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Western democracy not to blame for Nigeria's leadership woes, Ex-Minister tells Obasanjo

The former Minister said Nigeria seems to be failing because leaders have failed to follow the tenets of democracy in the country.

Former Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Chief Nduese Essien  [Daily Trust]

Contrary to Obasanjo's opinion, the erstwhile Minister said Western democracy is not responsible for the leadership woes in Nigeria.

Speaking at a high-level consultation on 'Rethinking Western Liberal Democracy in Africa' last week, Obasanjo criticised the adoption of Western democracy by African countries, suggesting that the system of government has failed to engender good governance and development on the continent.

He, therefore, called for a reexamination and moderation of democracy to better suit African nations, noting that Western disregard for African history and complexities will render democracy impracticable.

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The former President also called on Nigerians to “interrogate the performance of democracy in the West where it originated from and with us the inheritors of what we are left with by our colonial powers.”

But speaking in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital on Sunday, November 26, 2023, Essien insisted that Nigeria seems to be failing because leaders have failed to follow the tenets of democracy in the country.

“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," the former Minister noted.

He added, “We inherited the parliamentary system from the Colonial masters and that is a system of democratic government where the head of government drives 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.

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“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 practiced 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 stated.

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