There have been discussions and counter-debates over the ideal type of democratic government for Nigeria since 1999 when the country started its transition from military to civilian rule after more than 15 years of military dictatorship.

While some contend that Nigeria’s current presidential system of government, which was implemented between 1979 and 1983 and is modeled after the United States, is still the best option for the country, others favor a return to the parliamentary system that the British gave to Nigeria upon its independence in 1960.

Those advocating a return to parliamentarians—a system that Nigeria’s colonial overlords, Britain, imposed on the nation in 1960—have said that it would guarantee accountability and eradicate government waste.

They contend that such a form of governance would eliminate the need for the Senate and the House of Representatives, and the nation would be able to function with a unicameral legislature instead, which is less costly and less laborious.

They contended that this would result in a significant reduction in the funding required to operate a bicameral legislature.

Remember that in a parliamentary system of government, the prime minister, or head of state, is selected from among the members of the legislature. Invariably, they represent the political party with the majority in the legislature. Additionally, ministers are chosen from among legislators. The system’s proponents contended that doing so would minimize the expense of governance.

However, proponents of the presidential system, which was adopted from the US in 1979, have also said that it guarantees checks and balances because the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government are all prohibited from acting arbitrarily.

They contend that total power corrupts absolutely and that each branch of government must function as a watchdog to restrain the other’s excesses in order to keep a power-hungry politician from robbing the people of their rights.

They contend that the current system needs to be changed to take into account Nigeria’s unique characteristics, which are demonstrated by its diversity.

However, the debate is refusing to end. The debate has persisted, with the House of Representatives delving deeper into the case for Nigeria to switch back to a parliamentary form of government in light of the nation’s existing economic circumstances.

A bill to bring Nigeria back to parliamentary democracy was approved on Wednesday of last week in the national assembly’s lower legislative chamber during its first reading.

About sixty MPs from all parties have co-sponsored the bill, which is anticipated to be gazetted for a second reading before being referred to the Ad-hoc Committee on Constitution Review, led by Deputy Speaker Benjamin Kalu, for additional legislative activities.

After the bill failed its first reading, Wale Raji briefed journalists at the National Assembly (NASS) complex in Abuja. He explained that the purpose of the proposed bill was to start a discussion about the possibility of switching from the current presidential system of government to a less costly parliamentary one.

If the bill is signed into law, the new form of government will take effect in 2031.

“We anticipate that the process may not necessarily conclude with the current administration. We expect it to extend beyond 2027, with the actual commencement potentially in 2031. It’s a gradual process that we have now initiated,” he noted.

Speaking on behalf of the 60 lawmakers that sponsored the bill, Hon Abdusamad Dasuki said: “Today, we stand on the cusp of history as lawmakers from different parties and regions recent bills proposing constitutional alterations for a transition to a Parliamentary System of Government.”

He pointed out the flaws in the current presidential system, such as the high cost of governance, the abuse of executive power, and the absence of direct accountability to the people, among other things, while also acknowledging that the proposed change, if approved, would have a significant impact on the political landscape of the country.

The bill aims to bring Nigeria back to the First Republic’s responsiveness, accountability, and responsibility—a style of administration that was ultimately less costly.

The laws propose to establish the position of the President as a ceremonial leader and to replace the President with a Prime Minister as the Head of Government.

In an effort to improve coordination between the legislative and executive branches of government, additional changes that were suggested included moving the process of choosing governors and chairmen of local governments from general elections to internal voting within their respective legislative bodies.

Dasuki and his team believe that electing representatives from the parliament might reduce the amount of money spent on state and national campaigns and that a more efficient executive branch could result in a smaller central government and lower expenses.

The law also seeks to start a national dialogue about the future of Nigeria’s governance structure by promoting open discussions, stakeholder consultations, and well-informed decision-making procedures.

Dr. Pogu Bitrus, the President of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), remarked on the change, stating that although Nigerians would save money under the parliamentary system, the current presidential system might still benefit Nigerians if it were adjusted correctly.

Even though he supported the parliamentary system, he emphasized that Nigeria needed restructuring in order to adapt the current presidential system to the country’s needs.

He added that Nigerians would have to debate the issue before deciding whether or not the nation would go back to the legislative system.

He said: “I am one who feels that the American system, which we adopted, can still be modified and corrected to serve this nation appropriately. All we need to do is to restructure the country so that there will be some real good representations.

“Another thing is to ensure that the western system we copied is not a holistic thing. We should modify it to serve our own peculiarity. The parliamentary system will definitely work for us; it is cheaper than the presidential system, but it is left for Nigerians to debate on it and see which will work better for us.

“But, I still believe that with restructuring, this presidential system, which we currently operate, will still serve us well.”

On his part, a former House of Assembly member in Katsina State, Hon Yusuf Shehu, said he was in total support of the move for the country to return to parliamentary system.

He said the system is best for Nigeria, and that was why the British who colonized Nigeria bequeathed the system to the country at independence.

“Don’t forget that it was the system given to us by our colonial masters, Great Britain. They gave us our constitution and they considered our makeup before introducing the system to us. I believe they know it is the system that is best for us.

“Secondly, the system is less expensive and it promotes unity. Nigeria is diverse in culture, religion and tribe. The British knew about this diversity before they introduced the parliamentary system because it would suit our differences in culture and traditions.

“Remember that the presidential system was copied from America by the military and forced on us in 1979. It is alien to us. The parliamentary system is much cheaper than the presidential system. Under the parliamentary system, the prime minister is selected among the ministers.

“Under the parliamentary system, the states or the federating units are more powerful than the centre, but in the presidential system, the centre is more powerful than the states; it shouldn’t be so.

“Even the recent calls for the creation of state police would not have arisen if we were in a parliamentary state because the state would have been given the power constitutionally to take care of things like security, natural resources and others.

“So, the bill for Nigeria to return to the parliamentary system is a welcome idea. I learnt it has even passed the second reading. So, we are expecting the third reading before the presidential assent, so that it can become law in Nigeria.

“I support the move completely, and in fact, the situation in Nigeria today, calls for total revisit of the constitution,” he stated.

Alhaji Yerima Shettima, the President of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum (AYCF), also supported the demand for a return to the parliamentary form of government in his presentation.

According to him, the presidential system would produce good leaders rather than the underprivileged, inept, and mediocre lot leaders it currently fosters.

He said: “I have no problem with the parliamentary system of government because the way our politicians are taking advantage of the centre is not going to augur well in the nearest future.

“A situation where every Tom, Dick, and Harry can just go to the centre and receive the blessing of one God-father will not augur well for us in the nearest future.

“We can also not sustain a system where governors will sit down, fold their arms, and expect miracles to fall from the centre.

“So, for me, it is only when we have a parliamentary system in place that the states can become more viable. Only then, will the states begin to harness their resources.

“This is because the constitution will spell out the percentage that the state or region will pay to the centre. That way, the centre will be less attractive and at that point, we will begin to produce good leaders because whether you have money or not, once you come from a community that can vouch for your antecedents that are good, you are good to go.

“But under the current system where somebody in Abuja will force an armed robber, or a fraudster on the people, you don’t expect to produce good leaders.

“For me, I welcome the parliamentary system of government because that is what fits Nigeria. That is what fits us as a country; we don’t have to borrow from America or Russia because they are not the same with us. And other people in any other country are not the same as us.

“We are Nigerians and we must be able to work with things we feel that can benefit us and that are good for us.

“So, I welcome the parliamentary system of government and it is the parliamentary system of government that can give Nigerians the state police we are all talking about.”

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