On a number of occasions in the last two years, southern leaders speaking collectively for the three zones in their part of the federation before, during or after a joint – meeting or on behalf of their ethnic organizations (Afenifere or Yoruba Elders Council for the South – West, Ohaneze Ndigbo for the South – East and chieftains of the Ijaws, Edos, Itsekiri, Efiks and Ibibios for the South – South), have always maintained that the 2019 national elections cannot take place without restructuring the country. The militants in the three zones, Odu’a Peoples Congress in the South – West, MASSOB and Indigenous Peoples of Biafra in the South – East and Niger Delta activists in the South – South have always also said the same thing. But they have never said what they will do to stop the polls from holding.
For me, organizing protest marches or carrying out violent activities early next year will be a wrong approach. Because such an action, even without a bloody upheaval, will only cause the election to be postponed, leaving the president, state governors and legislators to stay in office beyond their tenures. What I think is desirable and will bring positive result is embarking on civil disobedience as from next month or May until the president, the governors and the legislators in the National and State Assemblies bow to popular will.
The type of peaceful protest I have in mind has never been organized in this country. But it is next week that I will come up with it for patriotic leaders in the South and North who want the country restructured to meet and agree on how to carry out the action simultaneously all over the federation. If done, I see the president, state governors and the legislators taking steps within three to six months to restructure the country.
As I stated in this column four weeks ago what the country needs is total restructuring. And by this I mean devolution or decentralization of power to have a non – overlord central government and the states being largely autonomous and in control of their resources. Paying to the Federal Government only the taxes mutually decided upon by the central and state administrations. It also involves changing from the presidential to the parliamentary system. For me, the 36 state – structure should remain, except there are states that want to merge with their next – door neighbours.
Although the ruling All Progressives Congress came out last month to accept restructuring, I still have doubt that the party will do something about it this year, if not forced to do so. And I don’t believe it is out for total restructuring that will include changing from the presidential to the parliamentary system.
I am of this opinion because the APC had restructuring in its manifesto for the 2015 elections. Yet, it was only three or four months ago and about two – and – a – half years after it came to power, that the party decided to take action on the matter. I therefore see it as a political gimmick undertaken because of next year’s polls. With this, when the campaign begins the party will start telling us it will embark on restructuring next year immediately it assumes power, if re – elected.
If the country adopts the parliamentary system, the president who can be a legislator or non – legislator and might even not be a politician, will be nominated by the ruling party and will function as a ceremonial head of state. The same applies to the governor at the state level. At the federal level effective power will be in the hands of the prime minister who will be elected along with the other legislators and voted for by his colleagues to be the head of government after nomination by the party with the majority of members in the parliament.
At the state level the control of the government will be in the hands of the premier, an elected legislator, who will be voted for by the colleagues upon nomination by the party with majority seats in the parliament.
Under the present system the president is the national leader of the ruling party at the federal level and the governor the boss of the party in a state. The two of them will choose those to be in their cabinet. But under the parliamentary system, the national chairman of the party will be the national leader of the party, not the prime minister. While at the state level, the party’s chairman will be the boss and not the premier. It is also the party and legislators who will have a say on who becomes a minister or commissioner from among the members in the parliament. And unlike the presidential system no one who is not a legislator can be chosen to be in the cabinet.
With this situation neither the president nor the governors will be in support of the parliamentary system. The same applies to the legislators in the National Assembly and the State Assemblies. In the last two weeks it has come to light that a senator who from 1999 – 2015 earned N2.06 million (N2, 026, 400) a year as basic salary, under this dispensation has been receiving N8.4 million (N8, 400, 000) annually. And in addition gets allowances totaling N13.5 million every year. The allowance to execute projects in a senator’s constituency which was five million naira has also been increased to two hundred million naira per annum in the last three years or so.
On the other hand, a member of the House of Representatives receives a basic annual salary of N2.04 million (N2, 049, 843) and N9.6 million (N9, 675, 633) as allowances. While a legislator in a State House of Assembly is paid N2.04 million as basic salary and N3.3 million (N3, 363, 408) as allowances every year. But since no legislator in the House of Representatives or in a State House of Assembly has come out, as Senator Shehu Sani did two weeks ago, we don’t know whether they too have increased their basic salaries as the Senate has done.
Legislators at the national and state levels earn huge emoluments because they are full – time members of parliament who meet all – year – round, except when they go on official vacation. But if the country changes to the parliamentary system legislators will be part – timers and will meet about thrice or so a year, unless there is an emergency situation for them to convene.
Since they are not all – season legislators, instead of salaries they will only receive sitting allowances and that will be when they are present at a session. They will also be entitled to receive traveling and accommodation allowances only when they attend meetings. Given this, I do not think that the nation will spend more than N2 – N2.5 million on a member of the National Assembly in a year, and about N1 – N1.5 million on a legislator in a State House of Assembly.
For continuation next week