The case for a more presidential presidency
It would seem a mere delusion for anyone to assume himself or herself to be an “opposition leader” in a presidential democracy. Politicians are responsible to the people who have elected them into various political positions. For instance, a governor is responsible to the people of his or her state while a senator, as representative of state interests, speaks for such interests in the National Assembly. Were a state to have a grievance on a national issue, the senator should be the articulate spokesperson in the national forum.
The concept of “opposition party,” appropriate in a parliamentary democracy, is a misnomer in a presidential system of government. The All Progressives Congress (APC) may be today’s “majority party” in our federal legislature, the stark truth is that no bill can be successfully passed into law without substantial support from the rival Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the current “minority party” in the National Assembly.
In fact, an elected politician may choose not to toe the dominant position of the party on a particular issue, if doing so would contradict the popular position in his or her primary constituency. It is principally, because presidential politics is not as political party-dependent as the parliamentary alternative, that an independent candidate can be president by-election in the former.
There have been interesting comments about the outspokenness of the Governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, not least because he might have chosen to fault, at every conceivable opportunity, anything said or done by the President of the Federal Republic, Muhammadu Buhari. While it may not be wrong to vociferously voice an opinion on what one disagrees with, the position here is that one’s criticisms of another should not be obsessive and insulting. A governor, even when he or she may not be in the same political party as the president, needs the co-operation of the latter- opportunistically- for the development of his or her state. As one observer of American politics, one can state examples of many instances when governors of opposing parties had welcomed presidents into their states and flaunted ensuing cordial relationships.
Maybe one reason why America has exercised preponderant power in global politics is the respect Americans accord their political institutions. They project their president as the indisputable leader of the world and we hardly disagree! The President, as head of government and head of state, epitomises national authority and prestige. Respect for the President is respect for nation and the institution he or she symbolises. While Fayose may continue with his criticisms, he is nevertheless enjoined to always bear this in mind. No one knows what destiny has in stock for the individual, he himself could one day be president of Nigeria!
Of course, whoever is president must appreciate the essence of having the entire nation as his or her constituency. He or she must be seen to be responsible and responsive to everyone in that constituency, and not just those who had supported them in an election. A decent President in many respects, there might have been some apparent shortcomings in the style of President Buhari regarding emotionally sensitive issues. The death of a Nigerian, in controversial circumstances, should be considered a national tragedy. The various deaths attributed to the barbarism of herdsmen, should have compelled President Buhari to make prompt national broadcasts assuring the nation of his disapproval of unruly behaviours as well as acting promptly to nip things in the bud. Had he been proactive in that respect, the rather nauseating insinuation that he was biased towards his “kinsmen” and the primacy of a particular religion would have been derided by well-meaning Nigerians. Honestly, the President should be speaking directly to the nation, and not through special assistants, on very serious issues of national concern.
A clever politician would be quick at empathising with the bereaved, as well as rejoicing with those who had found joy. No matter what reservations one might have about Fayose, he is a clever politician in his own right – not many would doubt his mastery of the art of situational ethics. An ability to promptly respond to situations, albeit with class, will make the presidency really presidential.