Future Governments Will Struggle To Meet Buhari’s Records – Sagay - Welcome to Uju Ayalogu's Blog

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Thursday, 27 December 2018

Future Governments Will Struggle To Meet Buhari’s Records – Sagay

Future Governments Will Struggle To Meet Buhari’s Records – Sagay

Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), in this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI speaks on his expectations for the New Year, his thoughts on the 2019 presidential election and other issues. Excerpts:

What are your expectations for Nigeria in the New Year especially under the Muhammadu Buhari administration?

I expect things to get better in 2019. The economy will get better and the situation of things will greatly improve. Nigerians will begin to see that the coming of Buhari has been a great blessing for this country.

They will also see that some of the foundations he is laying down now for accountability, transparency, honesty and integrity and applying the resources of the state judiciously for infrastructure and other things of development will become permanent.

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No government in future will be able to fritter away the resources and leaving the masses suffering as it was done in the past before the coming of Buhari. So, I strongly believe that he is going to leave a permanent record which successive governments have to struggle to meet.

The 2019 election is coming up in few weeks’ time. Do you see President Buhari retaining his position?

I have no doubt that President Buhari will win the presidential election by a landslide.

Don’t you see Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as a threat to him with many Nigerians believing that Northern votes will be divided between the two?

Atiku can’t divide his votes in the North and he will not get anything significant in the Northern region. Everybody especially in the North trust Buhari. They have confidence in him because of his records and integrity. They are sure that whenever he makes promises, you can hold him to his words. You cannot say that of Atiku.

Nobody will want to leave what is good, what they have experienced and now take a risk for something that is uncertain. So, I believe President Buhari has performed creditably well to deserve a second term and Nigerians who are appreciative of what he has done in the last three and half years will ask him to continue for another four years.

Were you surprised by the actions of some federal lawmakers who booed President Buhari recently during his budget presentation?

The action of the lawmakers who booed the President was nothing but an animal behavior. Harry Belafonte used to sing one song. He said ‘ A donkey will sometimes bray, let him bray; let him bray’. That is my response to the actions of the lawmakers. We should allow their donkeys bray. They behave like animals and they just demonstrated their true nature during the budget presenation.

We should just tolerate them at their low level of humanity and conduct. You saw what the President told them. He said they are expected to be above this because the whole world is watching them. I think the President is wrong because they are not above what they did. That is their level and they are demonstrating it to the world. So I am not surprised at all.

Some lawmakers in the House of Representatives have begun moves to revert Nigeria to parliamentary system of government. Do you see this as a step in the right direction?

I believe Nigerians (this time unemployed legislators) have found a new favourite subject for debate and wasteful diversion of time and resources. Suddenly, Parliamentary System of Government is the holy grail for Nigerian political salvation. For days now, the media, both orthodox and social have become fiercely engaged in pursuing a new political chimera with excitement and apparent seriousness.

Let it be made clear, the whole idea of one system being better than the other is “poppy rooster”, time wasting, arising from either ignorance or mischief. The mischief here being to have a Buhari with reduced powers.

In 1963, when I was an undergraduate at the University of Ife, the Students’ Union invited Chief Rotimi Williams, soon after he left office as Attorney-General of the Western Region, to address the Students’ Body on which system was preferable for Nigeria: Parliamentary or Presidential? I have never forgotten his answer. Briefly summarised, it was that neither of the two systems was better than the other.

The success of Governance depended on the quality of the operators of government. Bad operators, i.e., bad politicians and “leaders” would always produce bad and failed governance. In other words, the fault was not in the system of governance, but in the quality of the operators of the system.

We were operating this suddenly “golden” parliamentary system then. It led to a declaration of a state of emergency in the Western Region, restriction and detention of major political figures, crisis and violence, and the fall of the first Republic. The fault dear Nigerians, was not in that system, but in the irresponsible and reckless manner in which First Republic politicians conducted themselves.

It is even more foolish to think that the introduction of the parliamentary system will weaken the Buhari Government and empower the opposition. On the contrary, the Prime Minister under a Parliamentary System is far more powerful than a President under the Presidential system.

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The Prime Minister combines the positions of Leader of Parliament and Head of Government. He does not need the confirmation of parliament to appoint Ministers. It is his sole prerogative. If a vote of no confidence against him succeeds, he can dissolve parliament, and compel his critics and foes to face a fresh election in which they might not be returned.

In other words, a Prime Minister is President and Speaker of the House of Representatives rolled into one. Never mind the fact that the British Parliament has someone designated “Speaker”. All he does is to recognize House members who wish to speak.

The Prime Minister must be recognised above every other person as soon as he or she rises up to speak. The Speaker has no discretion in that regard. It is the British Prime Minister who exercises all the powers currently enjoyed by the Nigerian speaker. The House of Lords (Senate) is simply a decoration intended to give the aristocracy and retired elder statesmen a false sense of importance and relevance.

The Prime Minister is effectively, National President, Speaker and President of the Senate, rolled into one. To bring home the message clearly, there will be no “Saraki”, no “Dogara”- in that system. Buhari will bestride the Nigerian World, under the parliamentary system being proposed.

The Senate and its President in such a system is an impotent and relatively unimportant body. It can delay, but cannot hold-up legislation. In fact its opposition to any bill can be overridden by the House under the leadership of the Prime Minister.

So those calling for the re-introduction of the Parliamentary system in the mistaken belief that it will result in a weak Executive Branch should think again. They are foolishly asking for a system in which a powerful Prime Minister will control both the Legislative and the Executive Arms of Government. My advice to them is “Beware of what you wish for yourselves.

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