The recent elections in France once again highlighted everything wrong with our political system. A 39 year old president elected on a platform that is barely a year old is a testament to the maturity of their political and electoral processes. The new president had a cabinet in place about 24 hours after his inauguration, with a prime minister appointed from the opposition party. The outgone president served for only one term, refusing to seek re-election as he knew he had failed to deliver on his mandate. One couldn’t help but compare this to our own 2015 election, with an incumbent president that couldn’t point to a single achievement during his stewardship, yet felt the election was his to lose. Then we succeeded in electing a 72 year old that had spent the better part of the preceding two decades seeking the highest office, but took six months to appoint his cabinet members because he saw them as just noisemakers, and about the same time ‘guided’ the country into a recession due to inertia.
It is evident that democracy is alien to us and I wonder for how long we will continue to be governed through a failed foreign system that isn’t delivering any dividend to the electorate. Most developed countries have bespoke political systems designed to meet their own needs. In the U.K, the people get to elect their local members of parliament (MP) that will represent them in the House of Commons, and the leader of the party with the highest number of MPs gets to form a government. In the U.S, the Electoral College, rather than popular votes, gets to decide who becomes president. In China, it is a one-party State. The Politburo of the Communist Party of China, currently made up of seven leaders, gets to run the country for 10 years, after which there is a change in leadership.
The need for stability in China, due to the large population and differences, informed the choice of a one-party system, glossed with intra-party democracy. Without the political stability and consistency brought about by the one-party system, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, for China to develop the way they have, and as quickly too. Just as it is important to have a political system that caters to the needs of a country, so is it important to practice an economic system guided by national interest at every point in time.
The Chinese initially adopted communism as the system for resource allocation but now practice what they refer to as “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”. China’s economy has been defined as a “social market economy”, and doesn’t fit into any one particular system. Rather, it takes parts and pieces of many systems and combines them in a way that best serves their collective interest. On paper, China will claim to be the biggest opponent of capitalism, yet they have consistently deployed capitalist policies in parts of the country where it’s needed.
We as a country need to go back to the drawing board. Where do we want to go as a nation? Is there a need for a central government with a President and 469 National Assembly members? What purpose have they served in furthering the stability and development of Nigeria? Is there a need for 36 sub-national governments and their attendant State Assemblies? If Nigeria were to be a corporate entity with 36 subsidiaries of which 27 are bankrupt, will they insist on continuing to run wasteful entities? Or are we better off with regional system of government? Do we need 36 cabinet ministers all in the name of federal character or competent hands irrespective of State of origin? Will our collective interests be served by rotating and recycling mediocrity or enthroning meritocracy? It’s time for these conversations to begin.
Olugbenga A. Olufeagba