this would be against the spirit and the culture of the people in such 'faraway paradise'!
Very few Nigerians now believe the flowery promises that politicians make on their campaign trails, but most of us recognize the rapid transformation to opulent life styles of these self-proclaimed servants of the people! We know that the campaign zeal is akin to a personal investment with the assured prospect of a bountiful harvest!
In the past 30 years or so, the harvest has continued to be readily available and politicians have continued to hone their skills to capture bigger and bigger slices of a cake in which they made no contribution!
All the Parties currently on the ground are bound in a silent expression of esprit de corps to preserve this unsustainable and selfish political process! It is unlikely that any nation can remain stable and encourage the growth of social welfare where the purpose of public service is self service!
Elder citizens of this country will maintain that in spite of the relatively meager export revenue (when compared to the present) earned by the federating regions of 1950s and 1960s, the regions prospered, as the political leaders were men of integrity and the objective of service was for the greater good!
The civil war and the prominence of oil from the 1970s onwards changed all that! The autocratic military dictatorship at that time soon centralized power and captured erstwhile revenue sources for each region. In this event, the oil from the Niger Delta soon became the mainstay as the centralized distribution of that largesse took no cognisance of source or the application of efforts in generating revenue!
The result was predictable; who wants to work when the power from the barrel of the gun dictated who gets what? Incredulously, the golden goose that provided the revenue was even punished with water pollution and environmental degradation and its people were relegated into depths of untold poverty!
New states which were patently unviable were created with their hope for revenue squarely resting on the oil wells of the Delta, while its state capital was located outside its epicenter as a present to a presidential spouse! Surprisingly, the clamour for more such states continue and will continue so long as our politicians see further state creation as a veritable meal ticket!
It should be clear that the above political arrangement is unsustainable and requires serious adjustment to encourage work and synchronise dedicated effort application with rising wealth. But this would not be to the advantage of our politicians, who prefer to continue with current inequitable and unjust social contract which will accommodate 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 any election held within the current framework of a skewed federal structure will ultimately collapse, sooner than later!
The following article 'Collegiate Presidency and National Harmony' was first published in June 2006, and has become more relevant as we mark the 50th anniversary of our freedom from colonial rule; it is reproduced once more as a wakeup call to forestall the disappointment and frustration of our people and abort the inevitable dire consequences which will jeopardize our relationship as a nation. Please read on!
'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, the federal government would have to manage on less than N300 billion rather than the more affluent budget of N1.7 trillion for this year (2006). Indeed, the underbelly of the arbitrarily created 36 states and 774 local governments would be exposed as they 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, etc, there would be less attraction to committing huge financial investments to capture the top seat of government on behalf of one's political club (be it military, civilian, etc).
'Our political godfathers in their wisdom have attempted to bring some sanity to the acrimony, insecurity and instability generated by the struggle for the lucrative centre with the concept of rotating the presidency along the North and South axis or more appropriately, 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 are the victims of the greed of a parasitic political class - invariably championed by 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 the third term bill, and they appropriately received the commendation of true lovers of this country. They, in truth, pulled us back from the precipice, 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 Oyo and Anambra States, vis-Ã -vis the godfather syndrome, in the recent past. Ultimately, we could have an 'arrangement' of 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 the 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 the government. All regions would be actively engaged in putting their citizens to work and we will achieve additional wealth creation 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 a one-man presidency and the incessant clamour and grandstanding by each geopolitical group for their turn each time an incumbent's tenure runs 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.
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.
Indeed, 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 on the seat of the president.
'Thus, it will be impossible for one person to consolidate his hold on the seat of power to remain long enough to eventually constitute a dictatorship and Nigerians can afford to sleep with two 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. We could also expect that the collegiate presidency would play as a team of stars rather than the current lone star in the firmament 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 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?'
SAVE THE NAIRA, SAVE NIGERIANS!