There are certain key factors militating against democracy, democratic conducts, and by extension, good governance in the developing world, particularly in the African continent. Therefore, this piece will open with the quotes below simply for reflections:
Peace cannot exist without justice, justice cannot exist without fairness, fairness cannot exist without development, development cannot exist without democracy, democracy cannot exist without respect for the identity and worth of cultures and peoples. Rigoberta Menchú Nobel Laureate Winner for Peace and civil rights activist. Rigoberta, 60 years old is a strong voice as a leading advocate of Indian rights and ethno-cultural reconciliation in Guatemala and the Western world.
I should make it clear that one important reason why human society is unstable and full of conflicting emotions is because of the tendency to intensify rivalry beyond their normal course. After all, our leaders fought the good fight with all their might because they believed in the righteousness of their causes; and history has proved them right. But they also knew that in a team of many players all cannot be elected captains since it is generally accepted that more than one captain cannot run a ship efficiently Nnamdi Azikiwe In his inauguration speech as the first African Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief of the federation of Nigeria.
I am convinced, and I want you also to be convinced, that the future of this vast country must depend, in the main, on the efforts of ourselves to help ourselves. This we cannot do if we do not work together in unity. Indeed, unity today is our greatest concern, and it is the duty of every one of us to work so that we may strengthen it. This morning I said in the House of Representatives that bitterness due to political differences would carry Nigeria nowhere, and I appealed to the political leaders throughout the country to control their party extremists. To you who are listening tonight I repeat that appealLet us put away bitterness and go forward in friendship to Independence. — Abubakar Tafawa Balewa – Inaugural Speech ss first Prime Minister of Nigeria in 1957.
Violence never settles anything right: apart from injuring your own soul, it injures the best cause. It lingers on long after the object of hate has disappeared from the scene, to plague the lives of those who have employed it against their foes. – Obafemi Awolowo
PURSUIT OF POLITICAL AMBITION
Succession struggles occur in every organized setting and is common in the public and private sectors. The most glaring, however, seems to be seen in government that embraces the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial arms of at the three tiers. Another contentious matter is loyalty. In political governance, loyalty should indeed be first to Nigeria as demanded by the Constitution of the Federal Republic that binds citizens together. Then the appointing authority. Appointees and elected officials strive to maintain a delicate balance of true service to the nation, the electorate; as well as the appointing authority. Loyalty and succession agenda are formidable forces that have in the past six decades constituted serious burden to the smooth conduct of government business. Although there are checks and balances, the forces under reference are so strong that they have occasionally caused uproar in the society, particularly among the elites and political class. It takes a strong willpower for people involved in settings where there are political and succession struggles to act responsibly, without let or hindrance, and with the fear of God.
REASONS FOR POWER PLAY
Wrangling or contention should naturally be expected to feature in every organized setting. Every so often, disagreements arise largely as a result of inordinate love for power and relevance as exhibited by political functionaries and even, private sector operators. In truth, the measure of power allocated or devolved to different offices accrue by virtue of constitutional responsibilities and the delegation of responsibilities by the head of an organization or government. It may arise that the powers wielded behind the scene by an efficient personal assistant as delegated by the head of government based on trust and ability to deliver, may be greater than that of the honourable Minister. A head of government, who has a strong passion for the achievement of set-objectives would employ trusted and tested hands to assist in prosecuting his/her agenda for sustainable development. This is one of the reasons why deputies may complain of having no role to play in successive governance. This lack of understanding of the workings governance generally results into disagreements between the boss and the subordinate in the private sector; or with their principals who are heads of government in the case of political governance. However, there are enough responsibilities to be shared among so that they dont constitute cogs in the wheels of the administrations they serve.
One other issue that has consistently militated against a virile democratic culture is loyalty of a political appointee to an influential personality that played a prominent part in ensuring that he/she gets elected or appointed into political offices. In reality, the loyalty of all political office holders should be to the nation, and the appointing authority. If for instance I appoint you to be my aide based on anybodys recommendation, I expect an immediate shift of loyalty to me. It is inappropriate for an appointee to have two masters. The ideal and the legal framework is espoused by a foremost constitutional lawyer, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, SAN, in a publication in Guardian Newspaper, in which he stated emphatically that the presidential system gives wide powers to the President and Governors who are solely responsible for the running of governments: The real essence of the Presidential system established by the 1979 and 1999 Constitutions is that the EXERCISE of the executive of the Federation is given to the President and to him ALONE, not to him jointly, or in common with the Vice-President and Ministers. That of States are given to Governors alone. Those who drafted the Constitution apparently inserted this clause to ensure that the buck stops on the table of the big boss who is to be held accountable for all actions and inactions.
Nwabueze continued: The President/Governor is the SOLE repository or owner of executive power as regards both the vesting of the title to it and to its exercise, subject to some minor limitations in favour of other persons or authorities which are not really material for present purpose. In short, he is, to all intends and purposes, the executive of the Federation, not just the Chief Executive, as he is erroneously designated in section (2) of the Constitution. Subject as aforesaid, all executive powers or functions of the Federal Government are absorbed in his office. This also applies to the delegation of powers by the President and this flows unmistakably and indisputably from the provision of section 5 (1)(a), quoted above, that executive powers of the President of the Federation may be exercised by him either directly or through the Vice-President and Ministers of the Government of the Federation or Officers in public service of the Federation emphasis supplied. By the decisions of the courts, the provision may be interpolated to read: may be exercised either by him directly, or by him through his appointees
HOW SUCCESSION PROBLEMS EMERGE
Nigeria has operated the parliamentary and the presidential systems of government. The private sector too is increasingly getting more interested in codes of corporate governance. Political systems have their advantages and disadvantages. The presidential system is capital intensive while the parliamentary system has been able to engender accountability on the floor of the parliament. Furthermore, political appointees in the presidential system of government have surprisingly clashed as a result of differences arising from work schedule and related matters. For instance, Secretaries the government and the Chiefs of Staff to heads of government are appointed to coordinate activities of their principals in a manner that would ensure that the Chief Executive is able to take flawless decisions. Political appointees, refer broadly to anyone appointed by the President, the Vice President, or agency head, and are subject to more ethics restrictions than regular executive-branch employees. There are lots of havoc done by sycophants in the corridor of power who, for reasons of attracting the favour of the boss misrepresent issues and events to the big boss. They are within and outside all governments.
The situation is critical because bosses cannot be everywhere at the same time, hence they could be easily manipulated and misled into taking actions that eventually hurt their areas of jurisdiction. This example will prove why it is most necessary for leaders to weigh al opinions that are brought to their attention as they could be laced with inherent mischief. Dr. Doyin Okupe, sometime in May 2008 disclosed how he confronted a Minister in the government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo who misrepresented the situation report of an unsuccessful industrial action by organized labour movements in Nigeria while briefing the former president. Doyin Okupe opted to present an accurate situation report of a very successful labour crisis, which contradicted that of the hon. Minister who chose to table a false account to please Mr. President. This is one of the ways some political functionaries cause mischief and mislead their bosses. And whey they do, the whole of the society is affected.
God Himself is aware of the issue of complexity of the decision making process; hence the charge for all to pray for people in positions of authority who daily have to contend with positive and negative principalities: I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.1 Tim. 2:14. From my experience as a participant-observer in governments, I know so well and can submit without any fear of equivocation that political leaders at all levels require lots of prayers to be able to ward off the effects of spiritual wickedness. Those people are always under intense pressure with the possibility of making mistakes because they are not infallible.
APPOINTEES & LOYALTY
Political appointees at all levels are usually entangled in power struggles. In the Nigerian situation, public officers clash periodically on account of supremacy and ambition. One of the most cerebral diplomats produced by Nigeria, Ambassador Oladapo Fafowora once argued that some offices should be scrapped to avoid conflicts in governance. He said: If we are going to run the American presidential system, some positions must be scrapped because they are anomalous and we don’t need them. The problem is that we try to combine American administrative tradition with that of the British. It will not work. The two traditions emerged in different circumstances over time. We should evolve systems in accordance with our own tradition. Down the line, you have Secretaries to Government, Chiefs of Staff and Heads of Service. Fafowora contended that: A situation that leads to three public officers competing for power at that level is not good for the general administration of local governments, States or country.
Fafowora made the observation in consideration of the conflicts that arose in the YarAdua regime when there was a struggle for power involving then Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, the Secretary to Government and the Chief of Staff. In the United States, the Vice-President is also the Senate President while in the states, the Lieutenant Governors function as the head of the Senate. In Nigeria, this responsibility is split apparently to promote zoning of offices and the sharing of political offices. (Please read more at: The Nation newspaper of Sunday November 16, 2008) This is one of the reasons why many deputies complain of having no roles to play in successive administrations. We imported the Constitution wholesale from the United States, without due consideration of the working of some parts of the grund norm locally, as they work in the worlds foremost democracy. Then, we employ zones and quota to create positions, thus increasing expenses on overhead. Some of those zonal issues under the federal system could be coordinated from Abuja.
In the United States that we copy, the Secretary of State wields enormous powers and much responsibilities are shouldered by the occupant of that office. Then there is no Ministry of Information. That assignment is coordinated by the White House Press Secretary who sees more of executive actions that end up on the presidents table, covering the Executive arm of government. There are enough responsibilities to be shared in Government in such a way that political functionaries would be useful to their bosses and the administrations they serve. Disagreements arise largely as a result of inordinate love for power and relevance as exhibited by political functionaries. Let us deemphasize appointments based of the zonal structure; but give more consideration to merit. The constitution should allow the head of government to appoint the number of Ministers he/she requires instead of one Ministerial appointee per State. Then the federal government must shed weight in favour of States. This would definitely bring about lesser attention to the fierce struggles to emerge president of the federal republic by the different groups that make up Nigeria. We must be encouraged to act responsibly in national and public interest so the polity would witness real development.
Tonny Gitonga, a Kenyan scholar of democracy, in his 1987 publication titled: The Meaning and Foundations of Democracy emphasized that democracy is about people ruling themselves, ordering, organizing and managing their own affairs in freedom. Or, in the celebrated words of Abraham Lincoln: Democracy is government of the people, by the people, for the people. Gitonga went on to stress that to truly appreciate the nature of democracy, we must conceive of it as operating at three levels of social existence of a people: These levels he referred to as the infrastructural level, the structural level and the super-structural level. It is for this reason that an erudite scholar, Prof. Akin Mabogunje has submitted that: In governance terms, therefore, democracy is not just about how representatives are chosen which we have just done in Nigeria. More importantly, it is about how the citizens are regarded in the decision-making process – whether they are believed to be individually the equal of those making decisions and have the freedom to accept or reject any decisions made on their behalf or whether they are inferior beings on whom any decisions can be imposed. Accountability of elected representatives to those who elected them at each level of government and not to any other body however highly placed, is thus central to the operations of a democratic system. I recommend his postulations to everybody who means well for Nigeria to read. Please Google: PROMOTING GOOD GOVERNANCE: WHAT CAN WE, THE PEOPLE, DO? By Professor Akin L. Mabogunje
I submitted in my publication titled: GOVERNANCE: An Insiders Reflections on the Nigerian Polity that: Loyalty has a price. It makes an aide enjoy the confidence of the boss and a perfect and harmonious working relationship. Of particular importance is efficiency and capability. A lot of politicking and intrigues go on behind the scene from which a respectable aide would keep a distance. Gossiping and back-biting should normally be expected to be part of the features, usually occasioned by envy and feelings of complex on the part of indolent people who find themselves on the corridors of power, or are brought up in settings where intrigues thrive. It takes prayers, hard work and luck for those occupying sensitive positions to be able to survive where intrigues thrive. Conversely, a disloyal aide, occupying any office, high or low would most certainly be detected at any point in time. Indolence is a vice that cannot be hidden for long and no sane boss would relate closely with indolent and dangerous people whose stock-in-trade is to damage the character of another person in an attempt to gain relevance and prominence.
What is the way out? Ambassador Oladapo Fafowora, Nigeria’s one-time deputy permanent representative at the United Nations, believes that: for the system to truly contribute its quota effectively to nation-building, the desire must come from the top. The first thing (he said in an interview in The Nation newspaper of Sunday November 16, 2008) is that the government itself must be genuinely interested in the reform of the public service. Recruitment must be based strictly on merit, even when we apply the principle of federal character. Secondly, civil servants must be properly trained to ensure that they have the requisite capacity to carry out their functions. Thirdly, they must have clearer guidelines as to what the objectives of government are. Evidently, political appointees must be subject to more ethics restrictions than regular executive-branch employees. The spoils system/patronage system as practiced needs to be modified. The responsibility of sponsors of qualified people into positions in government must stop at the point of getting the candidate through into office. The appointing authority then takes over from there and demand undiluted loyalty.
The rest, pertaining to checks and balances should be left for the boss, the system, and the people who must demand for accountability. I heard about the actions of a leader who was bold enough to tell those who sponsored him to be elected to regard their inputs as bad investments, if they hoped to teleguide him for personal gains. Leaders require lots of guts and sincerity to operate. I witnessed a session where some top functionaries of government discussed appointments made in Abuja and the people picked from their States. The big man or appointing authority in Abuja threw away the lists from States for very sensitive ambassadorial positions and announced his own names, preferences and teams for strategic foreign Missions. The boss knew which foreign Missions were dear to his heart and acted in national interest. But there was nobody who could fault the calibre of the appointees and confront the leader in Abuja. He most certainly would have told them that he acted constitutionally and was better exposed and experienced. At best, States and political parties could only nominate and their responsibilities stop at that point. Very simple. Elected officials are directly answerable to their constituents, while appointees of heads of government must be answerable only to the appointing authority. You cannot possibly have two masters and divide your loyalty. Impossible!
Beyond the foregoing, another headache if the emergence of aspirants at all levels. Most of the exercises are compromised and are on cash and carry basis. There is nowhere in the constitution where the responsibility of producing a candidate for an election is vested in a few powerful hands. It is the responsibility of political parties to present their candidates seeking elections into political offices, and due process must be followed. This is one of the reasons why people now defect and change political camps in a most embarrassing manner. Rewards system allows for inputs of political parties and their leaders in appointments into political offices. But those who will work with these appointees must be given free hands to select their teams in national interest. The buck stops on the table of a head of government. Similarly, it is the responsibility of the electorate to elect their preferences. It is even good that there are attempts to introduce independent candidacy. However, it is to be noted that things go wrong in any system where a political party, after winning an election, gives government jobs to its supporters, friends and relatives, as a reward for working toward victory, and as an incentive to keep working for the party as opposed to a merit system. This affects service delivery in both the private and public sectors.
We must realize that political or corporate governance is about seeking solutions to problems through the judicious management of the available human and material resources for the achievement of set-goals and objectives. The merit system, therefore, is ideal as it promotes hiring government employees based on their ability to perform a job, rather than on their political connections. Our commitment to rebuild Nigeria is evidently based on our ability to offer good governance. Its importance is underscored by the fact that democracy is inter-twined with good governance. We must all cooperate to build an enviable democratic polity for the progress and prosperity of Nigeria. Then peaceful conducts are not impossible. I close with a quote from Rigoberta Menchu: If we can invest in a different vision of peaceful coexistence, I think we can change the world, because every problem has a nonviolent answer.
May the good Lord help Nigeria.