To return Nigeria to a happy and peaceful civilian rule

Part of Chief Obafemi Awolowo s press release of 18th August 1975

IN the Nigerian context, it may be desirable to modify the German model somewhat. Giving advance to a party may encourage fraud and a frightful multitude of mushroom parties. It may be advisable, therefore, not to give any advance; and even after elections, only a party which has scored 10 per cent or more of the total votes cast at federal or state elections should qualify for subvention. A formula such as this will decidedly discourage ethnic or tribal parties, and positively encourage country-wide parties.

I am still thinking aloud; and another thought which I would like to leave with aspiring politicians is this: Professor Arthur Lewis, the eminent economist, has said that one of the things that bedevil African politics is the practice of ‘Winner Takes All’. He is quite correct in his diagnosis; but I do not share his sweeping remedy, which amounts to the adoption of one-party system or the formation of a National Government at all times. I favour the multi-party system, and the formation of the government by the victorious party or alliance of parties, but I think that it is in the national interest, or in the interest of whichever party may be in power that, during the first five years of politico-probationary period after return to civil rule, all the political parties who have seats in the federal parliament or houses of assembly should be involved in the extra- cabinet activities of our governments.

By this, I mean, in more specific terms, that every party with seats in the Houses of Parliament and Assembly should be represented on every organ of government, including Governing Boards, Corporations, State-owned companies, Parliamentary Committees, Government-sponsored delegations, etc., in proportion to the number of votes scored by such party at the immediately preceding election; The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee should be a nominee of the party in opposition.

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Those who care to give this formula any thought would see the tremendous advantages it has in the elimination post-election rancour, and in fostering the spirit of healthy co-operation between government and opposition.

The second class of people to which I want to address the concluding part of these final remarks are our Military rulers.

At these initial stages of their accession to power, I would urge them to bear in mind, constantly and scrupulously, that there is such a cancerous and fatal disease in public life known as Tenacity of Office. I had defined this malady in my speech at Ife on 6th July, 1974, as follows:

‘Tenacity of office is a political monstrosity whose characteristics are an inordinate and shameless love of power for its own sake, and a morbid tenacity for public office even when all the legitimacy for continuing in such public office has completely disappeared.’

I have tried, over the years, to identity the viruses which induce the affliction of this disease, and also favour its rapid growth. I itemise my results so far, as follows:

1) the assumption by office holders of superiority over the rest of the populace whom they serve, including their compeers and betters in every respect, by the use of police or military outriders as well as the blowing of sirens to the further disruption of an already disorganised traffic, and to the inconvenience of road users;

2) the description of a governor as ‘his excellency’ or ‘H.E.’ in and out of season, quite outside the bounds of strictly formal occasions; the wife is even sometimes addressed as ‘Her Excellency’ in public, and as ‘Mrs H.E.’ in private conversations; in the United States, the Americans address Mr. Ford either as ‘Mr. President’ or as ‘President Ford’;

3) the description of a woman who, yesterday was a humble and dutiful housewife, and co-breadwinner with her husband, as First Lady, simply because as a result of the changing and impermanent vicissitudes of public life, the husband happens, today, to be Head of State or Governor; the younger the woman, the more easily she and her husband succumb to the attack of this virus;

4) moving in a heady sort of flight from the unostentatious dwelling of an officer in the Armed Forces, or of a private citizen to a State House luxuriously furnished and located in the most exclusive part of the Government Reservation – a reservation which, be it remembered, came into being as a result of colour and racial discrimination by our former Colonial masters towards their oppressed and derided subjects; a State House should be reserved for an elected President or Governor who knows, from the very beginning of his assumption of office, that his days are numbered;

5) the provision of official quarters and of official vehicles for personal use for Ministers or civilian Commissioners, and the description of a Minister or Commissioner or Member of the Federal Parliament or House of Assembly as ‘Honourable’, even though, well-known to the people, he is very ‘Dishonourable’ by every objective standard;

6) the constant use by a Head of Government as distinct from a Head of State, of the phrase’ My Government’, as if the ‘Government’ is his private property.

All these things, among others, must be scrupulously eschewed: they are poisonous, dangerous, and induce the fatal political disease of tenacity of office. Where possible, they should be removed from our body politic by means of government proclamations and enactments.

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