Buhari should walk the talk on electoral reforms —Hassan
Idayat Hassan,Executive Director, Centre for Democracy and Development, Abuja, in this interview by OSARETIN OSADEBAMWEN, charges President Muhammadu Buhari to give his assent to the electoral reforms and the National Assembly to leverage on its mandate to ensure good governance.
The current year has been described as a decade of new opportunities. How would you rate the Nigerian democracy since 1999?
It has been a mixed bag of experience. We are happy to note that democracy in the last 20 years has been the longest stretch we have had as a nation. We can say we have had six successive general elections.We can say that we have seen development in terms of progress from where we were coming from, that is, since 1999. We got to a point in 2015 when we had a positive turn of events in the election. Then in the last year, we had challenges with our elections. This time around we can see that there is a movement, not just of organisation, but of citizens who are interested in ensuring that the right thing is done with regards to the conduct of elections.
Beyond elections, you will also see that the rate with which the people are demanding for accountability from the government has increasingly changed. Previously, nobody cares about holding the government accountable; they felt that they should not even talk about what government did right or wrong.People were just a republican of their own: they generate their own power; self-supplied water from individually-sunk bore holes. They felt they should just keep quiet and ignore those in government.This time around, that whole concept of viewing governance has changed, although not much has changed from what they were used to in terms of governance service delivery to the people. The people are making demand on their governments at all levels; local, state and federal government.In some cases, such demand for good governance is taken to government parastatals. This is a welcome development, especially as this was not applicable when we took at our first shot at democratic governance in this Fourth Republic.
Violence has been part of our election process for a very long time. Can the desire to win an election, through killing, ever be eliminated in the political process?
That speaks to the kind of politics we play here. It is zero sum. We have to change the nature of our zero sum politics where the winner takes all and runs government for four years and the loser gets nothing. Here, the incentive system is also too large. Where you know that if you get to the National Assembly, you are going to get a SUV and a lump sum as welcome package, So even if you get N10m alone as welcome package, that is quite some money.Besides that, you get money which is not accounted for. As you continue to get these things, you find out that you will not want to leave it because people are full time politicians, which is not what it should be. I might want to be a politician but I must maintain my job after wards so that one can cater for his or her family with pride.
Before the Senate went on break, it insisted on one of its resolution that military chiefs should use the Abuja Kaduna Expresswayinstead of train as a measure to keep the kidnappers in check, but not much has been heard of that resolution. What does this portend for executive/legislative harmony?
It is a matter of implementation and that is what separation of power and existing varied tiers of government is all about.It is the responsibility of the National Assembly to oversight and give those kind of resolutions. However, it does not have the power of implementation. Therefore, it behooves on the executive to call the service chiefs to order and ensure that all these resolutions are implemented. It is very difficult to speak because the president sometimes make statements that are on policy direction and it is not followed up with detailed implementation by those who work for him, let alone resolutions from the National Assembly.You will also find out that in previous years the executive, not the presidency in this case, but the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have little or no respect for the National Assembly.
Why is that?
I think it is part of the culture of impunity. There is nothing the National Assembly can do because what you don’t have you can’t give. That is why there is separation of powers. They make the law and the executive implements.
Sometimes, the president of the Senate talks about the National Assembly being on the same page with the executive. Is it proper?
They are not meant to agree on everything. Also, the fact is that there is separation of powers. It does not mean that they should be fighting each other often. There are two chambers designed to ensure checks and balances on the executive on behalf of the people. They should rise up to that responsibility.Having a cohesive National Assembly should be of immense benefit to the country because the policy direction of the nation would be followed through to make for effective implementation that would lead to a better life for all. That does not mean there should be agreement in every area. If they agree on everything, then, where is the doctrine of checks and balances? They have to know that there is separation of powers and there is the doctrine of checks and balances because those things work hand in hand. If there are no checks and balances, what is the essence of the separation of power? They should be seen to be performing their duty, carry out oversight and provide the needed checks and balances. That is their primary responsibility.