For the past 40 years, Nigeria has been a cake-sharing mono economy. With the future of oil as bleak as ever, the need for a paradigm shift from cake-sharing to a cake-baking status is most compelling. The urgency for instituting a viable structure that can bake and conserve the cake, therefore, informs this discourse.
The structure envisages a four tier system of government which will run only two general elections in the country. It proposes a zonal level that is different from its contemporary status and contrives new nomenclatures for the various tiers of government. It is a radical departure from the present imperial “Executive Syndrome”. It is a combination of the presidential mode at the federal level and a modified parliamentary system from the zonal to local levels. It will be parliamentary because some leaders will be elected in-house. Some adjustments are recommended in the structure of the judiciary, and in the structure and functions of the legislative arms of government.
For the executive arm, a maximum of two five-year terms for the president is recommended, while zoning of posts is to remain a prerogative of political parties. The zonal level, which is the proposed new tier of government, will become the zonal or regional government. They are to be headed by coordinating governors whose duties would be to harmonise and synergise the activities of states in the zones.
The coordinating governors will not execute projects; they will not have executive powers. They are expected to run a lean budget which will be outlined under revenue and emoluments. They shall represent the states in their zones in all matters at the federal level.
The states, as constituted today, will become provinces headed by administrators with only one five-year tenure. The fourth tier, which will be constituted by the local governments, will revert to districts which will be run by district chairmen.
State legislative houses are to remain largely the same, while at the national level, members of the House of Representatives will also double as members of the Zonal Houses of Assembly in their respective zones. They shall elect a leader in place of a Speaker at the zonal level and will carry out oversight functions for the smooth running of zonal governments.
State Houses of Assembly are to remain largely the same in their functions but will be known instead as provincial assemblies. The modified parliamentary model begins here.
Anyone who aspires to be an administrator of a province must first be elected into the proposed provincial assembly. It is the members that shall elect the administrator in-house for a single five-year tenure.
The local governments which shall revert to districts will be headed by district chairmen. Councillors shall be drawn from the wards and together with the district chairmen be appointed by the administrators and ratified by the proposed provincial assemblies.
All appointive posts at the federal, zonal, state and local levels shall have 30 percent reserved for opposition parties. Within the this percentage, seven out of ten slots or 70 percent shall be reserved for women.
Major shift in the existing structure of the judiciary is the proposal for the establishment of Zonal Supreme Courts. They are to be final courts for all cases within the zone not involving the federal government or its agencies.
In the case of election petitions, only the presidential and senatorial election matters may have business getting to the Federal Supreme Court.
Only the Presidential, Senatorial, House of Representatives and State Assembly elections are proposed in the Federation. The election of administrators is to be in-house.
On funding and revenue allocation, this proposal agrees largely with the position of the concluded National Conference of 2014 which canvasses for the reduction of revenue accruable to the federal government by 8-10 percent. The modification is for two percent of that 8-10 percent to be used for funding zonal governments and the remainder redistributed to the provinces. This agrees with the lean budget proposal since the government at the zonal level will not be project-executing.
On emoluments, the president, the Senate president and chief justice of the federation are to be on the same salary structure. The vice president, speaker, House of Representatives and the president, court of appeal shall be on the same salary structure, while members of the Senate and secretary to the government of the federation are to be on the same salary structure.
Members of the House of Representatives and head of service of the federation are to be on the same salary structure.
At the zonal level, the coordinating governors and chief judge of zonal supreme courts shall be on the same salary structure. The states, ie provincial administrators and chief judge of the state, as well as the speaker of the House of Assembly, are to be on the same salary scale.
District officers or local government chairmen are to be on same salary structure as permanent secretaries in states/provinces, while ward councillors are to be on grade level 15.
In the absence of state police, security issues in Nigeria are still largely a federal function. It makes no sense to discuss security votes at the federal level. At the zonal, provincial and local levels, this proposal suggests that security votes be pegged at two percent of the allocations to zones, provinces and districts.
Given the obvious strain, tensions and distortions arising from elections and its effect on our fragile economy and given our seeming reluctance to beat a retreat, one wonders if Nigerians are living for elections or whether elections subsist to serve the collective cause of the nation. The proposed reduction in the number of elections in five years is therefore targeted at saving valuable energy, resources and focusing on national development, while not detracting from effectively fulfilling democratic obligations of the citizenry.
Leaving 30 percent appointments to opposition groups is to be an ingenuous affirmative action that will engender new ideas and encourage gender equality. The minority green parties of Europe have managed to draw world attention to issues bothering on climate change. Nigerian parties of equivalent persuasion could evolve as whistle blowers to our progressively depreciating environment. Considering the difficulties of our democratic experiences, Nigeria should be bold to embrace an innovative order such as herein proposed towards the evolution of a more viable polity.
Enemo writes via [email protected]