...Redifining Journalism for Development

Towards deepening our democratic culture By Hassan Gimba


Presidential democracy, the type we accept to practise through a constitutional conference made up of elected and selected representatives, is a tripodal system made up of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary.
Each has its responsibilities as enshrined in the constitution and the system cannot be at its optimum best if one part looks at the others with disdain and deliberately instigates the people against them.
The Judiciary, which interprets laws, stabilises the system through providing justice to all citizens irrespective of their social or economic standings in the society.
Once this important arm gets corrupted, the tendency for crime to pervade society is high and the rise of gangsters and carved fiefdoms by warlords, drug lords, etc, and all sorts of cult-like groupings that will impact negatively on the socio-economic development of the society is assured.
Judges in times past all over the world were conservative, knowledgeable of the world and the laws the society holds dear, and they have a public code of conduct. They were generally above board and had a special rank among the people.
A corrupt judge should not remain a day longer judging over cases because the corrupt actions of a compromised judge eat away the confidence of the citizen in not only the system but the nation as a whole.
A lot of our judges, we all know, have predetermined judgments of cases before them or even before they were brought to them because of corruption.  An upright judge does not form an opinion on a particular case at a very early stage. In the words of Greer LJ, a bad (corrupt) judge ‘…is greatly influenced by the unfavourable opinion he had formed’ about a particular party early in the proceedings and so tends to focus his attention towards the view already formed rather than analyse the facts and evidence as presented by both parties and then make a pronouncement’.
Bad judges are a stain on the public perception of justice. Therefore, it is incumbent upon regulatory and investigative bodies to be vigilant in identifying the judiciary’s bad eggs and weeding them out.
The legislature is the other arm completing the tripod in a presidential democracy. According to Wikipedia, a legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make laws for a political entity such as a country or city. Legislatures form important parts of most governments; in the separation of powers model, they are often contrasted with the executive and judicial branches of government.
The legislature is the arm in the presidential system of democracy that makes laws. A person who should make laws for a people should be a person who does not think of himself first. Lawmaking should be approached with the general public in mind and even though laws made by humans are subject to reviews and changes, the thinking should be for making the society better in the short and long run.
Making laws, like interpreting them, entails that the lawmaker must be knowledgeable of the society, its socio-economy and political colorations and many other leanings. It should not be seen as an opportunity to trample on people, break laws, amass wealth and generally use the office for self advancement. Being a lawmaker is a duty, privilege and honour that must be exercised with great responsibility.
The executive arm implements policies, laws made by law makers and those interpreted by the judicial arm. The executive arm can therefore be said to be the ‘guardian angel’ of the presidential democratic system. Success or failure of the system is determined by how the executive go about governance.
A situation where the executive encourages its staff or the citizenry to view the other arms with disdain does not augur well for democracy. It is infantile behaviour for it to behave as if they are kids, envious of one another and courting the approval of their parents.
Therefore, no matter how corrupt a judge is perceived to be, as long as the bodies saddled with proving it have failed to establish the judge’s corruption and therefore he sits in judgment, then his pronouncement(s) must be adhered to except if we want to have a lawless society on our hands. The judgment can be appealed at another level, but it has to be adhered to in the first instance. It must.
No matter how corrupt or selfish the legislators prove to be, the sanctity of the legislature must be respected except if we want anarchy to reign. The constitution has given certain roles and privileges which we must respect. They can always be recalled or voted out when they fail to dignify the constitution.
In military regimes, the apex military governing bodies tend to be the executive, legislature and judiciary all rolled into one because a military apex governing body can overturn the judgment of a Supreme Court.
On January 30, 1788, in Federalist 47, James Madison observed that ‘there can be no liberty where the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person…’ James Madison was an American statesman and founding father who served as the fourth president of the United States from 1809 to 1817.
According to Thomas Jefferson, in 1792, ‘I said to President Washington that if the equilibrium of the three great bodies, Legislative, Executive and Judiciary, could be preserved, if the Legislature could be kept independent, I should never fear the result of such a government; but that I could not but be uneasy when I saw that the Executive had swallowed up the Legislative branch’.
These two men are people who helped to develop democracy in the country we borrowed our system of governance from.
The citizens too have a duty in safeguarding democracy, that is, if it is democracy they crave for. A citizen that claps at impunity from the executive and joins in the conspiracy to rubbish one of the arms of democratic governance should not pride himself as a democrat.
Granted, people may be miffed at the wanton corruption taking place in the legislative and judicial arms but while that can never be an excuse to discredit the institutions, can the executive be given any clean bill of health where corruption is concerned?
Another question is, do we really want democracy? If yes, then we must respect the separation of powers as enshrined in our constitution and rise up to defend the independence of the tripartite bodies.
Once we take sides with the executive and render the other arms ineffective, then we are inviting autocracy. The earlier we wake up to reality and understand this, the better it will be for us and the future of our country.

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