Transcript CNN International Interview Sept 17, 2002 with Nigeria's President Obasanjo and USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu on Democracy and Security Issues

Nigeria: Impeaching the President

By Fubara David-West

Special to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston
USAfricaonline.com and NigeriaCentral.com

The famed U.S attorney Johnny Cochran's memorable repartee at O. J. Simpson's murder trial is apposite here: " a rush to judgment." I was guilty of this with regard to the political drama of Presidential impeachment now unfolding in Nigeria. I held the view that Nigerian law makers should realize that they have a duty to defend the fledging democracy from political posturing, which might give would-be military tyrants the excuse to plot a military coup d'etat.

The problem with that view, I now realize is that I was disregarding the crucial role of institutional and constitutional practice in strengthening self-rule and in promoting the polyarchic processes that make the long-term survival and development of a liberal democratic polity possible. The current impeachment proceedings should therefore be pursued to their logical conclusion. Let the president be found guilty or not guilty. The discursive validation of the resultant might become a standard for constitutional development and for that distinctive dictum of democratic self-rule, that everyone is equal before the law. (Nigeria's President retired Gen. Obasanjo is seen in picture with his predecesor retired Gen. Abubakar, middle is retired Admiral Mike Akhigbe, on handing over day May 1999)

Democracy is not just manifested in counting votes on Election Day. In fact that is only a small part of the instruments of democratic governance. The more important aspects of democracy are the multifarious practices, legal, constitutional and political, that produce precedence and historical learning: the cultural bases of epigenetic developments that sustain its polyarchic core through generations. Indeed without this democratic self-government is doomed to failure.

Thus the threat that an elected President might be thrown out of office by the workings of the constitutional framework of a country is not a bigger menace to democracy, than the repudiation of relevant constitutional rules in the workings of a political system. I have come to my current stance after reading the 36 constitutional charges against President Obasanjo that were released by the Nigerian senate on October 10, 2002. The charges demonstrate quite lucidly the possibility that the current proceedings might produce a lot of concrete institutional, paradigmatic, legal and political knowledge that could put the young republic in good stead to face future challenges to the survival of liberal democracy in the country. It is particularly instructive that the legislators are concentrating on breaches of presidential authority with regard to budgetary matters and in the management of fiscal policy in accordance with the relevant constitutional provisions. (Also, see USAfrica INSIGHT: Is Obasanjo endangering Nigeria's democracy? By Ken Okorie)

Many past leaders of the country have abused their authority to manage the budget. In the process these corrupt people have looted the public treasury with impunity, siphoning billions of dollars into private accounts in Europe and leaving the country dejectedly poor in the areas most critical for economic development, such as social services, capital intensive infrastructure development, in medical and technological research, and in individual wealth creation capable of multiplier effects through the entire economy.

Indeed, rather than shutting off the political spigot, the current proceedings should be transparently open to the general public and to the entire world. They should be put on live television, on the Internet and on the radio. Experts and opinion leaders should be featured in these mass media analyzing and critiquing the proceedings, and thus producing a lively record of the discursive validation of democratic self-government at work in the country. These forums might also put the experience in a global context, by for instance, comparing the proceedings to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in the United States.

The entire population might become so enthralled by the process that the people might even demand that the government does whatever it takes to encourage every home to get a telephone, a television and a radio set, every business, every institution of learning and every government department a connection to the Internet. The populace might demand that government and enterprising business people invest in the development and deployment of satellite technology to hasten the country's march into the post-industrial information age.

They might put their political leaders to task to finance the upgrading of the electricity delivery system, so that there is no sudden blackout when people are engaged in these types of communal experiences that renew and reinvigorate popular democracy. Deficit spending to do all of these will produce long-term economic growth and individual wealth across the country.

If this experience with checking executive power to ensure that it sticks to the letter of the law merely puts all future leaders on notice that the legislature will watch over their actions with a prosecutor's eye, it will be well worth the current travail. May be because of this exacting experience, the country will move closer to avoiding its intermittent slide into what the Islamic philosopher, Alfarabi called the Immoral City.
David-West is Dallas-based contributing editor of USAfrica The Newspaper and USAfricaonline.com. He writes the USAfrica VIEWPOINT column online on Thursday. See Nigeria's Sharia law and individual rights, and U.S., Iraq, the economy and politics. (October 12, 2002)



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Index of Founder's Notes (1)

Index of Founder's Notes (2)

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