Continued from last week
SEVEN other inseparable characteristic features can be deduced from the successful practice of democracy in Western Europe, the United States, India, and Japan.
The first is separation of powers among the three organs of Government. The quintessence of separation of powers is the check and balance which it provides to prevent the emergence of totalitarian or authoritarian rule. There are three ways in which separation of powers appears to have manifested itself in Western democracies and India.
Firstly, persons who are entrusted with the functions of each of the organs are separate and distinct that is to say, no government functionary will belong to more than one organ.
Secondly (and this is a twin brother of the first), one organ will not control or interfere with any other organ in the latter’s performance of its functions: that is to say, all the three organs will be independent of one another in the exercise of their allotted functions, so that the Executive, for instance, will not control or interfere with the Judiciary.
Thirdly, one organ as such will not perform the functions of the other organs: that is to say, the executive, for instance, will not perform the functions of the legislature, even though the same persons are members of both.
In the First Republic we adopted the pattern expressed in the third proposition, which is the Westminster pattern. But, the executive functionaries of the day refused to keep to the rules of this pattern. They sought to forge a monolith out of the three organs: they subdued and swallowed the legislature; and they bribed and cajoled sections of the Judiciary into toeing executive lines in practically all major legal issues of the day in which the Executive as such or any of its functionaries had interest.
In the present Republic, we have adopted the twin pattern enunciated in the first and second propositions. This is the Ll.S. pattern. But, though no functionary of one organ belongs to any other organ, yet there are signs – fortunately only inchoate signs – that unless we are vigilant, the Executive at the Federal level will before long want to subdue and swallow up the Legislature, and subvert the Judiciary, as was the case under the First Republic.
Destabilisers at Work
The point is not in dispute that the reality of our political situation in Nigeria today is that, by hook or by crook, the NPN is in charge of the Federal Executive. Members of all the five political parties including the NPN are in control of the National Assembly. But it appears from all indications that the NPN is determined to subvert the independence of the National Assembly in order eventually to foist a totalitarian rule on Nigeria. For the good of our people we must do everything in our power now to mobilize public opinion to the end that this dangerous tendency is nipped in the bud.
In this connection, all those who feel that way should raise their voices now in total condemnation of the so-called National Government which the NPN wants to introduce. Already some fifty-three people have been proposed for appointment as Ministers, Advisers, and Deputy Ministers, on the tickets of executive functionaries and late Balewa’s broad-based Cabinet is already too striking for comfort. Yet Alhaji Shehu presumably wants to create more Ministries to accommodate the nominees of the other three Parties, should they agree to participate in his Government.
The UPN is not in Government at the Federal level. But it is very strong in the National Assembly, has charge of five virile State Governments, and is content to remain this way until the next elections. In its present capacities, it has important roles to play; at the Federal Level, to keep a watchful and constructive eye on the doings of Alhaji Shagari’s Government, so as to ensure that the
best interests of the people are catered for, and that there is not the slightest excessive exercise – of power: and in the States under its control, to demonstrate what a progressive Party can do for the good of the people when it is vested with governmental functions.
However, it seems that the NPN is not happy with the UPN outside its executive influence. From all indications, the NPN is seeking, by bribery, cajolery, and subversion, to bring the UPN to submission, and reduce it to a contemptible satellite around Alhaji Shagari’s orbit. In this regard, we do not and cannot claim to know all that the NPN, like a mole-cricket, is doing in the dark. But the utterances of some NPN leaders are pointers to their evil intentions towards the UPN. These utterances must not be ignored, especially as Alhaji Shagari has also made his own contribution to them. There has been the threat that the UPN-controlled States will be starved of funds by the Federal Treasury so that the Party’s programmes of free education at all levels, free health services, etc., in the States will be frustrated. There has been a monstrous suggestion for the creation of a Federal Ministry of Lagos Affairs.
Alhaji Shagari himself has openly declared that he was going to make laws to prevent the take-over of private primary schools in Lagos. Under our Constitution all these threats, suggestions, and declarations can only be accomplished by a calculated violation of some of the fundamental provisions of our Constitution.
In this respect, it must be stated in clear and unequivocal terms that only by strict adherence to, and religious observance of, the letters of the fundamental provisions of our Constitution that all of us, as a corporate nation and as individuals, can see stability and progress, and enjoy the delectable fruits of democracy. I want to asseverate that our Constitution is an indivisible entity: it is an organic unit which one cannot violate or breach in part, without doing fatal damage to the whole. In other words, if one destroys even so much as a single vital fabric of the Constitution, one has brought about the demise of the whole. Let us all, therefore, bear this vividly in mind that any violation or breach of any fundamental provision of the Constitution will almost certainly put an end to the Constitution, and provoke adverse consequences, the magnitude and extent of which no one can now foresee or control, should, God forbid, such consequences ever supervene.
To be continued