Executive-Legislative Relations And Democratic Consolidation In Nigeria’s Fourth Republic 2007-2017

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

Executive-Legislative Relations And Democratic Consolidation In Nigeria’s Fourth Republic 2007-2017


The necessity of building a workable synergy and desirable relationship between the forces of government both at the levels of executive and legislative systems towards ensuring democratic consolidation lies at the heart of this research.The Fourth Republic came into existence in 1999, this came after a long period of military interregnum. Democracy was highly embraced by all with expected hope it will deliver good dividends and socio-economic development. But not far into the Fourth Republic, the body polity became overheated by lots of challenges namely: corruption, electoral abnormalities, politics of godfatherism amongst others. Also the relationship between the executive and legislature, have been one of a cat-mouse game, especially with the frequent change of leadership especially during the Obasanjo’s second coming as a civilian president. These relations between the executive and legislature have contributed to democratic consolidation both positively and negatively in Nigeria. This is what the researcher has in mind to contribute to the existing body of knowledge showing how cordial relations between the two arms can help in democratic consolidation as democratic consolidation is a process and not an achievement.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

Governance is imperative for the social, political and economic progress of every country and is indispensable for the achievement of the noble objectives of a state (Fabbrini, 1995; Oburota, 2003; Ogundiya, 2010). Governance is viewed in terms of process and structure. Thus, Gill (2002) views it as the processes, structures and organizational traditions that determine how power is exercised, how stakeholders have their say, how decisions are taken and how decision-makers are held to account. Ogundiya (2010) in a very concise and succinct manner sees governance as consisting as consisting of two essential elements of the state, namely, the structure of the state and the procedures of the legislative, judicial, executive and administrative bodies at all tiers of government.

Today, democracy is the dominating form of government in the world, its rivals have “either disappeared, turned into eccentric survival, or retreated from the field to hunker down in their last strongholds” (Dahl, 1998).

Democracy originated more than 2,400 years ago in Ancient Greece. Democracy as a system of government is one in which the citizens exercise power directly or elect representatives to form a governing body such as a parliament or in the case of Nigeria the National Assembly. It is sometimes referred to as the “the rule of the majority”. The principal purposes for the establishment of democracy by the people are the protection of their rights, interests and welfare. In a democracy there are usually three principal arms or organs of government which are the executive, legislature and the judiciary but we will limit this study to the executive and legislature and the relationship between them. In a democracy, the executive carries out or implements the laws made by the Legislature. Maduabuchi (2001) and Andre (1994) agree that while the executive as a form of government is responsible for policy formulation, evaluation and execution to realize set targets, the legislature enacts laws and make the same functional as instrument of cohesion in the society. The belief here is that all the levels of government, be they executive, legislature and judiciary, each of them may not necessarily subsist without the other meaning that each organ of government is mutually reinforcing and contingent upon the success or failure of the other. It goes further to say that there is no political moose in the practice of the specifications and injunctions of the Nigerian constitution just as there is no secret cow in the dispensation of justice in all its ramifications. The executive is therefore seen as the appendage and embodiment of the legislative arm just as the judiciary as the third arm is seen as the arbiter of the two (Ekhator, 2003; Bade, 2000).

The rancor and bickering in the First and Second Republic culminated into years of military interregnums and usurpation of the reins of governance from the arms of government especially the Executive and Legislature, and denied them the opportunity to grow and mature over time in their relationship together.

For a democracy to mature (expected to endure) the political actors must accept the legitimacy of democracy and no actor must seek to act outside democratic tenets, institutions etc. The political actors which we focus on here in this case are the executive and the legislature. The necessity of building a workable synergy and desirable relationship between forces of government at the levels of both executive and legislature lies at the heart of this research. The tendency however is to enhance good, cordial relationship in the executive and legislative arena so as to institutionalize the tradition of best international practices so as to engender democratic consolidation. However, it is interesting to note that the Nigerian political system since her independence in 1960 has grossly known no peace considering the high level of feud orchestrated by political figures in the country thereby either over-heating the already tensed system or at best, running the Nigerian entity more or less like a private estate. At the dawn of its political independence, international attention had shifted to Nigeria as a country that would possibly make giant strides toward sustainable democracy and good governance, development in Africa. Such hopes were not misplaced, given the human and natural resources abundant in the country. Paradoxically, Nigeria plunged into conflicts, which have rocked the foundation of the country since independence due to the foundations as well as consolidated deficient social, economic, political and developmental structures laid from the beginning, arising from the colonial origin of the Nigerian state. The parliamentary system of government that was in place in the First Republic Constitution bequeathed to Nigeria enthroned a system of shared power between the Prime Minister and President and no complete separation of power between the Executive and the Legislature (Dudley, 1982; Nwabueze, 1985; Momoh, 2000; Akinwumi, 2004).

The restoration of civilian rule in Nigeria on October, 1979 after thirteen years of military rule also brought with it the “Washington model” of executive presidential and gubernatorial government and Nigeria turning its back on the Westminster model. The presidential system adopted was modeled after that of the United States of America. It was also predicated on a presidential single executive system of democratic governance. There was provision for a clear separation of the roles, personnel and powers of the executive and the legislature capable of harmonious inter-organ relations as well as ensure the independence of the legislature so as to enhance the performance of both the executive and legislative organs of government (Dudley, 1982; Fasugba, 2009).

The new 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria came into force with effect from the 29th of May, 1999, the date of the military handover of governance to a democratically elected civilian regime. The document was largely based on the 1979 presidential constitution, with some amendments. Following the adoption of the presidential system of government in Nigeria, therefore no one arm of government is superior to the other; neither is any subordinate to the other. In essence, there was a separation of powers and a system of checks and balances which is very central to a democratic system of governance which Nigeria professes to adopt.

The relationships between the legislature and the executive are one of the key defining characteristics of the functioning of any political system (Kopecky, 2004). It is central to the constitutional and political system of any territory and has been at the forefront of parliamentary debate in recent times (Winetrobe, 2000). These relationships are complex, depending on a range of formal and informal practices. The constitutional prerogatives vested in legislatures and the executive are, of course, most important because they structure the interactions between the two powers (National Democratic Institute (NDI), 2000). However, numerous informal rules and conventions, such as the customs concerning nomination of members of the cabinet following an election, practically precedent, habit and the influence of political parties are very important as well (Bernick & Bernick, 2008). Constructive relationships between the executive and the legislative arms of government are essential to the effective maintenance of the constitution and the rule of law (Holme, 2007). In recent years, however, the character of these relationships has changed significantly, both because of changes in governance and because of wider societal changes. Analysis of these relations will bring to the limelight the nature of legislature-executive relations, the factors engendering such relations with a view to bringing to the fore valid modalities for improving it and ensuring democratic consolidation. This research examines the dynamics, nature, causes and consequences of the relationship between the two arms and on democratic consolidation in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic 2007-2017.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The legislature and the executive in the presidential system adopted by Nigeria are each vested with some defined activities of government. In many respects joint efforts and collaborations are constitutionally required in the exercise of their powers. The nature of these relations between the executive and legislature in the presidential system has over the years, attracted wide variety of viewpoints both about conflict and cooperation, whether one or the other dominates and what benefits or liabilities result from either. Some see the conflict between legislature and executive as necessary and a beneficial precondition to limiting and controlling government (Madison, 1992; Magil, 2001). The principle of separation of powers is one unique feature of a democracy. At the same time, the branches are expected to serve as checks on each other as a preventive measure against absolute or abuse of power. The relationship between the executive and legislature is imperative to the maturing of democracy which is what democratic consolidation basically means. For democracy to deepen the executive and the legislature have very important roles to play.

Unfortunately in Nigeria today this relationship has sometimes threatened or hampered democracy and its consolidation especially with the actions of members of both the executive and legislature, some of these actions will be highlighted in this study. The relationship between the executive and the legislature in Nigeria has been characterized by mutual suspicion, distrust, political rivalry (Nwannekanma & Ogbodo, 2010). Despite the provisions in the 1999 constitution aimed at rectifying the problems identified with these relations in preceding republics, managing these relations has been the single most problematic issue both at the Centre and the state level since the country’s return to civil rule in 1999.

It is therefore imperative to examine the nature of the legislative-executive relations in fostering democratic consolidation. This research therefore investigates the nature of the relationship between the two branches of government at the Federal level regarding the consolidation of democracy

1.3 Research Questions

The questions that this study seeks to address are:

  1. Does the interference in legislative processes by the executive undermine cordial relationship between the executive and legislature?
  2. Did the absence of cordial relationship between the executive and the legislature weaken democratic consolidation?

1.4 Objectives of the Study

The aim of this study is to examine the relations between the executive and the legislature in fostering democratic consolidation in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic between 2007 and 2017. Following this goal, the specific objectives to be pursued in this study are:

  1. To assess the issues of executive interference in legislative process
  2. To assess if the absence of cordial relationship between the executive and the legislature tends to weaken the consolidation of democracy

1.5 Research Hypotheses

The research hypothesis of this research is as follows:

H1: absence of cordial relationship between the executive and the legislature weakens the consolidation of democracy

H2: undue interference in legislative processes by the executive undermines cordial relations between them

1.6 Significance of the Study

This research has significance both theoretically and practically. Theoretically, the study will add to the existing body of knowledge already in existence on the relations between the executive and the legislature especially in Nigeria. It will also discuss the issue of democratic consolidation in Nigeria and its linkage with the relations between the executive and the legislature.

Practically, this dissertation will provide information to scholars, students who research into the relations between the executive and the legislature, and also on democratic consolidation in Nigeria.

The findings will also be of immense benefits to stakeholders in the political landscape of Nigeria and also members of both the executive and the legislature in Nigeria.

Finally, this study will serve as a springboard towards continued research in executive-legislative relations, democracy and its consolidation in Nigeria.

Chapter Five

Summary, Recommendations and Conclusion

5.1 Summary

The focus of this study is the anatomy of legislature-executive relations and democratic consolidation in Nigeria with special emphasis on the Fourth Republic from 2007-2017. It examines the executive interference in the legislative process. The Executive and Legislative relationship in Nigeria is of great benefit to the citizenry and could yield more benefits if the doctrine of separation of powers is promoted to ensure the independence of each arm and then backed up by the principle of checks and balances to promote interdependency. Executive and Legislative conflict prevent and demote national development

In the first chapter a background of study was given to put the research work in proper perspectives by also giving the questions to be answered by the researcher, the objectives etc..

A review of extant literature was extensively carried out in chapter two of the study. The essence is to situate the study in proper context and to create a bond between it and related previous studies and as well to identify gaps in knowledge with respect to the study of the subject matter and to appropriately intervene by providing the missing link and by updating and contributing to the existing body of knowledge in the field. The interference by the executive into legislative process was extensively discussed. Also discussed were the concept of democratic consolidation.

Chapter three took a theoretical examination of legislature-executive relations in a presidential structure of government with the purpose of ascertaining how presidential


Findings revealed that the continued interference by the executive in the legislative process of the National Assembly weakened the ability of the legislative bodies to effectively perform their fundamental roles of citizens‟ representatives through legislation and oversight functions.. The cordial relationship however, became strained under a new administration following a resources distribution that was no longer mutually satisfactory to both parties. The concomitance of the strain was legislature-executive gridlock that was based not on the legislative assertiveness of its representational role in governance. Findings also revealed the extent to which the politics of god-fatherism, in an atmosphere of party politics that lack internal democracy, have exerted pressure and strains on the executive and the legislative institutions of governance, hence threatened the basic underlies of the presidential political system.

5.2 Recommendation

Executive and legislative harmony should be strengthened in order to deepen democracy without necessarily sacrificing checks and balance.

There is need for both Executive and Legislature to fully understand and appreciate their respective roles in the budgeting process and for the sustenance of democracy as a whole. The practice of the appropriation bill getting stuck due to inter-governmental rivalry is counterproductive and no less a threat to sustainable growth and development. It would seem that face-off between the Executive and Legislature over the national budget is becoming a recurring event; a situation accounting for an obvious lack of coordination between organs of government that are critical to service delivery. In order to limit frictions between the executive and legislature and allow government business to run optimally, there is the need for timely passage of annual budgets. On the whole, there are lessons for the key actors of the organs of government. It must be made clear that confrontation in whatever guise between the Executive and Legislature is not in the interest of the country and the citizenry, more so, when there are apparent issues of development that should preoccupy the holders of public offices in the executive and legislature in order to place the country on a pedestal through purpose-driven government policies, legislation and programmes.

The salaries and budgetary allocations to the legislature should be removed to a first line charge from the Federation Account, so as to ensure the independence of the legislature from the executive. Financial autonomy is pivotal to legislative independence.

This paper calls for respect of rule of law and constitutionality on the part of persons holding executive and legislative positions in Nigeria. Through strict compliance to constitutional provisions, the incessant breakdown of inter-governmental relations which bothers on how the functions of these organs are discharged which ultimately threatens the current democratic consolidation can be greatly minimised.

5.3 Conclusion

In the aftermath of a crisis of confidence between the Executive and Legislature which the President alluded to was slowing down the business of government, efforts needs to be stepped up to improve inter-governmental relations. The executive and Legislature are key and central organs of democracy which at the same time are capable of truncating democratic government if relations between both are not well managed. Leaders of both organs of government need to understand their respective roles, mandates and limitations in order to limit frictions during the budget process. The practice where the executive wields unnecessary influence on other organs weakens democratic institutions and represents an invitation to anarchy and threat to democracy. Conclusively, the need to separate politics from governance is canvasses because on many occasions, politics sip into governance which often leads to frictions and crisis between the executive and legislature. The resort to pettiness or name calling as witnessed in the current dispensation will not do the two organs, the citizenry and the country in general any good.

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