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NIGERIA: Yadudu faults parliamentary system of government, says recent clamour driven by nostalgia, not reality

NIGERIA: Yadudu faults parliamentary system of government, says recent clamour driven by nostalgia, not reality

The recent call for Nigeria to jettison the presidential system of government it has been operating for decades and return to the parliamentary system it abandoned years ago, has been described as nostalgic.

Constitutional lawyer and academic, Professor Auwalu Hamisu Yadudu, said this in an interview published by Daily Trust on Sunday.

Yadudu, one of architects of the 1999 constitution which Nigeria still operates, says he does not really understand what agitators for the parliamentary system want.

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“I keep going back to the point that one does not know exactly what sort of parliamentary system of government they want to install… But it is time to generate ideas, maybe they will be able to convince enough Nigerians on this. You never know”, he said.

Cost of government

The law teacher disagreed that the parliamentary system may reduce the cost of running government in Nigeria.

“… It has been touted that it is going to be inexpensive. I think people say it because of nostalgia of our leaders in the past. Our leaders in the past were frugal and very diligent and responsible with resources, not because they were operating a parliamentary system but because by nature, they were honest, they were good leaders, and they went by the book. So, it is not so much the parliamentary system that made our leaders to be good and to be prudent with resources.

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“If it is about reduction in the cost of governance, there are other ways within the given system. Essentially, if you go for good leaders who will play the ball according to the rules, it matters not whether it is parliamentary or presidential system of government that we operate.

Inherent problems

Yadudu said he envisaged problems of instability, turbulence and lack of spread should the system be returned to Nigeria.

“This is a system we operated some 65 years ago and there are not so many people alive with the knowledge of how it worked… I see a lot of problems with the parliamentary system.

“Number one, it is a system which is prone to so much instability. The leader of a majority of parties in the parliament continues to lead the government. The way politicians change their parties with whims and caprices, we can have so much instability in the country that within one year we can have government changing many times. I don’t think we are prepared for that kind of turbulence in political terms.

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“Secondly, a president is elected by the entire country, and of course, we have a system that ensures that whoever becomes a president receives not only the majority acceptance of the area where he comes from, but actually, he has to show territorial spread. And I don’t see that in any parliamentary system, which really means you only represent your constituents.

“A president of Nigeria could only be one representing Dala in Kano State, and he has no presence, he has no showing, he has no following in even talking about Kaduna or southern Nigeria. So, in a way, the good thing about territorial acceptance, which the presidential system ensures, would be rubbished if you went back to a parliamentary system”, he explained.

Uncertainty

Yadudu appears uncomfortable with the uncertainties that he said characterize the system.

“… You simply don’t know what exactly a parliamentary system will throw out for you because I can imagine the kind of instability, political inertia, and even the total chaos in the country if you were to go for a parliamentary system of government, which is so prone to instability. And given our ethnic, religious and geopolitical differences, I don’t see people really minding their business and allowing the system to work for five years.

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No give and take

While explaining why he thinks the system may lead to chaos in Nigeria, the former legal adviser to Nigeria’s military head of state, late Generla Sani Abacha, said “Those who are clamouring for it really have no idea of what obtains. If you go back down memory lane, the northern region of Nigeria had the largest number of parliamentarians, and they would continue either of themselves or in coalition with whomever they wanted to co-opt to govern the nation. There is no issue of rotation, there is no issue of zoning, there is no issue of give and take, actually. The party with the majority of members in parliament can continue to govern for as long as it can either have an absolute majority from its area or simply co-opt a few members from other parts of the country and form a government.

Nostalgic senior Nigerians

Yadudu believes those who are in the forefront of agitation for the return of the parliamentary system are senior Nigerians who are just being nostalgic.

He said: “…I blame this agitation for parliamentary system for two reasons. One, I think those who are the fiercest advocates of it are people who are over 90 years of age, like Ayo Adebanjo, Edwin Clarke, and in the North, I think we have people like Ango Abdullahi. These old people who have had some idea of it are nostalgic, but the young ones do not have an idea really how it worked then and how it will work. I can tell you that it will be a recipe for total inertia, confusion, instability and chaos if you are to go back to it. Of course, I keep saying that one does not know what exactly they want by parliamentary system of government.

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Zoning or rotational considerations

Zoning or rotational considerations would be off the coast in a parliamentary system, the professor explained.

“Honestly, it is very clear that if you want to go for a parliamentary system of government, where the leader of the majority in parliament leads the government, there is no issue at all about zoning or rotation, or any of those give and take concessions that we have over the years built through the operation of the presidential system of government.

“Even if you think about the Indian example, India is a diverse country, but it is still a parliamentary system which really only goes for the leader of the party with the majority of members in the parliament, regardless of its appeal to others. Precisely, what is happening in India is that you have a president from a party that is very divisive and is walking all over everybody and it doesn’t care because it’s able to get the majority of votes. It can continue to govern forever.

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No term limits

“With a parliamentary system of government, you are not only not going to talk about rotation or zoning, there is no term limit. If a party is able to produce majority of members of parliament after every election cycle, which is usually five years, it can continue to govern the country. And the same leader of that party can continue to govern for as long as the party continues to gather sufficient majority.

“In England, Tony Blair was there for 10 years, Margaret Thatcher for 12. Right now, the Tory Party in England could have had one leader for the past 12 or 13 years they have been in power except for their own internal problems and some of the things that have happened.

“If that is what people are advocating in Nigeria, I don’t think it would work. And I don’t think people would support the idea. I think the clamour has more to do with inexperience and nostalgia, not reality.”

Faruk Khalil
Faruk Khalilhttps://nigeriansketch.com/
Khalil Faruk (Deputy Editor-in-Chief), has a Bachelors and Master's degree in Political Science and has worked as a reporter, features editor and Deputy Editor-in-Chief respectively in a leading Nigerian daily. He has undergone trainings in journalism, photo journalism and online journalism within and outside Nigeria.

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