How I Wish…

by Dr. Wunmi Akintide

Another point that amazes me in the American system is the general presumption on paper that the American President is the most powerful man in the World. But if you do what I call a reality check, it is probably one of the least powerful jobs in their system because the American System is not predicated on a one man show as can be clearly seen from their three tier system of Government made up of the Presidency/Executive, the Legislature made up of the Congress i.e. the Senate and the House of Representatives and the Judiciary. It is a system of checks and balances that are hard to find anywhere in the world, and the beauty of it is that they dowork together despite the principle of separation of powers which are delicatelybuilt into it.

The American capitalist system of remuneration operates on the presumption of equal pay for equal work, but not so with the American Presidency.Lee Iacocca, the former CEO of Chrysler was, at one time paid 21 million dollars a year in salary at a time the President of the United States was paid only 200,000.00 per annum. There are far too many jobs in the public and private sector of America that are paid ten or twenty times higher than 400,000.00 per year, which is what the current President currently makes.

In Nigeria today the salary of the President, its Vice President and its other Cabinet Ministers are treated in total secrecy. Only God knows what the Nigerian Senate President or the Speaker of the Federal House makes, talk less of their other hidden allowances. It was once rumored that late Chuba Okadigbo as Senate President once had as many as 62 official cars attached to his office. Only God knows how many official cars the current Senate President has in its arsenal, as we speak

As powerful as the American President is reputed to be, his supremacy and powers are often limited by the powers of the aides and experts working for him. Every President is known to have in his Administration, one or two aides and subordinates that are sometimes more powerful than the President himself because of their professional expertise, clout, and competence. President Nixon had his own in Henry Kissinger who was otherwise known as “Mr. FixIt”. President Bush the First had his own in James Baker. The current President had it in Dick Cheney, Carl Rove and now in his newly appointed Press Secretary, Tony Snow who is now expected to bail thePresident out of the hole he is currently in, and to turn his low opinionpolls around.

As I watch President Bush Junior stand toe to toe with Mr. Snow on television while introducing him as his new Press Secretary, I could not help but wonder who is the boss between them. Bush is supposed to be the most powerful man in the world and Snow is supposed to be a nobody, but in that footage on TV, Mr. Snow clearly looked like the boss to me. That is part of the beauty of the American system.

I recall Professor Omo Omoruyi playing much the same role, as the brain box, for President Ibrahim Babangida at one point in his presidency, but you hardly ever hear Babangida talk of Professor Omoruyi in that context, because the Nigerian system revolves round one man who is the only one to be seen and heard all the time. Just imagine the enviable work the trio of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Soludo and El Rufai and the young man at EFCC are currently doingfor Obasanjo today. They are the real powers behind the throne, but they are hardly ever acknowledged as such, as President Obasanjo takes all the credit for his one man slugfest.

In America no President, however benevolent or effective would ever argue that the Constitution needs to be amended or that he should be allowed time to consolidate the job he has started when he is aware that the people helping him to do the job would still be available to the nation to help whoever may take over the job after him. America does not care too much about party labels in asking Americans to help build their Nation. Building a nation is essentially a team work and does not rest on the activities of just one Goliath,as Obasanjo would have us believe.

President Bill Clinton had no problems at all asking Bill Cohen, a staunch Republican to serve as his Defense Secretary, and Bill Cohen had no problems accepting to serve in that capacity, and doing a marvelous job for a President from another Party. America believes in identifying individuals for public office, training and grooming them until they are ready to serve. That is the way to build a Nation. The current Chief Justice Robert of the American Supreme Court was once a Law clerk for William Reinquist, the man he finally succeeded at the Supreme Court. Most of the aides you often see on television sitting quietly behind their Congress men or Senators in both Houses, more often than not, always end up taking over the seats vacated by their bosses many years later, because they have been groomed and trained for succession from the grass root. It is a beautiful system. There are provisions for such in our system, but our own Congressmen and Senators, with one or two exception, would take the funds allocated for such services and divert it into their own private pockets.They go to the House or the Senate to sleep or to go share their loot in Ghana-must-go bags sent to them trough the Presidency as they are lured to vote,one way or the other, on any pending bills at the floor of the twoHouses.

The long awaited Bill on the Third Term agenda, which should be heading for a major defeat at both Houses, as we speak, is still being kept alive today, by a President who claims to be a great crusader in fighting Corruption in our society. How does he do it? By dangling before each Congressman and Senator how much bribe and kickback he is prepared and willing to offer them, if they would allow him a third term. If he is asking for a third term and he gets it now through bribery and corruption, what would stop him from seeking a fourth term when his third term is over?

By the same token, what could stop any future Nigerian President, from another zone, from doing what Obasanjo is doing today, once they get into power.Obasanjo is therefore setting a terrible precedent that cannot augur well for a country built on pluralism and multiplicity of interests. How I wish that Nigeria could learn afew fundamental lessons from America? Help me somebody.

I rest my case.

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