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Western democracy hasn’t failed Nigeria, ex-minister tells Obasanjo

A former Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Nduese Essien, said that Western democracy has continually been practised in Nigeria.

This came as an aftermath of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s comment that Western democracy is not suitable for the country.

The former minister opined that what has been practiced in Nigeria since 1999 is not the presidential system of Western democracy, but a modified form of democracy by the system’s operators.

He maintained that the presidential Western-style democracy has not failed in Nigeria, adding that it has not been practised according to the rules, according to the Punch.

Essien, a one-time member of the House of Representatives, spoke on Sunday while reacting to the statement credited to former President Olusegun Obasanjo that the Western-style democracy being practised by Nigeria is not working for the country and Africa.

“Let us not blame the Western democracy, let us blame ourselves for introducing our own version of democracy with unending modifications to bring every institution under the control of the head of government to ensure the next election is won.

“So let us find some other excuses for not doing well, and not be blaming Western democracy,” he said.

The former minister said Obasanjo took his assessment on the matter out of context.

He explained, “Let me start by saying that this was an interesting assessment by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, but he took it out of context with realities on the ground. Western-style democracy has not failed in Nigeria because we have not practised it according to the rules.

“We inherited the parliamentary system from the colonial masters and that is a system of democratic government where the heads of government derive their democratic legitimacy from the ability to command the support of the Legislature.

“This worked up to the independence supervised by the colonial masters. By 1966 the military said it was marred by corruption, so they discarded it. But by 1979, we adopted the presidential system. That also worked for four years until the military struck again under the excuse of petty corruption.

“By 1999, we resumed with the presidential system which of course involves rigid adherence to the separation of powers between the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. So in 1999, the system was delivered safely.

“But the operators of the system decided to modify the separation and put all organs of government under the control of the executive calling it ‘Guided Democracy’. The executive embarked on deciding the President of the Senate, Speaker of the House and the leadership of the National Assembly.

“So we reached a stage where the Executive decided to take full control of the National Assembly, selecting the leadership of the Assembly. Thereafter they went on to choose and remove the leadership of the parties under the whims and caprices of the President.

“Then next, the Judiciary fell into the hands of the Executive. Then the Electoral process fell into the hands of the Executive. So what we have practised since 1999 is not the presidential system of Western democracy, but a modified form which I would agree with Obasanjo is the Afro Democracy.

“Let us not blame the Western democracy, let us blame ourselves for introducing our own version of democracy with unending modifications to bring every institution under the control of the head of government to ensure the next election is won. So let us find some other excuse for not doing well, and not be blaming Western democracy,” he concluded.

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