This was the system our founding fathers inherited from the British. It is a system that has been in place for hundreds of years in Britain and some Commonwealth nations. But the system was booted out less than six years into our independence by the military and some of our best founding fathers were killed during the takeover. Young students of politics and today’s politicians may have forgotten the reasons for the killings, the reason for the change that gave us military for another forty years and more or, forever.
At the initial stage of the military rule, the politicians found themselves completely unemployed for a long time so they started to plot against the military by making a good part of the nation ungovernable. Even the military started plotting against the military. Several unsuccessful attempts were made by the politicians in conjunction with the press, the trade union, the student body movement and the professional bodies to topple the military but the military is the only disciplined and well-funded body so they decided to work out a partnership arrangement with the politicians or a few that were left standing after banning and unbanning the political structure to make the political partners the weaker body in the partnership. So, over the years, the two bodies now working together gave us the present unamendable and unworkable constitution (a winner take all constitution).
The events of the last few weeks in Britain, the country that gave us the parliamentary system of government made most Nigerians regret not continuing with the system that they gave us. The people’s power supported by the press showed the whole world the true meaning of government of the people, for the people and by the people by demanding accountability from the prime minister and his entire government. Because the people that made laws asking people to stay at home to avoid contact and to wash their hands every time, closing down almost everything that gave the people their livelihood and joy because of the Covid-19 pandemic; went on to party in No 10 Downing Street aka government house almost every week whilst the rest of the country was under complete lockdown. They even sent out invitations to their colleagues in government houses asking them to bring their own “booze”, not remembering that some government house staff like Muslims and some other religions do not like alcohol in their home, let alone in government houses.
They even made claims to the metrological body that gave them the weather forecast (here in Nigeria we call the rainmakers) and in the same invitation card they wrote, “Let’s take advantage of the good weather”.
Let us now look at what the people have done to all the heads of departments in the government house and prime minister, they have been humiliated by the press, questioned by the parliament, talked about every day in homes and among the press and now being investigated by the police for a likely criminal offence. The Prime minister and those being investigated if found guilty will be sanctioned and may never hold public office again even though they happen to be the ones that made it possible for the party to gain back the governance with their charm, their winning and political strategies. That is accountability, that is the people’s power and that is the parliamentary system of government that we abolished and do not even want to talk about again. The parliamentary system of government created an avenue for the people to hold their leaders accountable which is the opposite of what happens in Nigeria today where the people’s voices are silenced. The government of Nigeria promises to hold the corrupted leaders accountable and uphold democracy, but with what has happened and is currently happening, leaders get away with any corrupt act done. It creates room for me to ask, ‘is the law made for the people alone?’ The lawmakers are the defaulters of the same laws being made by them. The people are not allowed to express themselves; the press is sometimes against the people and the government is against the people.
Some months ago, looking at our political system, I wrote a piece in this column titled, “No Accountability, no nation-building.” I will take a very small part of the article, “If we must rebuild the country once more, we must begin by holding those that have mismanaged our resources accountable, instead of honouring them by naming monuments and streets after them. In the last few decades, we have continuously looked like a failed state but we must not allow that to happen because we have the resources to rebuild again, to rebuild well and constructively”.
Could this be the reason why some years ago at a workshop I participated in, in Abuja I was introduced as “the man who saw the future?” People applauded but I was not comfortable with such a title because I don’t want those looking to know their future to start coming to me. I would only like to be known as a student of History, a student of Nature and a student of Art. All those have enabled me to visualize and think. The political structure that we have today known as a dichotomy between the military and the politicians is not working and will never work because the partnership is rooted on a master-servant platform making it very difficult for political groups to operate with military power. Those that tried in the past or the last twenty years have not been able to get a distance third because the supreme leaders (the military and the politicians) have ensured the death of such bodies on arrival. Does it mean that they are aware of the outcome of events when such bodies spring and unite together? An example of such a movement was when the youths protested against police brutality. In a sane clime, the police work for the people and not the government because the people are the electorates. We have failed to follow the British system of government that colonized us to pursue another course which is tearing down the country.
Therefore, the ongoing partnership between the military and the politicians has worked well only for the politician and the military. The result of that is bigger mismanagement of our resources, bigger hypocrisy, bigger corruption and bigger crisis everywhere resulting in war and insecurity. Their partnership seems to be working and may stay with the country for the next few decades.