Last week, TERRIFIC HEADLINES promised to run some series aimed at education our youths who are interested in participating in politics and seek elective offices. This is part of the encouragement that they deserve to be able to realize their ambitions. We highlighted the fact that politicians of the First Republic were able to fit in perfectly because they were more than adequately prepared and gave their all through rendering quality service to their constituents. We submitted that youths must acknowledge the fact that youths of old were very well prepared and planned for their goals and aspirations. Politics goes beyond glamour. I enjoin youths coming into politics to study the history of nationalism in Nigeria and how patriots like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa and Dennis Osadebey conducted themselves by offering selfless and patriotic services. Let us now examine an important feature of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) It is termed: Doctrine of the Separation of Powers.
SEPARATION OF POWERS
A very important feature of the constitution is the near absolute separation of constitutional powers. The constitution makers influenced by the failure of the First Republic subsequently resolved that the doctrine of the separation of powers shall be incorporated into the Nigerian constitution in a manner after the American pattern of rigid separation. Traditionally, there are three arms of government the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary. By the doctrine of the Separation of powers propounded by a French political thinker – Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu. In his book: The Spirit of Laws (1748) the absolute concentration of powers in one man or in a group of people is anti-democracy. In any political system where such power is concentrated, there is bound to be tyranny. Montesquieu therefore advocated that for any constitutional system to be viable in terms of its preservation of the liberty of the citizen, the three arms of the government should be personnel led by different persons.
By such provision, each arm shall be a check on the other. It is this doctrine that our constitution makers have fully incorporated into the constitution. Under the constitution, the president as the pivot of executive authority is separate from the legislature. The president does not need majority support in the legislature as was the case under the parliamentary system where the prime minster needed majority support in the parliament in order to function. Under the cabinet system, the government stands or falls with the fluctuations of majority support in parliament. Under the presidential system; because of the separation of powers, the president may even have minority support in the legislature. This will not affect his political fortune. All he needs is the diplomatic ability to persuade the legislators of the wisdom and sanity of his legislative proposals.
BALARABE MUSA & MICHAEL OTEDOLA: PRESIDED OVER EXECUTIVE ARMS DOMINATED BY THE OPPOSITION
The experience of Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa comes in handy here. He was in office as governor of Kaduna State from October 1979 until he was impeached in 1981. He belonged to the populist class The Aminu Kano School of Thought popularly called: TALAKAWAS He was governor of Kaduna State for a brief period. The Legislative arm doesnt have to agree with the president or governor, as was proven by the Kaduna legislature, which rejected wholesale all the nominations of the governor for clearance as State Commissioners. A related situation arose in Lagos State when Sir Michael Otedola was governor between January 1992 and November 1993 under the platform of the National Republican Convention. The Lagos State House of Assembly then with 41 Members dominated by the Social Democratic Party. But Otedola was able to weather the storm through goodwill.
In order to further separate the executive from the legislature, the constitution provides that the president shall not be bound to appoint his ministers from the legislature and where he does so, the constitution provides that such a member shall vacate his seat in the legislature. However, there are occasions when the executive branch meets the legislative arm of government such instances would occur for example, when the president attends the joint meetings of the national assembly on any important occasion, for example to make budget speech, and to present an address on important national affairs. Also, minsters at the federal level or commissioners at the state level can be summoned to the legislature to answer questions relating to offices and functions.
The third organ of the government (Judiciary) has no functional relationships with the other two organs of government apart from very important functions like the nomination of the Chief Justice of Nigeria by the president followed by the confirmation or rejection of such nomination by the senate. The other point of interest is that it is only the Chief Justice of Nigeria who can swear in new president into office. Apart from all these, the Judiciary is absolutely separated from all other arms of government.
DIVISION OF POWERS
It is very fundamental to draw a proper distinction between separation of power and division of power, separation of power has to do with the allocation of powers to different personnel of the three arms of government. The main protagonist of the doctrine of powers as already noted is Montesquieu. Montesquieu was of the view that the reason for the political stability of Britain was that power and exercises were allocated; not only to the three arms of government but also to the personnel, but in the case of division of powers, each of the various units of government within the federal set-up is autonomous. The whole array of power is shared amongst the various units of government which is the central government invariably exercise such powers that have a tendency to maintain the integral and territorial integrity of the federal system whereas residual powers are generally exercised by the States under the constitution, that divides the legislative lists into two categories:
The exclusive legislative list e.g. Defence, Currency, census, Customs and excise duties, deportation, drugs and poisons, export duties, exchange control, insurance implementation of treaties. Etc.
The second list which is the concurrent legislator list contains subjects upon which the both the federal and state government etc. a proviso that ought to be borne in mind in respect of powers division of powers is that where there is a conflict over matters contained in the concurrent legislative list, legislation passed by the federal government takes a position of superiority over that of the state.
The legislation of the state in respect of the same subject matter would be deemed void to the extent of its inconsistency with the federal legislation on the same subject matter. By this division of powers, the federal government can be described as a government with the enumerated powers; where the subject is not in either of the lists, these would be regarded as residual powers. These fall within the legislative competence of the States alone.
This exercise wouldnt have been necessary, had standards not fallen drastically generally. How many people bother to read for pleasure or academic exercise? And the truth is that legislators and others in government ideally ought to be very knowledgeable to make the standards of debate and governance very high and productive. Montesquieu posited that: I have never known any distress that an hour’s reading did not relieve If you are a youth wishing to govern, you must be deeply involved in research and academics in order to contribute meaningfully. It is not about glamour alone. It is also not about rapping and enjoyment. It is about service to your people vested with the authority to elect or remove their elected representatives. Only men and women of integrity; who are prepared to offer selfless service and who are free from blemishes should naturally be preferred.
Obafemi Awolowo (you must have read about great Nigerians once posited that: “A man whose personality is fully developed never fears anything; he cringes not, and never feels inferior to anyone; His breadth of mind enables him to exercise his freedom in such a manner as not to endanger the interests and freedom of others. He is a citizen of the world – free from narrow prejudices. He is what he is because the three main constituents of his entity – his body, brain, and mind – are fully developed. In the same vein, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nigerias first Ceremonial President and Pan-Africanist also stated that: There is plenty of room at the top because very few people care to travel beyond the average route. And so most of us seem satisfied to remain within the confines of mediocrity. TERRIFIC HEADLINES wishes all contestants the best; while also praying that the best materials would emerge from any of the divides.