My BusinessDay column of December 22.
Nigeria is not known as a country that has contributed a lot to the development of democracy, what with very many years of dictatorship and all. But the Athens-born mode of governance might just be getting a big make-over from the state of affairs in Nigeria.
If the way Nigeria has been run in the past few weeks is anything to go by, it seems that there is really no need for a country to have a president. Don’t get me wrong, I think the presidency is an institution that is extremely important. It provides a lot of jobs for a lot of people. Maybe at a later stage of our evolution, Nigeria can make another big leap for democratic governance, totally eradicating the presidency.
For now, the office of the executive stays, only the post of the president would have to go. Really, we have not had a president in the country for close to a month now and the country has been running perfectly well. It has been mediocrity as usual. Except that every so often, members of the legislature turn up to give different reasons for the vice president not to deputise in the absence of the president. In the new scheme of things, that post too will have to go.
What to do with the post of the president? Well, we will need a symbol that everybody can rally around and identify as our symbol of the presidency. I nominate football.
The ‘beautiful game’ has been suggested on several occasions as the most unifying factor in Nigeria. Forming a national football team is one instance in which people do not insist on ‘national character’, that very interesting principle that very often sacrifices merit for the imperative of including someone from every state in the country in government agencies.
Add to that the idea that the ball is always surrounded by so many people at the same time. The ball, for these reasons and many more (which we cannot go into because of space limitations), qualifies as the NSP – National Symbol of the Presidency, the acronym that is to replace the title President.
I do not wish to deviate too much from the familiar, so I will advise that the colour of the ball be what we know well. We already have green and white as our national colours, so we can have the ball coloured green and white. No, not green white green, but green and white. In cuboids, like the colours of a regular ball. Somewhere in the center of the whites of the cuboids the acronym NSP will be written.
It is well known that the National Assembly can meet wherever the mace is. In the same line the Federal Cabinet can meet wherever the ball – the NSP – is present. The NSP will be placed on a special seat at the head of the table, where the president would normally sit. The special seat will be high so that the ball can comfortably preside over the meeting of the cabinet from an elevated position. We are all familiar with the idea that a person whose head cannot be seen above the table might not command as much respect as his authority might require. Same with the NSP. The ball has to sit comfortably well above the top of the table.
I know that my detractors might be wondering how a symbol would attend international meetings and speak on behalf of a country. Well, we can have the Secretary to the Federal Government (SFG) do the speaking – under the condition that the NSP is right in the position it deserves as the National Symbol of the Presidency whenever the SFG is speaking. If this plan sails through – and I think it will – other countries will start choosing their own National Symbol of the Presidency. The United States might go for the baseball, which would make Nigeria a lot bigger than them. And good old Cuba could go for the baseball stick, which would mean that for once, they can really bash the USA.
That, I think, is one thing that (1) the absence of a president in Nigeria, (2) the lack of any confusion despite that fact, and (3) the efficient running of the country despite all that, can teach the world about democracy. We have shown them that you simply do not need a president