The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has stressed the need for effective and responsible opposition to ensure the sustenance of democracy and good governance in Africa.
He also made case for a hybrid constitutional system that would draw from the benefits of the presidential and parliamentary systems of government.
Ekweremadu spoke on Wednesday when he received, on behalf of the President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki, a delegation of the opposition in Parliament of Uganda, which paid a courtesy visit to the Senate after their week-long capacity building programme with the National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS) in Abuja.
He said: “Every government has the tendency to act with impunity and to behave in manners inimical to democratic principles. The major drawback and check they can have is the parliament, especially the opposition in parliament.
“If we have a situation where government is entirely in the hands of one party, we will continue to have problems because the degree of impunity you find in a government is dependent on the quantum of control they have in the parliament.
“To ensure that the degree of impunity is minimized, therefore, there must be the presence of effective and efficient opposition”.
He however, advised against reckless opposition capable of slowing down the government and the delivery of democracy dividends to the people.
The Senator extolled the quality of opposition provided by the opposition in the Nigerian national parliament, attributing it to the benefit of experience as a former ruling party.
“When you are outside government, you see things differently. But when you are given the mandate to lead, you will see that it is not as easy as you assumed.
“In Nigeria, the Peoples Democratic Party, try to show some understanding without compromising our role because we have been in government and know the challenges importantly. We also understand that at the end of the day, what the people care about is good governance and a better standard of living, irrespective of party affiliation.
“Whether you are in the ruling party or opposition or you are in the executive, judiciary or legislature, you have your primary responsibility to the people. In that manner, you don’t just oppose government for the sake of opposing government.
“You have to draw a line between criticizing government where you have to criticize government and also supporting it where you have to support it. You have to oppose government constructively in such a way as to bring about more benefits to the ordinary people”, he stressed.
He said, having practiced both parliamentary and presidential systems of government, Nigeria might consider adopting a hybrid of both systems to address the challenges of high cost of governance and friction between the executive and the executive.
“We have to look at the parliamentary and presidential experiences and see how we can benefit from both in the form of what they have in France in order to find something that will ensure better governance”, Ekweremadu added.
He explained that the National institute for Legislative Studies was established to serve as a flagship of parliamentary capacity building and Nigeria’s contribution to the rest of Africa because unless the capacity of the parliamentarians in Africa was built, the continent would continue to experience problems with democracy and good governance.
“All of us in Africa are still within the confines of emerging democracies. Therefore, coming together as Africans, we are able to build sufficient capacity to provide quality leadership that guarantees peace, prosperity, and security of lives and property of our people, which are the primary purpose of government”, he concluded.
Speaking earlier, the leader of the delegation, Hon. Alum Sandra Ogwang, expressed gratitude to the National Assembly for the capacity building facility, noting that the lawmakers had learnt a lot about effective opposition in parliament from Nigeria.“We have learnt so much, building our capacity from an African perspective, especially how we can strengthen the opposition in parliament and to be an alternative government in Uganda”, she said.