They have come again! The proponents for a parliamentary system.
Last week, the clamour for a change in our democratic system of government from presidential to parliamentary system resurfaced with the news that some members of the House of Representatives have tabled a bill which proposes a parliamentary system of government for the country. I am not sure if they did this from their wisdom or knowledge, knowing we have been and what is trending.
The term “Parliament” is correctly used to describe a group of owls – creatures which represent wisdom and knowledge in many cultures.
Forget the chain email or social media meme which gives descriptions for groups of creatures such as a herd of cows, school of fish, pride of lions, gaggle of geese and so on. These first terms are largely correct. Other terms like a “murder” of crows and an “exaltation” of doves are incorrect. Doves can be called a dule, group or flock, but never a exaltation.
The chain email goes further: “Now consider a group of baboons…the loudest, most obnoxious, least intelligent of all primates…And what is the proper collective noun for a group of baboons? Believe it or not…a Parliament”.
This of course is false. It’s a troop of baboons. And baboons are the smartest of the primates so whoever wrote the chain about them is didn’t do them justice.
Based on the above, whether it is a parliament of owls or baboons, it would be positive for our parliamentarians to be compared to both creatures.
We would therefore expect our legislators to be wise and knowledgeable people.
But are they?
Nigeria tried the parliamentary system at independence in 1960 until it was truncated by the military coup of 1966. The military then foisted the presidential system on us in 1979 when Shehu Shagari took over the reign of leadership as President. General Obasanjo handed over to him.
Shagari’s presidency was cut short in December 1983 soon after he started his second term as President under the National Party of Nigeria by the military which brought Muhammadu Buhari to power as Head of State, followed by Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha and Abdulsallam Abubakar in a successive military regime period, during which the military cooked up the US version of the presidential system which we still practice.
One major reason proponents of the parliamentary system always put forward is the high cost of running the presidential system, especially in the funding of the legislature.
So how do they intend to fund the parliament if we change? Will the legislators still be operating as full time ’employees’ so to speak? Won’t they have advisers and assistants? Won’t they propose constituency projects, most of which are non-existent?
There’s already the argument on ground that if legislators in the current system are operating on part time basis, we would be saving a lot of money. The parliamentary system can only also save money if parliamentarians will operate part time. They should reside in their houses or flats and go to sessions when invited. This is what is not being practiced now. The assemblies practically sit on part time basis even now, because they are mostly on recess, even though they get paid humongous salaries and allowances. The term ‘a parliament of vultures’ may become applicable here they way they milk the National and state purses.
And pray, who would be the parliamentarians to run the new system? Would it be the same legislators in the current dispensation or are we importing people from Mars?
The major problem with Nigeria is people. The orientation that politicians are ruling the people rather than serving the country would have to change first.
We should only consider a change if there are people who will serve the country and not lord it over their constituents.
Our current political orientation does not reflect this understanding of what service is all about. Very few of the legislators seem to understand why they are representing the people. The few among them who seem to speak for the people are not making enough impact. I am sure their colleagues laugh at them.
It is clear therefore that the country’s problem is not a system problem but a people problem.
If we can find good people to run the current system well, why change? If we can guarantee a new set of Nigerians with the right orientation of both leaders and followers, there may be a future for us.