Shadow Government

by Chinedu Vincent Akuta

Damn our “leaders” if they like it, damn them if they don’t, the people have spoken. Enough of power vacuum, near constitutional crisis and over heating of the polity all due to the fact that the ruling party (PDP) does not trust the Vice President (Jonathan Goodluck) to formally act as President until President Yar’Adua recovers from his illness. There is no choice other than to respect the wishes of the Nigerian people, power belongs to the people. Cracks have clearly emerged with the Executive Council of the Federation and the National Assembly due to the pressure from the people. Shadow government will be such that should coordinate massive public pressure (people’s power) to counter bad governance.

This was an idea I recommended in my Christmas message to Nigerians. It simply means forming a government in waiting by the opposition parties. But in the Nigerian case, the shadow government should be formed by opposition parties and representatives from the following; Political Groups, Non Governmental Organization, Civil Groups, Community Groups, Faith Organizations (churches, mosques, etc), Retired Civil Servants, Opinion Leaders, Academic Staff Union of Universities, Labour Unions/Leaders, Students Union Leaders, Non Academic Staff Union of Universities, National Association of Academic Technologists, Nigerian Medical Association, Bankers, Nigerian Bar Association, Members of the Nigerian Press, Nigerian Union of Journalists, Cultural Groups and any other groups, corporate groups or individuals that might wish to join.

Shadow government/cabinet is in operation in the United Kingdom where opposition parties have shadow cabinet members in all the existing ministries, For example Secretary of Defense (Minister of Defense) by the ruling party (Labour Party) has a shadow Secretary of Defense by the opposition parties (Conservative Party, Liberal Democrats etc). The British opposition parties are alive and strong, they provide tough checks and balances on the ruling party (Labour Party).

There will be nothing wrong to domesticate this method (shadow government) and apply it to the presidential system of government that we are practicing in Nigeria. It can be our own home grown democratic system. I have heard past Nigerian leaders talk about home grown democracy. This can be one of it. However, political theories of previous centuries (presidential system, unitary system, federal system, feudal system, theocratic system etc) can be adjusted, amended or combined together to fit in the Nigeria of 21st century, so long as it enhances good governance.

The essence of shadow government in Nigeria is to create a formidable opposition to the government in power. Opposition parties/groups are an important part of every democracy. In nearby Ghana, the opposition party (National Democratic Congress of Ghana) won the ruling party. In both Zimbabwe and Kenya, power is being shared between the opposition parties and the ruling parties. During the Babangida and Abacha era, National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) formed a credible opposition to the military. They fought gallantly till the country was returned to civil rule. Presently our opposition parties/groups need a shadow government/cabinet structure hence my suggestion.

My other reason for recommending so many groups to join the shadow government is because, I agree totally with what former French President Charles de Gaulle said, “Politics is too serious a business to be left for politicians alone”. Shadow government will be able to critically examine every government policy and come up a better alternative for the Nigerian people. Where money is to be spent on projects, the shadow government should be able highlight how and who can do such projects better and at a lesser cost to the Nigerian tax payers. Shadow government will provide a training ground for future leaders. The benefits will be enormous to the Nigerian public.

My suggestion of a shadow system of government is such that, we will have shadow president, shadow vice president, shadow cabinet members, comprising of shadow minister of education, shadow minister of health, shadow external affairs minister, shadow minister of agriculture, shadow minister of finance etc. The same method (shadow government/cabinet) should be created or formed in 36 states of the federation and the 774 local government areas in Nigeria. In the case of states, there should be shadow governors, shadow deputy governors, shadow commissioners. Whereas, in the case of local government councils, there should be shadow supervisory councilors in all departments.

Since we have a bi-cameral legislature (The Senate and House of Representatives) at the federal level, it will be in order, to have one shadow senator from each senatorial zone and a shadow House of Representative member from each federal constituency of the federation. Same should apply to the states and local government areas.

Appointment or Selection Processes: Appointments or selection methods should be strictly by merit and through transparent processes. There will be no issue of putting round pegs in square holes, like what the past and present governments have been doing. I will suggest Option A4 system for selection process. I will also suggest that professional groups should be allocated to relevant shadow ministries, for example if medical personnel’s decides to join the shadow government, they should be assigned to the shadow ministry of health under a shadow minister of health.

Shadow government can commence now and terminate by May 2011 when the tenure of this present government will end. However there should be a transition plan for the shadow government that will start from May 2011. Politicians and people interested in this project can start working out the remaining modalities. Campaigning for different positions should also start. Nigerians in Diaspora can participate actively in the appointment, selection, and the shadow government itself. They can take part from wherever they might be. I will also use this medium to urge the various pro Nigerian groups in Diaspora to come together irrespective of their organizational differences. There are a lot they can achieve by coming together. Joining or co-starting a shadow government will be a good starting point.

The shadow government can start online or partially base online. President Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain relied heavily in online strategies during their campaign. During the last French presidential election, the two top contenders (Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal) generated the highest level of net activism. In Australia, their Prime Minister (Kevin Rudd) has continued to use online presence to keep electorates aware of his government’s activities.

Finally, I wish also to appeal to Nigerians to participate and join the fight against global warming. Turn off your electrical appliances/lights when not in use. Plant a tree or sponsor one to plant on your behalf. Government and companies should send less paper work and do more email, telephone, and sms. May God bless Nigeria.

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