We’re Proposinng Parliamentary System Of Gov’t For Benefit All Nigerians — Rep Chinda

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One of the proponents of a shift from the current Presidential to Parliamentary System of government in Nigeria, Rep Kingsley Chinda, has said what was being proposed is an home-grown system of government that will benefit all classes of Nigerians.

Chinda, the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, made the disclosure in an interactive session with fellow proponents at the weekend in Abuja.

On recent reactions against the proposed shift by 2031, Chinda said: “I am one of the strong proponents of the shift from presidential to a homegrown parliamentary system of government.

“Now, yes, we have listened to some criticisms, particularly that of (former) Governor Fashola, who is of the opinion that we should tell Nigerians why the First Republic failed and that should be the starting point.

“But I want to assure you that we are not building castles in the air. We took our time to look at the system of government, to look at the problems within the polity, and how, as parliamentarians, we can assist in resolving some of these problems through legislative intervention.

“And then we felt that the entire system that we are practising is skewed towards failure. One, considering our background, our experiences, our diversity, which, of course, should be an advantage to us.

“And then if you look at the places where systems of government are copied from, they consider their culture, they consider their beliefs; they consider their society in adopting a system of government. But in Nigeria, we either copy from the United Kingdom or we copy from the United States, without recourse to our background. And that is why we are asking for a homegrown system of government.

“But because we don’t have, perhaps, the proper word to describe it, what we envision is closer to a parliamentary system. And so today, we are asking that we amend our Constitution to introduce a homegrown parliamentary system of government.

“Now, what led to the failure of the First Republic, whether we had studied it? I will answer Governor Fashola by saying, yes, we have studied it. We have studied deeply the First Republic, the conduct, the successes, and the failure.

“And in doing that, we have even moved to Kano to meet with the only surviving member of the First Republic, Alhaji (Aminu) Dantata and we asked him this question directly. Why did it fail?

And some of his responses were, one, that during the First Republic, many of them were not very well informed as to the system, the rudiments, and the practice. And so to him, one of the reasons why the parliamentary system failed was ignorance.

“Two, our various tribes and religions and belief in them and then the individual attitude of politicians of that time, which is still in place till today, concerning the issues of power and exercise of power and abuse of discretion.

“And then the constitutional provision that has to do with the sharing of power between the centre and the regions. That, all these culminated, mainly the power tussle and struggle, culminated into the crisis we had in the South-West, which led to the failure of the First Republic.

“And so having heard these, we have also taken into consideration these issues and that’s why we keep saying that it would be wrong for you to introduce a system of government without taking cognizance of your background, where you’re coming from.

“I give you an example. Ask a Nigerian public office-holder to exercise discretion today on an issue. He will be influenced by either religion or tribe. Very few public officers in Nigeria will exercise discretion with a neutral background, dispassionately.

“Now, the same public officer, if he is a Briton, asks him to exercise the same discretion, or an American, most often they will look at the nation first in exercising that discretion, most often.

So, because we have this inherent issue, it will be difficult for us to import laws that have to do with discretion and bring them hook, line, and sinker to Nigeria and expect it to succeed. It will not succeed.

“We must tweak it to consider our peculiar background. And that’s why we say the time has come for us to move forward.

“We’re talking about cost of governance, and government after government has been making attempts to take care of that, either by merging agencies of government or by slashing allowances and salaries of public office-holders. How far has that taken us?

“As far as we are concerned, it’s motion without movement. We’re still at the same spot. And so we must do something fundamental if we want to move forward. And what is that? We have an unwieldy government that is too large for us as a nation to make progress.

“You have the Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President. You have the Office of the Senate President and Deputy Senate President. You have the Speaker and Deputy Speaker. These offices, all of them, come with different budgets.

“You have 360 members of House of Representatives. You have the Senators. You go down to the states, the same. You have Executive arm, very large.

I can tell you as a parliamentarian today that, well, we can decide to say 50% of the salary of every member of parliament will be saved. That will not change much in terms of cost of governance in the country.

“But if we have a situation which we are proposing, commencing from the local government, we try it and see the problems and the successes. If we succeed at the local government level, we move to the next stage, to the state.

And as we are doing this, we will make consequential amendments to relevant laws and then end up at the national. You elect Legislators. There will be no election for the Executive. First, you have saved so much money.

“You can calculate how much we spend on presidential, governorship, and council chairmanship elections.

Now, amongst the councilors, they will elect a chairman and perhaps an assistant, the deputy chairman, amongst themselves. The implication is that any ward that is sending anybody as a councilor will send a chairmanship material as a councilor, unlike what we have today.

“Anybody that is sending any member to the National Assembly will send a member that has the capacity to be the Prime Minister of the country.

And so you cut down one, number of elections, cost of elections, which is the foundation first. And if you go into governance, as we propose that we have a Prime Minister who will be the head of the government and a President from Senate, who will be ceremonial head.

“What it means is that as a prime minister, you earn the salary of a parliamentarian that you were elected as, and you only have perhaps the allowance to function in the office of the prime minister. Accountability and stewardship is one big problem in our country today, not just corruption.

“You have a situation where different arms of government, the Parliament and the Executive, will appear not to be on the same trajectory. We don’t even know what the other arm is doing.”