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Ex-Minister Faults Obasanjo On Failure Of Western Presidential System In Nigeria

A former Minister for Lands, Housing, and Urban Development, Chief Nduese Essien, has said the presidential Western-style democracy has not failed in Nigeria because it has not been practised according to the rules.

Essien, a former two-term member of the House of Representatives, asserted on Sunday while reacting to the statement credited to former President Olusegun Obasanjo that the Western-style democracy being practised by Nigeria is not working for the country and Africa.

He stressed that what has been practised in Nigeria since 1999 is not the presidential system of Western democracy but a modified form of democracy by the operators of the system.

His words: “Let me start by saying that this was an interesting assessment by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, but he took it out of context with realities on ground. Western-style democracy has not failed in Nigeria because we have not practised it according to the rules.

“We inherited the parliamentary system from the Colonial masters, and that is a system of democratic government where the head of government drives their democratic legitimacy from the ability to command the support of the Legislature.

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“This worked up to the independence supervised by the colonial masters. By 1966, the military said it was marred by corruption, so they discarded it. But by 1979, we had adopted the presidential system. That also worked for four years until the military struck again under the excuse of petty corruption.

“By 1999, we resumed with the presidential system, which of course involves rigid adherence to the separation of powers between the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. So in 1999, the system was delivered safely.

“But the operators of the system decided to modify the separation and put all organs of government under the control of the executive, calling it ‘Guided Democracy’. The Executive embarked on deciding the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, and the leadership of the National Assembly.

“So we reached a stage where the Executive decided to take full control of the National Assembly, selecting the leadership of the Assembly. Thereafter, they went on to choose and remove the leadership of the parties under the whims and caprices of the president.

Then next, the judiciary fell into the hands of the executive. Then the electoral process fell into the hands of the executive. So what we have practised since 1999 is not the presidential system of Western democracy, but a modified form, which I would agree with Obasanjo is the Afro-democratic system.

“Let us not blame Western democracy; let us blame ourselves for introducing our version of democracy with unending modifications to bring every institution under the control of the head of government to ensure the next election is won. So let us find some other excuse for not doing well and not blame Western democracy.”

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