Home » Opinion » Buhari, Lopsided Appointments And Consociational Democracy

Buhari, Lopsided Appointments And Consociational Democracy

He must do away with politics of exclusion and frustrating federalism which have the potentials to plunge the country deeper into ethno-religious crisis

Chris  Uba

My academic experience in the university forms the departure point for this piece. The reason for this derives from the fact that it was during this period that the foundations were laid for my understanding of the meaning of ‘inclusive’ and ‘exclusive’ governance as well as frustrating federalism as we are about to witness or  currently witnessing in the country.

Inclusive government especially in highly centrifugal societies is basically ensuring that people from across the political divide in a society have a say in the governance as opposed to exclusive government in which some people are crowded out on ground of ethnicity or religions among others because political power and government positions are the exclusive preserve of people from a particular section of the country as we are currently witnessing or about to witness in the country.

During my undergraduate years in the university, we were introduced to a topic called Consociational Democracy. The topic was treated under the course: Parties and Pressure Group, otherwise called Pol 303. It was part of the training that we were expected to undertae in our third year. Because the lecturer mentioned it in passing, we did not tae him very serious and the topic featured prominently in our first semester examination question and many of us, including myself, did not choose the question. But I got the concept buried into memory with a code name: ‘inclusive and exclusive government’, put in another way, I entered it into my lexicon.

About a decade after, this same topic came up again, this time around, in a graduate school in far away Europe. It was during a class taught by one Dr. Donald L. Horowitz, a Professor of Law and Political Science at ue niversity, orth Carolina, nited States, who was a visiting scholar to the Central European University, in Budapest.

Horowit is a specialist in the study of ethnic conflict and author of the boos nrusnn and has acted as a consultant on the problems of divided societies and on policies to reduce ethnic conflict in locations including Russia, Romania, Nigeria, Tatarstan and Northern Ireland.

In one of his lectures, he mentioned Nigeria as one of the ethnically and linguistically variegated countries in the world that needed to apply the theory of Consociational Democracy in order to maintain stability. He added that the 1978 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria factored in Consociational arrangement, was one the reasons the country had been relatively stable.

This exposition from the American professor further expanded my horion on Consociational democracy and its utilities which has wored perfectly in countries lie the etherlands, Belgium, India and Switerland.

I do not now whether there is a similar arrangement in our 1999 Constitution (such as national spread on the appointments of senior government officials, but what I do now is that Consociational arrangement has been part of our national existence since our independence in 1960. It does not necessarily have to be enshrined in the constitution or in a written document as its objective is to ensure equity and fairness as well as stability in the country. It is all about inclusive government, maing sure that no one group, both in diverse and non-diverse societies, is excluded from government of the land.

It is against this bacdrop that I begin to uestion the lopsidedness of the appointments that President Muhammadu Buhari has so far made since his inauguration in May 29.Besides, our president’s utterances appear to be sewed in favour of one part of the country and I consider this a deviation from what obtains in the country. The president should be thining of national spread and inclusive government in his appointments and actions. Nigeria does not belong to any section of the country but to all of us and that is why Nigerians are.

Nigeria is a conglomeration of people with diverse ethnic and religious origins. These fissiparous tendencies led the founding fathers to opt for federal arrangements which allow people to remain in one union while maintaining their differences. They believed that unity could be achieved only by acknowledging the reality of the diverse ethnic mosaic of the society. Of importance, two forces are usually employed in bringing entities together. They are the centripetal and centrifugal forces. Federalists, therefore, favoured devising institutions which allowed the various identities of her components parts to be expressed. This is called unity in diversity. Nigeria has consistently maintained this both under a democratic set-up and under the military.

President Buhari should remember that his contemporaries are beneficiaries of the inclusive government run by the previous administrations in the country. In the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, Nigeria was just evolving as a nation-state. The units that made up the young federation were not equally balanced educationally. Some had disadvantage, hence there was the need for some affirmative action in order to accommodate all sections of the country in governance—-call it an inclusive government. The quota system or national character which still exists in the country bears me out on this.

By Consociational democracy is meant a “form of democracy which sees to regulate the sharing of power in a state that comprises diverse societies distinct ethnic, religious, political, national or linguistic groups, by allocating these groups collective rights. The executive-power sharing is mainly characterised by proportional representation, veto rights and segmental autonomy for minority groups.”

Consociational democracy can be found in countries that are deeply divided into distinct religious, ethnic, racial, or regional segments—conditions usually considered unfavourable for stable democracy. The two central characteristics of consociationalism are government by grand coalition and segmental autonomy.

Consociational democracy taes into consideration the rights of the ethnic minorities of the region to participatory decision maing and governance. For Nigeria to experience sustainable peace in the economy jewel of the nation, genuine and determined effort should be made to initiate and institute robust democratic decision maing processes and structures in the region as well as the Nigerian nation.

According to authorities on this subject matter, Consociational democracy stands in contrast to the concept of ‘majoritarian democracy’, which calls for the integration of minority groups and the distribution of individual rights solely as opposed to the Consociationalist approach which consists in accommodating minorities by granting them collective rights.

At the risk of being too academic on this subject- matter, I want to enunciate four basic characteristics of Consociational democracy which have worked perfectly in different parts of the world. They are as follows:

1. Executive Power-Sharing – This implies forming a ‘grand coalition’ with leaders representing all signifi- cant segments of society. The institutional expression of the ‘grand coalition’ is a multi-party cabinet.

II. Mutual Veto – This means giving groups within a state the right to veto the government’s decision- making. It will thus be necessary to reach mutual agreement among all parties in the executive.

III. Proportional Representation – This consists in enabling groups to be a part of the state’s decision- making and to have their voice heard in the highest instances of policy-making.

IV. Segmental Autonomy – This involves giving minority groups the possibility for self-rule within the boundaries of the state.

Rather than have a particular structure, Consociationalism could take different forms in different places, and the division of power between the central government and the autonomous political units varies.

Painstaking studies by scholars have identified ethnicity and ethnona- tionalism as potential obstacles to democracy in multiethnic states. Nigeria as a pluralistic polity shares in this category of countries where fierce competition for power among its various ethnic groups has made governing a difficult task. Studies also show that a Consociational arrangement remains among other options, one of the most feasible ways to peace and po- litical stability in the most populous and most culturally diversified black nation in the world. India, which happens to be one of the largest and most heterogeneous democracies, is a classic example. One can see a clearly majoritarian system of governance with power concentrated in one main part, however, despite initial appearances, this country does exhibit all four defining characteristics of power sharing found in the other examples of Consociational systems.

As been pointed out by Arend Lijphart and Steven I. Wilkinson, two of popular authorities on this concept ,while there are certainly no for- mal constitutional arrangements for a clear Consociational government in practice, the distribution of ministerships in a proportional fashion ac- corded linguistic and religious minorities a veto over important religious and social legislation created a clear Consociational arrangement.

Thus, if President Mohammadu Buhari wants his name to be engraved in sand of history, as he has promised, he must re-appraise his leadership style. He must do away with politics of exclusion and frustrating federalism which have the potentials to plunge the country deeper into ethno-religious crisis. This he must do by carrying all ethnic groups in the country along. As long as power is concerned, there is no group in the country that is less important, hence all must be treated equally. Let him not think that those urging him on now has his and the interest of the country at heart.

He is barely 100 days in office and by the grace of God he will serve out his term just like former President Olusegun Obasenjo, who is now being pilloried after spending eight years in office. A government that is new today will be old tomorrow. This country belongs to all us and we must be part of it.

– Chris Uba

•Chris Uba is the News Editor of The Union.

%d bloggers like this: