- Former Minister Nduese Essien disputes Obasanjo’s blame of Western democracy for Nigeria’s leadership crisis, citing misapplication and internal modifications
- Essien emphasizes that Nigeria’s governance issues arise from altering democratic institutions, urging internal accountability instead of blaming Western ideals
In a recent address in Uyo, Chief Nduese Essien, former Minister for Lands, Housing, and Urban Development, countered former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s assertion, urging him not to lay the blame for Nigeria’s leadership crisis on Western democracy.
Essien clarified that the apparent failure does not stem from the democratic model itself but rather from its misapplication within Nigeria. He argued that the parliamentary system, inherited from colonial rulers, initially functioned well until military intervention in 1966, citing corruption as the primary reason for its abandonment. The subsequent adoption of the Presidential system in 1979 faced a similar fate due to military interference in the name of addressing corruption.
Let me start by saying that this was an interesting assessment by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, but he took it out of context with realities on ground. Western style democracy has not failed in Nigeria because we have not practised it according to the rules.
We inherited the parliamentary system from the Colonial masters and that is a system of democratic government where the head of government drives their democratic legitimacy from the ability to command the support of the legislature.
This worked up to the independence supervised by the colonial masters. By 1966, the military said it was marred by corruption so they discarded it. But by 1979 we adopted the Presidential system. That also worked for four years until the military struck again under the excuse of petty corruption.
By 1999, we resumed with the Presidential system which of course involves rigid adherence to the separation of powers between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. So in 1999 the system was delivered safely.
But the operators of the system decided to modify the separation and put all organs of government under the control of the executive calling it ‘Guided Democracy’. The executive embarked on deciding the President of the Senate, Speaker of the House and the leadership of the National Assembly.
So we reached a stage where the executive decided to take full control of the National Assembly, selecting the leadership of the Assembly. Thereafter they went on to choose and remove the leadership of the parties under the whims and caprices of the President.
Then next, the judiciary fell into the hands of the executive. Then the electoral process fell into the hands of the executive. So what we have practiced since 1999 is not the presidential system of Western democracy, but a modified form which I would agree with Obasanjo is the Afro Democracy.
Let us not blame the Western democracy, let us blame ourselves for introducing our own version of democracy with unending modifications to bring every institution under the control of the head of government to ensure the next election is won. So let us find some other excuse for not doing well, and not be blaming Western democracy, he stated.