EVERY government has the tendency to act with impunity and to behave in manners inimical to democratic principles. The major drawback and check they can have is the parliament, especially the opposition in parliament.
AN effective and responsible opposition could actually ensure the sustenance of democracy and good governance in Africa.
This was the view of the Deputy President of the Senate (DSP), Ike Ekweremadu, who also made case for a constitutional system that would draw from attributes of the presidential and parliamentary systems of government.
Speaking on Wednesday, when on behalf of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, he received a delegation of the opposition in Parliament of Uganda, the DSP said: He said: “Every government has the tendency to act with impunity and to behave in manners inimical to democratic principles. The major drawback and check they can have is the parliament, especially the opposition in parliament.”
The delegation had paid a courtesy visit to the Senate after a week-long capacity building programme with the National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS) in Abuja.
In a statement by his senior media adviser, Uche Anichukwu, the DSP stated: “If we have a situation where government is entirely in the hands of one party, we will continue to have problems because the degree of impunity you find in a government is dependent on the quantum of control they have in the parliament.
“To ensure that the degree of impunity is minimized, therefore, there must be the presence of effective and efficient opposition.”
Advising against a reckless opposition, which is capable of slowing down the delivery of democracy dividends to the people by the government, the DSP extolled the quality of opposition provided by the opposition in the Nigerian national parliament.
He attributed this to the benefit of experience as a former ruling party.
According to him: “When you are outside government, you see things differently. But when you are given the mandate to lead, you will see that it is not as easy as you assumed.
“In Nigeria, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), try to show some understanding without compromising our role because we have been in government and know the challenges importantly.
“We also understand that at the end of the day, what the people care about is good governance and a better standard of living, irrespective of party affiliation.
“Whether you are in the ruling party or opposition or you are in the Executive, Judiciary or Legislature, you have your primary responsibility to the people. In that manner, you don’t just oppose government for the sake of opposing government.
“You have to draw a line between criticizing government where you have to criticize government and also supporting it where you have to support it. You have to oppose government constructively in such a way as to bring about more benefits to the ordinary people.”
On the issue of a system of government, Ekweremadu explained that, “having practiced both parliamentary and presidential systems of government, Nigeria might consider adopting a hybrid of both systems to address the challenges of high cost of governance and friction between the Executive and the Legislature.
“We have to look at the parliamentary and presidential experiences and see how we can benefit from both in the form of what they have in France, in order to find something that will ensure better governance.”
He told the delegation that the NILS was established to serve as a flagship of parliamentary capacity building and Nigeria’s contribution to the rest of Africa. He explained that “unless the capacity of the parliamentarians in Africa was built, the continent would continue to experience problems with democracy and good governance.
“All of us in Africa are still within the confines of emerging democracies. Therefore, coming together as Africans, we are able to build sufficient capacity to provide quality leadership that guarantees peace, prosperity, and security of lives and property of our people, which are the primary purpose of government.”
The leader of the delegation, Hon. Alum Sandra Ogwang, acknowledged that the visiting “lawmakers had learnt a lot about effective opposition in parliament from Nigeria.
“We have learnt so much, building our capacity from an African perspective, especially how we can strengthen the opposition in parliament and to be an alternative government in Uganda.”