November 22, 2010

Should Legislators be King?

The biggest pro for this amendment is the fact that the legislators are popularly elected representatives of the people. We cannot say that for any other member of the NEC of parties.

In the last couple of weeks a crisis of sorts have once again beclouded the Federal Legislature as the lawmakers seek to amend the constitution to make legislator automatic members of party NECs and entrench their power over their parties and eventually state policies. The one clear thing is that our current constitution is not totally adequate, in its current scope, to address the competing realities of the our democracy. Having said that, this is not a call for a wholesale amendment of the constitution or even a convention of another constitutional assembly. This is a call to have an open debate on aspects of the constitution that will further entrench populist ideologies and a popular democratic ethos. To this end the legislators appear to have a valid argument in seeking to be Kings in their respective political parties;vis-à-vis, becoming members of their respective parties’ National Executive Committees' (the highest decision making body in the parties). This position has both far reaching and arguable pros and cons. And like in any democratic system of government it is evident that these pros and cons should be subject to proper and open debate.

The Cons

First, Notable among the public figures that have spoken in opposition against this move by the legislators are former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Mr Anyaoku, former Vice President and founding father of the PDP Mr Alex Ekwueme, Former Commissioner for Works in Gowon’s administration Alhaji Femi Okunnu (SAN), and some legislators, most recently Hon. Andrew Uchendu (PDP, Rivers). These are not micky-mouse leaders and the legislators have good reason to apply some breaks and pay attention if really they have excellent intentions as they claim. Second, Nigeria is still a country just emerging from a rather bruising authoritarian military dictatorships. Many people are still fairly sceptical of allowing anyone, or group so much leeway to entrench itself or assign a huge power position to itself. This is understandable since if this amendment passes the legislators could effectively rule the parties and have an unassailable lead in party decisions, programmes and actions. This is even more true in PDP were 372 legislators could eventually become PDP NEC members. They could singlehandedly make or break any presidential ambition of anyone especially in this era of consensus candidacy. This suspicion is emboldened by the speedy manner in which the leaders of the legislature are hastening and defending this amendment, while at the same time (reportedly) stifling debate on the floor of both houses of the National Assembly. Legislators opposed to this amendment should be allowed to speak. The amendment should be allowed to go through the mandatory readings. People like Hon. Uchendu (PDP, Rivers) must be allowed to speak. While others must be allowed to present a better argument for the amendment if they exist. This is a democracy. Debate; open, honest, independent debates is the soul of it. The role of leadership in a democratic setting, which we aspire to both in government and in public discuss, should be to foment debate around crucial decisions to ensure the best outcome. Our democracy is still untested and various forces are allowed to try to define it, but this must be in an open way. The president himself, Goodluck Jonathan, has tried also to wrest some power through the bill supporting retention of voting rights for government appointees. This move failed. The fact is, just anyone is allowed to debate and try to influence the course of our democracy but the legislators have failed to foment debate for the right issues and their leadership, have allegedly encumbered debate especially in this instance. This has made it the more suspicious and self serving, whereas it could well be a good amendment.

The Pros

The biggest pro for this amendment is the fact that the legislators are popularly elected representatives. We cannot say that for other members of the NEC. This is completely democratic at face value. The greatest fear is that the legislators are not '”usually” elected in a free election and they may be motivated by other aspirations. All this fear is also mostly because this is an untested system. We should not be afraid to try new vistas. Finally as popularly elected members of party NECs the legislators could carry the aspirations of their constituencies and be more responsible for the success or failure of party policies and programmes as embodied in the party manifesto. This is a good thing. Right now the party NEC is easily hijacked by money-bags and former military officers with no original constituency and mandate. Hence, I will vote pro this amendment because having popularly elected officials make up the highest decision making body in the parties is a good thing. I vote pro on this amendment because I assume that if the elected representatives would represent the will of their constituencies. If they do not I expect the “opposing” candidates to lead a recall of the legislator or legislators, or that the constituency would vote the legislator out during next term. I vote pro this amendment because I expect a free and fair election will be a realty. A realty were the will of the people must and should prevail. You say this is not the case? I say, I expect it to be so. I act as if it is so. And so it will be sometime. Let the people be king.


emeka k duru said...

Legislators by their mandate are very important personalities and,ordinarily,should be so within their various parties.
The opposition to their current moves to amend the constitution in the way that accords them influence within their various partiesis based on suspicion.
Suspicion that the move is self serving and antithetical to the reserved rights of the individual political parties to evolve in a manner that suits them.
To usurp the powers of the various parties to formulate policies perculiar to their vision and assemblage is against reasoned democratic tenets.
The legislators therefore,owe it as a duty,to all observers,to explain away their intention to foister an expanded privilege for them,on their parties.

Anonymous said...

excellent thought Duru.

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