Saturday, July 20, 2024



Nigeria has just celebrated twenty-five years of unbroken democratic rule under a presidential system of government. Even then, there is a groundswell of opinion that the system seems to have constituted a clog in the country’s wheel of progress, and so should be done away with. In this anniversary interview with SUMMITNEWS, Prince Richard Ozobu, a chieftain of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), queues behind those agitating for the return to the Parliamentary system of government. He argues that the presidential system is expensive to run, and that it breeds corruption and inefficiency in government. According to him, the level of accountability among public office holders in the country is zero.


Would you say Nigeria has made progress on its democratic journey in the past 25 years?

For me, I think we have made a lot of progress in our democratic journey since 1999, when the military returned power to civilians, and went back to their barracks. Although the country is not where it is supposed to be since these twenty-five years, but I think to have remained under military rule would not have augured well for our country men and women. As we continue our journey, I insist that those contravening democratic principles should be brought to book immediately. From inception, our forebears, Ahmadu Bello, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Michael Okpara. Obafemi Awolowo, gave us parliamentary system of government, but we later adopted a presidential system, and as we speak, I can tell you that the implementation of the presidential system of government has not gone down very well.


We’re implementing the presidential system in the way and manner that is inconsistent with how the system works in the United States of America where we borrowed the presidential system of government. There, there are checks and balances; the democratic organs are strong and firm, and those who contravene the laws governing the country are brought to book. In Nigeria, we’re failing in these areas. Can you imagine a situation where you have four refineries in a country and none is working, and nobody is asking questions. And because our refineries are not working, we export our crude oil, and import the refined product, and even when the refined product arrives here, the actual cost of importation is not reflected at the filling stations. I can tell you that less than three quarters of imported fuel is consumed in this country. The rest is smuggled outside the country by those who are bent on making themselves wealthier at the expense of the Nigerian people. This is done openly, and nobody seems to be talking. So, our institutions must be firm and strong for democracy to have a meaning here.

How do you react to the suggestion that the country should return to parliamentary system of government?

I agree with those who say we might as well go back to the parliamentary system of government. As one of the delegates at the 1994/95 constitutional conference, I proposed that the country should go back to the parliamentary system of government which we inherited from the British colonial masters

What are the specific problems inherent in the presidential system vis-à-vis the parliamentary system!

In the presidential system of government, one is elected for a period say four years, and if you are not doing the right thing, the process of removing you before the expiration of those four years is tedious, long and expensive. But in the parliamentary system which would have been best for us, a vote of no confidence on the floor of the House, is enough to sack the prime minister and his cabinet, and subsequently a fresh election is held within 45 or 60 days as the case may be. Under a parliamentary system, those in authority are more careful in making and implementing policies.

Of course, it must have dawned on us that the presidential system is very expensive to operate. I feel sad each time I hear that our governors and president have security votes. For what! In America from where we copied the presidential system of government, there is nothing like security vote. Do you know that in the US, most of the governors live in their personal houses, but here we spend billions of tax payers money to build official residences for presidents, vice presidents, governors and other public officers.

I schooled in America, and I lived there for 14 years. I passed through the place, and I made sure the place passed through me. One thing I love about America, is that there is high level of accountability.

So, why have we not been able to imbibe the principles of presidential system, and indeed democracy as witnessed in the US and elsewhere?

The presidential system cannot work properly in a place where people do not understand their rights. Majority of our country men and women do not understand their rights under our constitution. In the presidential system, the people have the right to say NO to a given policy. They have the right to ask local government chairmen , councillors, house of assembly members, governors, national assembly members, the president and his vice to give account of their stewardship.

But the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of NIgeria ( as amended) gave the people such rights

I agree, but the people do not know their rights under our constitution, and where they do, they are afraid that they might be killed if they ask questions. How many legislators both at the state and federal levels have gone back to their constituents to brief them on their activities in either Abuja or respective state capitals, yet they are paid constituency allowance for this same purpose?

President Tinubu and his party APC have spent one year in office, do you think the administration has done well?

The Tinubu administration has done very well in the last one year when you consider the heavy responsibility placed on the shoulders of this administration. I make bold to say that Buhari also did well as president for eight years. The fear expressed by many Nigerians when Buhari assumed office in 2023, was that he was going to rule by military fiat as a retired Arny general. But Buhari said he will abide by the constitution, and did exactly that..

Let’s leave Buhari alone. Given the fact that millions of Nigerians are today hungry due to the harsh economic situation, one makes one think that Tinubu has done well in the past one year!

All I can say is that those who were previously elected to build this country, went too far to destroying the system, but President Tinubu has come to rebuild what had been destroyed over the years. And it will take time to put things right in this country. Going further, this administration inherited several capital projects from the previous administration, and work is continuing on all of then

Is the administration not aware that millions of Nigerians cannot put food on their table?

We’re not the only country that has come to this point, and that is not to say that the administration is not doing anything to ameliorate the problem. In addition to what the government is doing, I suggest that the administration should introduce food stamps to enable low income earners to purchase food items at designated areas at reduced prices. The government should also cut the salaries and allowances of public office holders by ,60% to enable the federal and state governments pay reasonable minimum wage. We should also do away with security votes, and use the proceeds to take care of the welfare of our people. Our country is blessed with large expanse of arable land, and therefore, we must invest more on agriculture.



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