The executive arm articulates and implements the policies and programmes of government. In the parliamentary system, it is the Prime Minister and the cabinet that is called the 'Government'. The people must decide the amount of power to invest in the 'prime' ruler and also the mode of choosing him. These two factors determine the kind of person who could emerge and the strength of enforcement of state policy directions.

In the presidential system, it is the President that has both powers of the head-of-state (a baffling coinage) and head of government. It is separated in the parliamentary system. The United States is the leader of the present civilization and its President requires more powers to deal with the exigencies of its external responsibilities while sustaining internal cohesion that rests on regulated and tested institutions and principles. This was the attraction during the debates in the 90s after the failed 1st and 2nd Republics. Nigeria as a regional leader needed a powerful President that could lead the country and play its appropriate roles in the continent. But it was all theories. The grafting was wrong and there was no friend for the self-appointed freedom fighter for the black race.

No democracy thrives with a leader chosen by everybody. Capitalism denotes freedom of wealth, an epochal transition and emancipation from the shackles of feudalism. Democracy is the political face of capitalism. But the bourgeoisie and democrats knew that human coexistence and struggle for expression, freedom and equity had not ended. The clamour for universal suffrage was carefully managed such that what is given on the right is withdrawn on the left. 

If a leader is chosen directly by all, he becomes answerable directly to all. He hearkens to all and is forced to impress all. In the end, he is compromised. It takes a brute and sadist to receive power through some people and turn the sword against them. That is not the mode in America. It is not the mode anywhere except in Africa. 

Further, the direct election of the prime leaders evokes the power of numbers. The most populous regions or sections dominate the rest. This phenomenon is summed up in the words of Tana Rose of the Prager University concerning America as follows:

The American President and the Vice President are not chosen by a nationwide popular vote of the American people. Rather, they are chosen by 538 electors... Why didn't the Founders just make it easy and let the presidential candidate with the most votes claim victory? Why did they create it, and why do we continue to need this electoral college? The answer is critical to not only understanding the electoral college but also America.

The Founders had no intention of creating a pure majority rule democracy. They knew from careful study of history what most have forgotten today or never learnt: pure democracies do not work. They implode!

Democracy has been carefully defined as two wolves and a lamb voting on what's for dinner. In a pure democracy, the bare majority can easily tyrannise the rest of the country. The Founders wanted to avoid this at all costs...


In America, 538 people (the Electoral College) vote for the President. In the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister is chosen by the party with majority members in parliament and not by voting. That was the kind of democracy we had in the First Republic. The Italian Prime Minister is chosen by a President who is chosen by the parliament. The Japanese Prime Minister is nominated by parliament and endorsed by the Emperor. China and USSR do not harbour the kind of all-comers democracy we imported from our joint-colonial masters. China is a one-party state while the USSR operates through the politburo which has its seat at Kremlin. You climb the ladder of leadership through training and exemplary performances. The Federal President of Germany is chosen by a Federal Convention consisting of 1196 members.

The reality of avoiding universal suffrage is best exemplified in the French system. The President who is elected in a nationwide election is only a Head of State. He chooses the Prime Minister who heads the Government and who may not be the person he wants if his party loses the parliamentary elections (What a conundrum?!). He is only responsible for foreign affairs and policies (extricated from dealing directly with the people who voted for him). The French go to the polls to elect a 'Minister of External Affairs' while perhaps believing that they have elected the head of their government.

In our recent experience, transport workers are more important than teachers and lawyers; and, in Lagos, they are a branch of the law because they bring in more than just figures in electoral values.

The President will be a lame duck having compromised power while seeking it. You could listen to the litany of complaints made by Prof. Yemi Osibajo, Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria about the stealing of several billions of dollars from the coffers of the national treasury; and, President Muhammadu Buhari complaining about the theft of oil and you ask whether it was meant to be news for citizens or whether the presidency is not imbued with adequate powers to deal with the thieves. 

The direct election of the prime ruler has caused the domination of the office by only the major tribes. All things being equal, Tinubu will win the 2023 election and will be succeeded by a Hausa/Fulani. It will come back to the west again for as long as it is a multiparty universal suffrage democracy.

Back to basics, the general elections should be restricted to the parliament. The parliament will then elect the President/Vice President from the parliament in which event, a candidate will aspire for parliament first before thinking of heading the government. The Presidential aspirant may choose a running mate from parliament or outside it.

The following issues need consideration:

1. It is submitted here that the desire for a second term is also a source of compromise. It should be considered if a 6-year one-term tenure is not enough to perform.

2. It is hereby suggested that the tenure of a Vice President should only be shorter and not longer than that of the President. So, when the President is impeached, there will be a new government. This becomes more imperative in view of the geographic balancing in the offices to avoid sabotage and distrust. Even if the President dies or is adjudged incapable of acting the office, the cabinet falls into transition, dissolves in 2 months and a new government is put in place.

3. It is also submitted here that it is a dangerous proposition to tie the life of a nation on the apron strings of an individual. The one who chooses the ministers, the chief justice (to be discussed later), military service chiefs, heads of departments and agencies and influences the choice of the head of the National Assembly. Therefore, some important positions must be filled on the nomination of parliament and choice of the President from the pool.

These should include:

a. The office of the Governor of the Central Bank.

b. Accountant General of the Federation.

c. Managing Director of NNPC Ltd.

They may only be sacked on the recommendation of the President to the parliament (?).

4. Drawing inspiration from the popular presidential and parliamentary systems, it is suggested that upon being elected by parliament, the Head of Government should assume the nomenclature, powers and authorities of the President and his now vacant sit be filled vide a bye-election.

5. It is noteworthy that the focus has been on the Federal power setup, it could be replicated at the State level. Howbeit, pure majority democracy is still manageable at that level especially if the federal government retains some control over the federating states.

Happy 38th anniversary to Mrs. Tinuke Badmus nee Shillings!

S. O. K. Shillings Esq.

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