Recently, 71 members of the House of Representatives sponsored a bill to amend the 1999 Constitution to return the nation to the parliamentary system of government. Justifying the bill for a return to the old system under which the country was governed in the First Republic, the lawmakers argued that it was more cohesive, more representative and less expensive, when compared with the presidential system of government which we currently operate.
The bill for a return to the parliamentary system of government must be located in the ongoing debates on the imperative of restructuring the country in order to address its myriad challenges. The calls to restructure the country, we must admit, have been most stringent of late, culminating in the realignment of political forces nationwide and handshakes across the geopolitical zones.
It is good that some lawmakers are championing this cause to change the system of government. We urge all Nigerians to participate in the exercise through incisive contributions. The bill must be thoroughly examined by all Nigerians to see if there is something good in it.
It should be noted that the present presidential system of government was copied from the United States of America and adopted at the inception of the Second Republic in 1979. It has its merits and demerits. It thrives on the doctrine of separation of powers among the three arms of government; the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. What marks it out, however, is the overriding powers of the executive. The system is very expensive to practice. Perhaps, this is the main reason some Nigerians want a return to the old system.
The current move for a change by the 71 parliamentarians may have been influenced by the conflicts experienced in the operation of the presidential system. There have been instances of abuse of powers as enshrined in the doctrine of the separation of powers, leading the country to many avoidable conflicts. A recent example is the ongoing friction between the executive and the legislature over the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
We have practiced the presidential system for about four years in the first instance between 1979 and 1983 before the military intervened, and now for nineteen years. Perhaps, it is now time to examine the two systems and decide which one is better. We should, however, note that we practiced the parliamentary system about six years before it was truncated. Under the parliamentary system, members of the executive were first elected members of parliament. This arrangement reduces conflicts in the system. But under the presidential system, there have been many conflicts. In the presidential system of government, the president is so powerful. With such immense powers, an elected president, who is not careful, may become tyrannical. Such a president may have scant regard for the concerns of other stakeholders and indeed for the other arms of government.
There is no doubt that the country, as presently constituted, cannot continue to function without a proper tinkering of the system. The move for a return to the parliamentary system of government by the lawmakers, therefore, could be regarded as part of the efforts to address the nation’s problems forthwith. It may just be another means to restructure the country. Regardless of the merits and demerits of this proposal, it is worth further interrogation. Such interrogation will not be unexpected until we arrive at a political system that will serve the country well. There is no perfect political system in the world. The restructuring of the country is one way of solving some of our socioeconomic problems. The country should not be allowed to move from one problem to another unattended. There is need to find answers to our problems. This is what should concern genuine stakeholders in the Nigerian project, and efforts must be geared through legislations or otherwise to find workable solutions to our numerous problems.