According to H.L Mencken, “a good politician under democracy is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.” Yes! It is true that there is no perfect democracy and no perfect rule of law, but how much democratic is our democracy and how much do we adhere to the principles of the rule of law?
Rule of law is more often pronounced than acted or adhered to, and the more our government says it, the less it seems to demonstrate the understanding of it. The more the government preaches and claims adherence to it, the more events prove it is farther from it. There is no rule of law where there is selective justice, where the government chooses which law to obey and which to disobey; where there are human rights abuses; where there is no care for human life and happiness; where there is failure of budget implementation (note that a budget is an enacted law); where governors and other representatives cross to other parties without relinquishing their offices; where the government appropriates excess crude account without any constitutional provision for it; where votes do not count, where elections are not free and fair and where some are above the law. Even though democracy does not guarantee equality of conditions, it guarantees equality of opportunities in the face of rule of law.
Where are the twelve Northern states governors who adopted the Shari'a penal code - Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Jigawa, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara? They chose this code that provides such harsh sentences as amputation, lashing and stoning for alcohol consumption, theft, and infidelity. By now, they should all be amputees. While they ensured penalties for petty thieves, nearly ALL of them ended up stealing billions from the State coffers. Should some be above the law? That spells Animal Farm!
Rephrasing the word of Howard Winters, a developing democracy should be a government which gradually increases the number of people included in the term 'we' or 'us' and at the same time decreases those labelled as 'you' or 'them,' until that category has no one left in it. It should carry people along!
Nigerians should know that there can be no punishment unless a court decides that there has been a breach of the law. That is, one is innocent until proven guilty by a court of law. Every individual has the right to be tried and proclaimed innocent or guilty only by a court of law. The police or any other force has no right to manhandle, torture or beat anyone, neither do they have the right to kill, except if their lives are in danger.
People’s fundamental rights ought to be protected under this dispensation. Remember again that right is not what anyone can give you, but what no one can take away from you. The central tenets of democracy are equality and freedom.
A political party is an organised political group formed with the intention of putting forward candidates to be elected for government. It seeks to attain and maintain political power by participating in electoral campaigns. A party is expected to be based on ideology and specific
We all have political rights that include freedom of political association. This is contrary to the
EVERYONE IS FREE TO BE A MEMBER OF ANY REGISTERED POLITICAL PARTY OF CHOICE. In some cases, members of the same family can be divergent politically.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, the action movie icon turned Republican ‘governator’ (a combination of Governor and the Terminator, one of his films roles) of
“You cannot grow democracy that does not have opposing points of view! People must be allowed to organise political organisations that argue, that shout, that fight with each other not in the battle field but in the field of ideas. When a ruling party thinks there is no need for the other party’s view, then you are already out of democracy and back into tyranny”. (Colin Powell.
What an irony! The President and the Attorney General of the nation who are supposed to be the chief custodians and enforcers of our constitution to which they swore to protect, are the chief abusers as they openly embrace this unconstitutional moves. Are they ignorant or do they think we are? Constitutionally, those who decamped have technically lost their offices! This was established by the Supreme Court in its ruling that enthroned Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as the governor of
Separation of Powers
Separation of Powers is a key characteristic of a liberal democracy, whereby the government has an inherent control system to ensure that no arm of it is able to abuse power. Under this model, the government is divided into three branches with separate and independent powers, as well as pre-defined areas of responsibility.
This political arrangement creates a division of the legislative, executive, and judicial functions of the government among separate and independent bodies. Such separation limits the possibility of arbitrary excesses by government, since the sanction of all three branches is required for the making, executing, and administering of laws.
The Separation of Powers creates checks and balances, which allows for a system-based regulation that allows one branch to checkmate another. This is manifested in the power of the Legislature to alter the composition and jurisdiction of the federal courts, or the judiciary ruling that a law is unconstitutional.
Separation of Powers in
Unfortunately, the Judiciary and the Legislative arm cannot be said to be independent of the Executive in the Nigerian system. Events have shown that the executive mostly wields overwhelming influence on the other arms of the government. As long as the executive determines the welfare packages of the other arms of government, this trend will continue to be so.
This is an arm of government that is solely responsible for law making. Legislatures may be unicameral or bicameral. At the federal level in
In a Presidential system like ours, the Executive and Legislative branches are clearly separated; but in the Parliamentary system, members of the Executive branch are chosen from the legislative membership.
The Legislature in
Section 4 of the Nigerian constitution states as follows:
4. (1) The Legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be vested in a National Assembly for the Federation, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.
(2) The National Assembly shall have the power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation or any part thereof with respect to any matter included in the Exclusive Legislative List set out in Part I of the Second Schedule to this Constitution.
(3) The power of the National Assembly to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation with respect to any matter included in the Exclusive Legislative List shall, save as otherwise provided in this Constitution, be to the exclusion of the Houses of Assembly of States.
(4) In addition and without prejudice to the powers conferred by subsection (2) of this section, the National Assembly shall have power to make laws with respect to the following matters, that is to say:-
(a) Any matter in the Concurrent Legislative List set out in the first column of Part II of the Second Schedule to this Constitution to the extent prescribed in the second column opposite thereto; and
(b) Any other matter with respect to which it is empowered to make laws in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
(5) If any Law enacted by the House of Assembly of a State is inconsistent with any law validly made by the National Assembly, the law made by the National Assembly shall prevail, and that other Law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.
(6) The Legislative powers of a State of the Federation shall be vested in the House of Assembly of the State.
(7) The House of Assembly of a State shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the State or any part thereof with respect to the following matters, that is to say:-
(a) Any matter not included in the Exclusive Legislative List set out in Part I of the Second Schedule to this Constitution.
(b) any matter included in the Concurrent Legislative List set out in the first column of Part II of the Second Schedule to this Constitution to the extent prescribed in the second column opposite thereto; and
(c) Any other matter with respect to which it is empowered to make laws in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
(8) Save as otherwise provided by this Constitution, the exercise of Legislative powers by the National Assembly or by a House of Assembly shall be subject to the jurisdiction of courts of law and of judicial tribunals established by law, and accordingly, the National Assembly or a House of Assembly shall not enact any law, that ousts or purports to oust the jurisdiction of a court of law or of a judicial tribunal established by law.
(9) Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, the National Assembly or a House of Assembly shall not, in relation to any criminal offence whatsoever, have power to make any law which shall have retrospective effect.
This is a branch of government charged with executing or carrying out the laws and appointing officials, formulating and instituting foreign policies, and providing diplomatic representation. The Executive is vested with the power to spend funds allocated for certain purposes, as in the budget, and may veto laws and grant pardon to convicted criminals. This arm of government wages war at the direction of the legislative because it peculiarly derives its instrumentality from
The Executive power is vested on the President to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and the laws of the country. The principal responsibility of the President is to ensure that laws made Legislative arm are faithfully executed. The Constitution does not require the President to personally enforce the law; rather, officers subordinate to the President may be appointed to perform such duties. The President's responsibility is to execute whatever instructions he is given by the law making arm.
As a check and balance, the President can exercise a check over the Legislature through his power to veto bills; but legislators may override any veto by a two-thirds majority in the Senate and House of Representatives. When the two houses cannot agree on a date for adjournment, the President may settle the dispute. Either House or both may be called into an emergency session by the President.
The President, as noted above, appoints judges with the Senate's consent. He also has the power to issue pardons and reprieves or amnesties as we have it in the Niger Delta. Such pardons are not subject to approval by either the House of Representatives or the Senate, or even by the recipient.
The President is the civilian Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. However, it is the Legislature that has the power to raise, fund and maintain the armed forces, and to prescribe the laws and regulations under which the armed forces operate. The legislature also has the sole power to declare war, and requires that all Generals appointed by the President be confirmed by a majority vote of the Senate before they can assume their offices.
The Executive in
Section 5 of the Nigerian Constitution states as follows:
5. (1) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the executive powers of the Federation:
(a) Shall be vested in the President and may subject as aforesaid and to the provisions of any law made by the National Assembly, be exercised by him either directly or through the Vice-President and Ministers of the Government of the Federation or officers in the public service of the Federation; and
(b) Shall extend to the execution and maintenance of this Constitution, all laws made by the National Assembly and to all matters with respect to which the National Assembly has, for the time being, power to make laws.
(2) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the executive powers of a State:
(a) Shall be vested in the Governor of that State and may, subject as aforesaid and to the provisions of any Law made by a House of Assembly, be exercised by him either directly or through the Deputy Governor and Commissioners of the Government of that State or officers in the public service of the State; and
(b) Shall extend to the execution and maintenance of this Constitution, all laws made by the House of Assembly of the State and to all matters with respect to which the House of Assembly has for the time being power to make laws.
(3) The executive powers vested in a State under subsection (2) of this section shall be so exercised as not to:-
(a) Impede or prejudice the exercise of the executive powers of the Federation;
(b) Endanger any asset or investment of the Government of the Federation in that State; or
(c) Endanger the continuance of a Federal Government in
(4) Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section:-
(a) The President shall not declare a state of war between the Federation and another country except with the sanction of a resolution of both Houses of the National Assembly, sitting in a joint session; and
(b) Except with the prior approval of the Senate, no member of the armed forces of the Federation shall be deployed on combat duty outside
(5) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (4) of this section, the President, in consultation with the National Defence Council, may deploy members of the armed forces of the Federation on a limited combat duty outside Nigeria if he is satisfied that the national security is under imminent threat or danger:
Provided that the President shall, within seven days of actual combat engagement, seek the consent of the Senate and the Senate shall thereafter give or refuse the said consent within 14 days.
This is the branch of government tasked with the authoritative adjudication of controversies over the application of laws in specific situations. This power to decide cases and controversies is vested in the Supreme Court and lower courts established by the laws made by the legislature. The judges are appointed by the Executive with the approval of the Legislature, and can be removed by the legislature through impeachment proceedings. In the course of its duty and power, the Judiciary does the following:
- Determines which laws the legislature intends to apply to any given case
- Determines whether a law is unconstitutional
- Determines how the legislature applies the law to disputes
- Determines how laws should be interpreted to assure uniform policies in a top-down fashion via the appeals process, but gives discretion in individual cases to low-level judges. (The amount of discretion depends upon the standard of review, determined by the type of case in question).
- It also polices its own members
The Judiciary in
6. (1) The judicial powers of the federation shall be vested in the courts to which this section relates, being courts established for the federation.
(2) The judicial powers of a state shall be vested in the courts to which this section relates, being courts established, subject as provided by this constitution, for a state.
(3) The courts to which this section relates, established by this constitution for the federation and for the states, specified in subsection (5) (a) to (1) of this section, shall be the only superior courts of record in Nigeria; and save as otherwise prescribed by the National Assembly or by the House of Assembly of a State, each court shall have all the powers of a superior court of record.
(4) Nothing in the foregoing provisions of this section shall be construed as precluding:-
(a) The National Assembly or any House of Assembly from establishing courts, other than those to which this section relates, with subordinate jurisdiction to that of a high court;
(b) The National Assembly or any House of Assembly, which does not require it, from abolishing any court which it has power to establish or which it has brought into being.
(5) This section relates to:-
(a) The Supreme Court of
(b) The Court of Appeal;
(c) The Federal High Court;
(d) The High Court of the
(e) A High Court of a State
(f) The Sharia Court of Appeal of the
(g) A Sharia Court of Appeal of a State;
(h) The Customary Court of Appeal of the
(i) A Customary Court of Appeal of a State;
(j) such other courts as may be authorised by law to exercise jurisdiction on matters with respect to which the National Assembly may make laws; and
(k) Such other court as may be authorised by law to exercise jurisdiction at first instance or on appeal on matters with respect to which a House of Assembly may make laws.
(6) The judicial powers vested in accordance with the foregoing provisions of this section:
(a) Shall extend, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Constitution, to all inherent powers and sanctions of a court of law
(b) Shall extend, to all matters between persons, or between government or authority and to any persons in
(c) Shall not except as otherwise provided by this Constitution, extend to any issue or question as to whether any act of omission by any authority or person or as to whether any law or any judicial decision is in conformity with the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy set out in Chapter II of this Constitution;
(d) Shall not, as from the date when this section comes into force, extend to any action or proceedings relating to any existing law made on or after 15th January, 1966 for determining any issue or question as to the competence of any authority or person to make any such law.
Role of Education
Change will come when we know true democracy and keep ourselves informed. We have to encourage our families, friends and neighbours to populate the educated camp till the ignorant camp is totally deserted. An individual’s commitment to group effort is what makes it work. It makes a team, society, civilization work and a change possible. Now is the time for all good people of our great nation to come to the aid of our flawed democracy. Education is all we need for this revolution.
Every great change begins with a dream. We have dreamt dreams and we all have to always remember that we have within us the required ingredients to reach for the stars and change the world. We have the strength and the passion which are God-given; we only need to activate them!
“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” (J.F Kennedy).
Change neither comes from the East or the West nor from the North or the South. It comes from you and I. We are the real CHANGE that
We have to work together to confront the problems confronting us as a people in order to save the nation of our fathers for the sake of our children.
“An extra-ordinary change does not require any extra-ordinary effort of one but the ordinary effort of all” - OteniyaRK
I have chosen to be among those who would be rightly judged by posterity. What about you?
OteniyaRK is the founder and an administrator of Nigeria Think Tank, a Facebook forum created to confront the problems confronting
God bless Nigera!
N.B - This piece is not protected by any copyright law. Be free to distribute it to anyone who cares.
The WAZOBIA translation of this piece is underway. We need to educate the masses especially the rural folks. Time for change is now and together.!
In order to fully comprehend this piece, it is advised that you read ‘Finally, Our J.J. Rawlings Is Here. The Beginning Of An Intellectual Revolution’
Wish you all a happy and prosperous 2010.
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