Those calling on Buhari to resign are looking at the enormity of the office, where a single individual combines the roles of head of state, head of government, and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
In the presidential form of government adopted from the United States, the president of the republic combines three roles: that of a head of state, commander in chief of the armed forces, and that of head of government. As head of government, he or she is in charge of the executive branch of government. The other two branches, the judiciary and the legislature have their heads, and each branch is supposedly independent, though working in collaboration. In some democracies, for instance, what we had at Independence from the United Kingdom, the prime minister is head of two arms of government: the executive and the legislature. Although there is a speaker, he or she is mainly a presiding officer and though ranks higher than all non-royal persons, is lower in rank than the prime minister. The speaker is usually elected by members of the house and serves at the pleasure of Her Majesty the Queen.The prime minister as a member of the legislature and higher in ranking than the speaker heads that branch of government as well.
In parliamentary democracies where there is no monarch, the president of the Republic serves as head of state. During Nigeria’s first republic, this was more a ceremonial role, with the president attending to visiting heads of state, commissioning projects and signing bills into acts of parliament. The French system is a semi-presidential system, where the president comes into power through a general election and the prime minister, more often an elected member of parliament with a majority, is appointed by the president. Sometimes the president is from a different party than the prime minister. The president in the French system is in charge of foreign policy and the armed forces and is constitutionally seen as the head of state, while the prime minister is head of parliament which forms the government and heads the council of ministers who implement the policy thrust as approved by the president.
Those calling on Buhari to resign are looking at the enormity of the office, where a single individual combines the roles of head of state, head of government, and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Indeed, in Nigeria, with her unitary federalism, the office of the president is a powerful one. The years of military rule with its culture of autocracy and fiat have embedded in the office of the president a high potency that elevates the occupant to an elected monarch who is then free to dispense of the collective will of the people. At state level, the governors exemplify the same above-collective-will disposition to the highest ludicrous levels. While there could be some measure of accountability at the federal level because of international observers and civil society organisations, state governors are elected emperors.
The deputy governor or the vice president is usually seen in Nigeria in his true status as a spare tyre, fit only for when there is a punctured one. So much premium is placed on the person of the president that not much consideration is given to his deputy. And our cultural ethos that promote the one at the head as an absolute potentate, even when there are norms that regulate checks and balances, make the president or governor treat his deputy or vice worse than a cabinet minister. It is not far from the truth to assume that in matters of appointments into political positions and many important issues of state, sometimes the vice or deputy may be left in the dark. Those who are second in command often have to fight for relevance, especially where the legal provisions do not mandate specific roles, leaving their engagements simply at the pleasure of their principals.
If Buhari resigns today, he would not die an unhappy man. He had a strong desire to return as Nigeria’s president, and he achieved that. He had a desire too to stamp out corruption in Nigeria, and he already has set things in motion. Whether we call what the EFCC and ICPC are doing mere media trials, the fact is that such efforts would help reduce the impunity of public officials; and with the whistle blowing policy embedded in the money laundering act and now popularised by Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun, there is possibility of a critical mass of anti-corruption vanguards, since there is something personal to be gained. Executive corruption of the legislature and the judiciary has also minimised and law makers can truly act in an autonomous manner, their hands less chained by swaths of Ghana Must Go contents. Most of all, people of the North East can sleep with both eyes closed, in many areas. Of course Boko Haram has the power to strike both hard and soft targets and as President Jonathan said, terrorism takes time to be defeated; however, a lot of difference has been made since the advent of this regime. So if Buhari decides to resign, he could add another cap of being another Nigerian example to the world, of a sitting president leaving office due to ill health.
However, I am of the opinion that it is not necessary for Buhari to resign. The constitution has conferred on Vice President Yemi Osinbajo the role of Acting President. It means until Buhari transmits another letter to the National assembly that he is back and fit to undertake his duties as president, Osinbajo remains president in his stead. Even when Buhari returns from his medical vacation and transmits a letter to the National Assembly, I suggest that within the duo, amongst themselves, there should be an understanding in which Buhari would remain head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces, and allow Osinbajo complete freedom to be the head of government. This would mean that the responsibility of formulating and implementing policy would rest squarely on Osinbajo. Buhari is still needed to give the necessary security and moral backing by maintaining the needed goodwill from the restive segments of his mass supporters. Allowing Osinbajo the free hand to take care of governance and ensuring that policies are coherent and translate to people’s wellbeing would help Buhari himself, who has lost a lot of grips on his usually fanatical support-base due to harsh economic realities. Not resigning, above all, would keep in check the ravenous apostles of power zoning.
Bassey is a Catholic priest.