RETHINKING THE NOMENCLATURE OF OUR NATIONAL DISCOURSE (1).
“…INEC has announced that I, Muhammadu Buhari, shall be your next president. My team and I shall faithfully serve you. There shall no longer be a RULING PARTY again: APC will be your GOVERNING PARTY…”
– Excerpt from President Buhari’s Acceptance Speech after receiving the INEC Certificate of Return.
It is a fact that the name you call a thing repeatedly and unrelentingly has a way of shaping its reality and performance. Call a brilliant chap a dullard repeatedly- in the absence of a positively opposing affirmation- and you are sure to see this reflected in his academic performance.
The purpose of this series, therefore, is to call attention to the possibility of rethinking the names by which we call certain offices and institutions in our polity, in the hope that such change of name would gradually effect a change of orientation in the disposition and actual performance of such offices and institutions to the end of making our nation better, all-round.
NOW, LET US RETHINK…
- ‘THE PRESIDENT AND COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF’ vs. ‘THE PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER’
In every presidential republic, the office of the President is a very important one. It is usually created by the Constitution and empowered appropriately so that the occupant is able to discharge the functions of the office effectively for the peace and prosperity of the nation.
There is no doubt that the President in Nigeria is head of the Executive arm of government and, ipso facto, controls all security outfits. To emphasize this fact, he goes by the mostly used official title of ‘President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces’. This is in spite of the fact that Section 130(2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) also gives him the title of ‘Chief Executive of the Federation’.
However, I strongly think that in a democratic republic -the President being the product of the people’s sovereign will expressed at the ballot- the addition of ‘Commander-in-Chief’ is unnecessary.
I think it is indicative of a hangover of the years of military incursion in politics, when the ‘Head of State’ or ‘President’ (as in the case of General Babangida) had to reiterate the fact that he was not only in charge of ‘civilian’ affairs by administering the polity, but still remained a professional soldier who would naturally command the unfettered loyalty of his forces. And this hangover is still evident in the continued use of uniformed military men as aides-De-camp to the President.
In a presidential republican setting, the President’s constitutional leadership of the armed forces for the security of the country, and its defence against external aggression, goes without saying. Therefore, the titular addition of ‘Commander-in-Chief’ can be done away with, without reducing the powers and aura of the office in any way. The President of the United States of America (POTUS) is a vivid example of this . He does not need such militaristic addition to his title to be able to exercise leadership of the armed forces of that immensely powerful country.
Why can’t the Nigerian President simply answer the title of ‘President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’? Must there be an addition? And if there must be, as the Constitution as provided, why don’t we consider that of ‘Chief Executive Officer’ or even adopt the constitutionally provided ‘Chief Executive of the Federation’ instead of ‘Commander-in-Chief’?
The title of ‘Chief Executive Officer’, as put forward here, is apt for many reasons:
- It reiterates the fact- and thus reminds the occupant- of the virtue of service being the essence of the office of President.
A sense of diligent sobriety and accountability is more likely to be awakened and sustained in the individual when he is constantly reminded of being an ‘Executive Officer’ of the Federal Republic of Nigeria than when he is always reminded that he is ‘Commander-in-Chief’.
2. This would help to consolidate the ethics of civil governance and democracy in a country that is yet to wipe the ultra-conservative years of militocracy from its collective memory. Elements of those years when men of the armed forces felt they owned the President- and the government – more than any other constituency of the country are still with us. They partly explain why civil-military relations in the country are, at best, still developing and men of the armed forces are still seen to brazenly assault the civil rights of citizens.
3. The President as ‘Chief Executive Officer’ would better personify the democratic essence of his powers and office; and would constantly, but subtly, reiterate the democratic ideal of military deference to civil authority. His aide-De-camp, though drawn from the military, could also be made to go in civilian wears such as suits.
4. The President as ‘Chief Executive Officer’ is also constantly reminded of the fact that he is head of a national enterprise whose performances in the local and global markets are measurable and judged by the prevailing economic condition of the country and its people.
This concept of the country as a national enterprise would be further discussed in the next point; and would further shed light on my preference for the titular addition of ‘Chief Executive Officer’ to the title of President as against ‘Chief Executive of the Federation’ as slated by the Constitution.
But since the title of ‘Commander-in-Chief’ is constitutionally provided for, what happens to it?
It is my humble opinion that it should be made recessive in our formal reference to the President – just as ‘Chief Executive of the Federation’ has been; and it should be put to prominent use only in times of national security challenges, such as the anti-terror campaign currently going on in the North-East and times of war, which we pray (and should collectively work) to never experience again.
In times of peace, when all hands must be on deck working for the prosperity of the nation, it is my suggestion that we rethink how we refer to the President.
It is my opinion that we refer to him as the ‘President and Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’ rather than ‘President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’.
God bless Nigeria!
* This is the first of a series of articles to be published under the ‘Rethinking Series’ and to be shared on social media with the hash tag, #rethink.
** The use of the masculine preposition in reference to the President in this article is used in the generic sense. It is without prejudice to the capacity of the female gender to become President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Indeed, it is reality-in-waiting.