2023 presidential election, legislature and the people
Nigeria’s problem with leadership is no longer news. So, has the most basic of advancement in human evolution, the quest for a good life for all, or at least, a decent percentage of the populace remained elusive. Successive leaders, from military to democratic governance have come and gone with no clear or satisfactory governance style or ideals in physical or economic development, political economy, or socio-economic framework. The political parties just as government so far, have failed to demonstrate or visibly adopt any ideology.
The absence of any clear or known governance style distillable from successive governments is a major setback posing grave concerns. This is because no traditions or culture have emerged or been established nor is one identifiable from which present generation can glean a process of commonality of action for the common good or for succeeding generations to draw some standards. This difficulty has remained since at least, the last fifty years. The period of computation is not drawn from the time of independence, since so much stand in the credit of the first generation of national leaders.
The basic aim of governance is to aspire to and establish a just society. A just society is a society typified by visible respect of the rights and liberties of members. A just society is premised on satisfactory indices of a tranquil orderliness. Achieving a just society engages four main principles: rationality, minimum moral standard, fairness, and equality. On rationality, the vessel of governance must engage the members of society, and aim at understanding human nature and society, with a well-established process for logical evaluation of evidence emerging from experience.
The aim is to arrive at maximum goodness for society and citizens. Modern political philosophers have continued to engage this question and Nigeria must enter the mainstream of the discourse- the past of Nigeria must thus be re-aligned with the present and her future. As the Committee on the Review of Nigerian Constitution engages the people, it has become incumbent on citizens to air views on the way forward for the Nigerian State.
In the analysis that follows, the minimum requirement for a person seeking to occupy the office of the President in 2023 is drawn from the thoughts of Pastor Adefarasin who addressed the issue on the 14th of April 2021. The criteria are listed below. For the Pastor, when all the criteria that are part of the resume of the candidate are met with, something remains to be done, not on the part of the candidate, but on the part of the nation and polity, specifically the political parties. The potential president must be chosen by a different process from the extant. The important deduction from his thoughts is that the structure of the process of election and selection meet at some point and, are important. It is this last spectrum of the thoughts of the Pastor that this piece aims at addressing.
On April 14, 2021, Pastor Paul Adefarasin noted: “Nigeria is a scam and it is time to do something about it. We must do something about it… It is stupid to go and buy yourself a fancy car in a land like this. The problem is not Nigerians; it is Nigeria and its constitution”.
He went further to state that we must call in the International Community. For him it is not enough for, the International Community to show keen interest in the process of election based on fairness, they must be partial to the agitations and aspirations of Nigerians for the most basic of human evolution- development.
Adefarasin identifies and lists the criteria from which the potential President of the Republic for the 2023 elections must be considered. First, the candidate must understand development in the content and context of Nigeria and be shown to have proven competences of this in a tangible work Resume. The candidate must not be a religious bigot in any of its expressions and clearly, must not have been associated with ethnicity, or terrorism.
In addition, the candidate must demonstrate that he or she has good proven persons with whom he or she has been associated overtime. The reason is that the potential candidate if elected must be able to provide the country with a capable and capacious cabinet that can deliver on the aspirations of Nigerians. The candidate must also be well experienced in foreign direct investments and portfolios. It must be added that a good candidate in the context of contemporary human evolution must also be a person of empathy. To this end, a choice of criteria may well necessitate a Constitutional amendment requiring of a candidate- familiarity with the subjects in humanities.
To now turn to the process of electing the President. The process of electing the President in Nigeria may be the problem of the state of failed governance in Nigeria and it is suggested that the time has come for its reassessment. Democracy has come to be defined following the memorable phrase of Abraham Lincoln as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. The most important aspect of the tripod is the content of: ‘by the people’. Implicit in the content of ‘by the people’ is its context.
Democracy,” means “power of the people.” It is Greek in origin. Democracy is generally associated with the efforts of the ancient Greeks. The Greeks were themselves considered the founders of Western civilisation as the 18th century intellectuals attempted to leverage early democratic experiments into a new template for post-monarchical political organization. Modern democracies are characterized by two capabilities that differentiate them fundamentally from earlier forms of government. These are the capacity of intervention in the society and the recognition of sovereignty by an international legalistic framework of similarly sovereign states.
Socrates was a Greek philosopher from Athens who is credited with being one of the founders of Western philosophy, and as being the first moral philosopher of the Western ethical tradition of thought. Plato was his student. These two considered the content and context of democracy being a government by the people during their time. This turns on the question of the process of electing the government to make it one, by the people. Implicit in this question is the notion of capacity. Capacity and its content run all through the spectrum of legal theory.
As between Plato and Socrates, only the enlightened and wise members of society ought to vote. This means, the same as what Dan Kahan, Professor of Psychology at Yale Law School stated: “Democracy is only as effective as the education system that surrounds it”. This statement is not too far from that of Thomas Jefferson, who noted of democracy, that it meets a minimum standard: “where the press is free and every man [person] is able to read, [then] all is safe”.
Socrates believed that only people educated on the issues should be allowed to vote. In Plato’s Republic, Socrates uses a metaphor to reveal this point to Adeimantus. In the metaphor, Plato gets into an argument with Adeimantus and persuades him that democracy is not effective. He, therefore, tells the story of a ship, whose master navigator is overthrown by the crew.
They do not believe that there is any skill necessary to be a navigator, and believe they are all qualified. Adeimantus concedes to Socrates that the real navigator would be called “an idle babbler”.
We thus, see that democracies in other jurisdictions are conceived in measured steps and that the electorates and patterns of election are different for different stages of engagement of holders of offices- from the legislature to the executive. In the United States of America, aside from the general electorates there is the electoral college and in parliamentary systems, the head of government emerges from the party structure. The monarchical institutions have somewhat similar structures since the members are trained and equipped with necessary moral ethics, candour and sundry paraphernalia of such institutions.
The question then is what the difference is, between the present pattern of electing a President for Nigeria’s democracy and the proposal by Adefarasin. He is holding the political parties as we know them today, to a higher standard than they have ever been known for, which may equate to nothing other than the legal maxim nemo dat quod non habet. It must, however, be said that Adefarasin has provided a working guideline for the prerequisites for the President- we, the people would want in office, come 2023.
The legislature, whose committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution is currently busy, must turn its attention to an autochthonous mode of electing a suitable candidate for the office of the President of modern Nigeria. This concern needs to be broached if we must have a nation and leave a legacy of this geographical and political space.
Chinwuba, professor of law, writes from the University of Lagos.
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