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A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF LEGISLATIVE PROCESS AND DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE IN NIGERIA AND UNITED STATES FROM 1999 TO 2014

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Chapter one

Introduction

  • Background of the study

Democracy and governance are the bedrock of sustainable development of any country. Hence, the two terms are inexplicable but related with conceptual polemics. However, scholars in spite of their diverse intellectual and ideological inclinations share the same views on its reflective attributes. On the history and concept of democracy, Madubuegwu, (2015) noted.

Democracy is a concept or historical antiquity. A popular and participatory system of mass driven government that enveloped and flourished in the vortex of Athenian imperelian and pericles (500-429 BC).This classical democratic form of governance was exemplified in Athenian Ecclesia and Spartan Appella which underscored the relevance of political liberty and equality (2015:53).

 

Invariably, democracy is therefore seen as one of the ultimate ideas that modern civilization strive to create or preserve. The word, “democracy” literally means “rule by the people” taken from Greek terms, demo (people) and Kratos (rule). It is a political concept and form of government where a people are supposed to have equal voices in shaping policy (typically expressed through a vote for representatives) (Awah 2013:8). The criticality of democratic process is accentuated by the practice of governance. Hence, governance is a process driven by institutions. This process is obviously driven by certain fundamental which reflects in the roles and characters of the political institutions or structures.These fundamentals otherwise known as the indices of good governance were implicitly enumerated by Okeke (2010).

  • Accountability
  • Inclusiveness
  • Equity and social justice
  • Observance of rule of law and due process
  • Effective institutions
  • Purposeful leadership, security and order.

Instructively, these democratic ideals are ostensibly accentuated by the relevance of modern parliament in a representative democracy and governance.

Modern legislature is therefore an anchor of representative democracy. This is because, it provides avenue for the entrenchment of popular interests in governance through representation and legislation. Hence, modern legislature represents a platform for the articulation of interests in deference to public expectations and plights. Expressing the meaning and relevance of legislature, Anifowose and Enemuo (1999:179) noted:

No form of human organization can function effectively without any rules of behaviour. Legislatures are usually elected bodies which have the primary responsibility of making laws for the whole society. Although, practically every where, the universal duty of legislative bodies is law-making yet they do more than simply write laws (1999:179).

 

In advanced democracies such as United States and other Western Countries, the legislature is the pillar of democratic governance with reference to its structure, behaviour and powers and functions. America is a liberal democracy where the principles of liberty and equality are enthroned in political governance and general administration of the state.And, this is more explicit in the structure and process of United States Congress.

Paleker (2009) shared this view.

“The American Constitution established a representative democracy. The political institutions of the USA are run by representatives who are chosen directly or indirectly by the voters”.

 

Therefore, the United States Congress is one of such institution that performs identical rules with other modern parliaments in other western democracies. However, there are instances of disparities as aptly observed by Appadoria (1975):

Some legislature, as in Switzerland and the U.S.S.R, has elective functions.The upper houses of some states (Britain, for instance) have judicial functions,both original and appellate. Some share in the executive functions. The consent of the senate is necessary in the U.S.A for the appointment of officers and the making of treaties.

 

Similarly, legislative involvement in lawmaking varies across different systems. In some countries (particularly systems, discussed below), legislative lawmaking merely legitimizes policy choices made by a prime minister, a central committee, a chancellor or some other chief Executive. The U.S Congress Operates in a presidential system, and has more real influence over basic policy decisions than most national legislatures, the more typical parliamentary system arrangement in Great Britain or Italy, for example is for a legislature to affirm decisions made by the Executive. A recent study of legislative influence in Germany and the Netherlands suggests that a parliamentary system is ruled by a coalition to form a government (Ethridge and Handelman, 2010).This indeed underscored the imperative of comparative analysis on legislative processes. Nigeria as a developing economy and polity grappling with the challenges of democratic consolidation has the existence of legislative institution and process.

In the proceeding chapters, the researcher explored the specificities of USA and Nigeria legislative process in the promotion of democratic governance. Thus, democratic governance is a function of viable and participatory legislative process.

  • Statement of the Problem

The modern parliament is the hallmark of democratic governance. It represents a platform for the expression of public interests and expectations in governance. On this premise, the modern legislature is an institution made up of persons elected on the mandate to serve and reinforce public confidence in governance.Similarly, “it is adduced that a powerful legislature is needed to engender a democracy in which people have some real decision making power over and above the formal consent of electoral choice” (Ake, 1996:132). In the same vein, Johnson and Nakamura (1999) pointed out, that effective legislature contributes to effective governance by performing important functions necessary to sustain democracy in complex and diverse societies. Thus, Johnson and Nakamura (1999) went further to remark:

Democratic societies need the arena for the airing of societal differences provided by representative assemblies with vital ties to the populace. They need institutions that are capable of writing good laws in both the political sense of getting agreement from participants and in the technical sense of achieving the intended purpose (1999:121).

 

Furthermore, representative democracy accentuates the relevance of modern parliament. It is a system that gained more significance in developing and industrialized economies. In this vein, Bello-Iman (2004:1);

Democracy is a global maiden which every nation woos. The democratic craze is sweeping across the whole world, from the nation states in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe to Africa and Asia. It shows that democracy has gathered momentum across the globe as a result of its immense advantages and by implications because of the negative consequences of bad governance (2004:1).

 

However, Nigeria as a developing economy is experiencing institutional and procedural challenges with reference to governance and political process.Ogundiya (2012) cited in Dada et al (2013) assessing the implications of the institutional and procedural failures, writes:

The failure of the legislature to perform its important function in Nigeria has denied the people the gains of democratic governance through equity in the distribution of resources. Legislature in Nigeria has been preoccupied with how to amass wealth for themselves at the peril of Nigerians. (2007:53).

 

Basically, the irregularities bedeviling Nigeria’s legislative institutions and processes undoubtedly illuminate the challenges of democratic consolidation. Hence, it is a popular view among the political elites, the intellectual community, Right Advocacy Groups that certain and fundamental democratic values and procedure are to be internalized and institutionalized to entrench civic democratic culture and viable institutions. In other words, this desire lends credence to western democratic practices or values of advanced democracies reference to United States, France, Britain etc. The United States is a constitutional democracy which is founded on the values and essence of liberalism .Hence; it is one of the leading liberal democracies in the world.

A review of the literature on the role of the legislative arm of government on democratic governance tends to suggest that the former is a sine qua non of the latter. Notwithstanding, practices have varied across countries. In view of the importance of the legislature in ensuring the democratic governance, this study therefore is geared towards examining whether the process of legislation in Nigeria and United states explain the feasibility of democratic governance in both countries.   On this basis, this study poses these research questions as follows:

  1. Does the process of legislation in Nigeria and United States explain the feasibility of democratic governance in these two countries?
  2. What are the factors that militates legislative institutions from enhancing or promoting democratic governance in Nigeria and United States?
    • Objectives of the Study
  3. To ascertain whether the process of legislation in Nigeria and United States explain the feasibility of democratic governance in these two countries.
  4. To establish the factors which militates against the viability of legislative institution and democratic governance in Nigeria and United States?

1.4    Significance of the Study

Basically, the study has both theoretical and practical significance. At the theoretical level, it seeks to contribute to the existing body of knowledge on the legislative process and democratic governance in Nigeria and United States. This study revealed that the effective legislative process in United States accounts for the existence of democratic governance in that country when compare to democratic practice in Nigeria. Hence, it will academically serve as reference material to researchers seeking to understand the variables which accounts for difference in legislative processes and democratic governance in Nigeria and United States.

Practically this study will be of immense benefit as it will provide guide to future policy option and legal framework to stimulate legislative effectiveness in enhancing democratic governance.

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