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Legislature should elect the president, governors

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The United States Capitol. PHOTO: Wikipedia

“The best argument against democracy is a five minutes conversation with the average voter.” – Winston Churchill
“Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.” – Henry Mencken

Were the United States of America a democracy, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party candidate in the 2016 presidential election would have broken the “glass ceiling,” and become the first female U.S. president because she won the popular votes by some three million. Rather, the Republican candidate, Donald Trump became president because the U.S. practises republicanism, thanks to the collegiate votes. Not a few persons still wonder at the difference of the two terms due to the convenient-interchangeability to which politicians have rendered them over the centuries. The thought would not have crossed the minds of the U.S. founding fathers who under the apparent influence of Plato’s Republic, rejected democracy, lock, key and barrel.

George Washington who had presided over the Constitutional Convention and later accepted the honour of being chosen as the first president of the U.S. under its new Constitution, indicated during his inaugural address in April 1789, that he would dedicate himself to the “preservation of the republican model of government.” James Madison, who is rightly known as the “Father of the U.S. Constitution,” wrote in the Federalist, No. 10: “…democracy have been spectacles of turbulence and contentions; have ever been found incompatible with personal security; or the right of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they are violent in their deaths.” John Adams, a signatory to the U.S. Declaration of Independence, said he championed the new Constitution because it would not create a democracy. He had insisted that democracy never lasts long, “it soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.” Alexander Hamilton in his stead had averred that “we are forming a Republican form of government. Real liberty is not found in the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments. If we incline too much to democracy we shall soon shoot into monarchy or some other form of a dictatorship… Our real disease is DEMOCRACY.”

It is, therefore, not a wonder that the word “democracy” is not found in the U.S. Constitution. Article IV, Section 4 of that Constitution categorically declares: “The U.S. shall guarantee to every state in the Union a Republican form of government.” Republicanism recognises the gradations that exist in human societies and, therefore, posits that electoral votes be aggregated. Democracy, on the other hand, promotes the doctrine of absolute equality of all humans; each vote carries equal weight. Therefore, it is disingenuous to interchangeably employ the two terms; the one is cheese, while the other is chalk.

Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution could well have been influenced by Edward Gibbon’s “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” which appeared in the period of U.S. Declaration of Independence. That towering masterpiece traces the Roman history from the middle of the Second Century A.D. to the dissolution of the Western Empire late in the Fifth Century, through the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages in Western Europe, including the history of the Eastern and Byzantium for a thousand years to the fall of the Constantinople in 1453. The Decline and Fall deploys empirical evidence to show that the greatest western empire ever, collapsed essentially due to the failure of republicanism in the Roman constituencies.

According to the treaties, as the Roman Empire’s material wealth attained unprecedented proportions, following many conquests, her emperors felt the irresistible urge to centralise administration. With centralisation went the liberty for individual initiative and creativity. Consequently, constituencies’ contributions to the common wealth declined. That declining fortunes adversely affected citizen’s morale, inclusive of the soldiers, thus the fall of the Roman Empire. Centuries after, the Great British Empire would follow that declining trajectory; see The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, (Allen and Co. Ltd, Bocardo Press, Oxford, 2005).

From the respective fall of both empires we could see that the “collect and share wealth” philosophy, a cardinal attribute of democracy, which only works as long as there is someone else’s money to share, is doomed to eventual collapse. Those receiving are quite pleased with getting something for nothing. But those forced to give are denied the right to spend the benefit of their natural endowments and labour on their own self-interest, which creates jobs no matter how the money is spent. They also lose a portion of their incentive to produce. The result is that democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy. This historical lesson must have moved another U.S. founding father, Benjamin Franklin, to define democracy in these graphic words “two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.”

Nigeria, therefore, imported Republicanism dressed up as Democracy from the U.S. at the outset of the Second Republic; that importation would have been faultless in the First Republic’s three, and later four autonomous regions. But with Nigeria’s centrally financed 19 states in the late 1970s, Republicanism didn’t stand a chance. It failed in 1983; suffered a still birth 10 years later in 1993. The Fourth Republic has endured for 18 years due largely to military “political engineering.” That abiding “command structure” of the Fourth Republic writs large in the ongoing standoff between the Legislature and the Executive over the powers of the former, respecting the confirmation of nominees for office.

One is utterly taken aback by the expressed opinions of some of our Senior Advocates on the needless standoff. How else could the Legislature function if it is bereft of the powers of over-sights over the Executive? Why is the Legislature recognised as the First Estate of the Realm? And most importantly, how is it that the Legislature is conferred with the powers to remove the Executive?

Aha, since he who has the powers to “fire” also has the powers to “hire,” methinks the Legislature should be conferred with the powers to elect the president of the federal republic, and the executive governors. The merits of this proposal speak loudly from the mountain top.

• Nkemdiche is a consulting engineer based in Abuja



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