By Julius Oweh
The eternal beauty and relevance of democracy or constitutional government is that it springs from the wishes of the people as periodically expressed in elections. And that the fundamental law that underpins such government is the constitution and members of the three arms of government swore to uphold it.
The fine grains of the principles of separation of power is that the three arms of government viz – the executive, the legislature and the judiciary have their roles carved out for them and none is really superior to others (at least in theory). However, the unfortunate wart in our democracy is that members of the executive arm of government delude themselves that they are superior to the other two arms. The reason perhaps is that the president and the governors are in charge of the nation or state purse respectively and will always pull the strings to control the activities of the legislature and the judiciary.
Informed by this unfortunate development, the president of the nation, Muhammadu Buhari issued the Executive Order 10 to protect the financial autonomy of the legislature and the judiciary. The financial autonomy bill as passed by the National Assembly is signed into law but the state governors for reasons best known to them are simply ignoring it. The bottom line of the Executive Order 10 is that the minister of finance is empowered to cease the allocation of state government that failed to remit the money to the legislature and the judiciary as first line charge.
Predictably, the state governors have opposed the Executive Order 10 saying that the president was usurping their functions. I am really at my wits end to understand the logic of these dictators masquerading as elected state governors. If obeying the law as passed by the National Assembly is usurping the functions of the state governors, the governors are at liberty to approach the court for the interpretation of the president’s Executive Order 10 and the law that grants financial autonomy to the state assemblies and the judicial arms of government. The governors should be reminded that at the federal level, it is being implemented.
The action of the president has polarized the nation with some people saying that the president should have waited for the governors to implement the law. But for how long should the president wait for governors who arrayed themselves as local emperors. The state governors have stubbornly refused to comply with the constitutional provisions and court judgments which compelled them to respect the financial autonomy of the legislature and the judiciary.
Senator Ike Ekweremadu in a bid to lambast the president for his action was unwittingly defending the president for insisting on the rule of law. The senator went on memory lane and detailed the journey of the bill in the 8th National Assembly. Listen to the argument of Ekweremadu: `There has been a lot of misconception regarding that Executive Order. In the first place, it was quite unnecessary. We the members of the 8th Assembly, passed amendment to the constitution to grant financial autonomy to the state legislature and judiciary because we believed that for the sake of their independence, they should be on the First Line Charge of the States` Consolidated Revenue Account. When we passed them, the president dutifully signed them into law (over a year ago). That should have been the end of it because the amendments are self-executing`.
I am really confused at the logic of the distinguished senator. For more than a year, the governors are feet-dragging and disobeying the tenets of the constitution. There should be punishment for that instead of the senator blaming the president for the political transgressions of the governors.
Our governors are tin gods and that is why they hold tight to the allocations of local councils and treat them as departments of state government. It the same attitude that made state electoral commissions to award the seats of council chairmen and councilors to the party in power.
There is no exception; both the PDP and APC are guilty of this. Yet some of the governors will blame INEC for not conducting free and fair election. This streak of dictatorship manifests in the control of the state Houses of Assembly as the legislature is more of rubber stamp of the executive arm. As you read this article, only ten legislators are in control in the Edo State House of Assembly of twenty five members yet Governor Godwin Obaseki is talking of democracy and wants a second term. Most speakers of states’ Houses of Assembly cannot look at their governors eye-ball-to-eyeball. This is what the likes of Ekweremadu want to continue.
Governors are so enamored in strangulating the judiciary because of the financial control. If the governors are so incensed on the Executive Order 10, they have two options, either to leave the seat or go to court to seek clarification. It is even a fact that various courts pronouncements are in favour of the financial autonomy of the judiciary and the legislature. It is this undemocratic disposition of state governors that made some of us to kick against the formation of state police.
Our governors are yet to drop the toga of dictatorship and the president’s Executive Order 10 is the right thing to do.
Mr. Oweh, a journalist, writes from Asaba, Delta State. (08037768392)