Erstwhile Deputy Internal Affairs Minister, Sheka Tarawally aka Shekito, who was also former Press Secretary to President Koroma and also former Deputy Information Minister, has suggested in his letter to the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) that he believes that “the introduction of the Office of Prime Minister will ease the unnecessary tension that almost always engulfs ‘elected Presidents and elected Vice Presidents’.”
He adds that the President is ceremonial and that in the system he is proposing, the people choose the party and not the person.
Therefore, it’s the leader of the party that wins that will be the head of government; meaning, he or she will be more committed in implementing the manifesto presented to the electorate.
And if he or she is removed by his party or is incapacitated and removed by Parliament through a vote of no-confidence, there’s no need for a stampede or the fear of power going to an estranged subordinate, as the party would choose someone else as a replacement or another election is called as the case may be.
He adds that this system makes political parties more people-oriented and not elitist because they would naturally have to want to deliver on time, even as a vote of no-confidence could bring a change of government before scheduled elections.
According to Shekito, the system he is suggesting is necessary because “without wishing to sound alarmist, many of your acidic critics see your proposal (The President and Vice President should not be removed from office if they lose their political party membership after assumption of office /loss of party membership shall not nullify from office a sitting President or Vice President) as a veiled affront to the Presidency and the Judiciary, coming on the heels of the case of the presidential dismissal of former Vice President Sam Sumana as upheld by the Supreme Court.”
He reflects on the fate of vice presidents starting from the current appointed Vice President in the person of Hon. Victor Bockarie Foh, a situation some people are not obviously comfortable with for many reasons, democratic or otherwise.
Shekito wrote further that: “We all know the circumstances that forced and justified the current status quo.
It may be that in future we would not have a President as patient as President Ernest Bai Koroma to manage the situation by peacefully and legally closing the chapter without a debilitating stalemate or descending to full-scale tragedy.
On the other side of the coin, it would not nowadays be easy, if not impossible, to find an elected Vice President as loyal as S.I. Koroma, who was faithful to the very hilt – even if what he had always apparently hoped for was given to someone else.
We were all witnesses to how Vice President Francis Misheck Minah was executed for treason under President J.S. Momoh – a glaring example of how ugly things can be in the frosty President/ Vice President relationship.
We also witnessed how President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and his Vice President Solomon Berewa were not on speaking terms during the twilight moments of the former – a classic example of how this strange-bedfellow President/ Vice President relationship can even consume personal friendship.
Some critics are saying, though without concrete justification, that current Vice President Victor Foh’s apparent unquestionable loyalty to President Koroma is greatly influenced by the circumstances of being an appointed VP.”
He touched on other aspects in his submission which include:
1. Presidency to be rotational: Instead of the proposed House of Paramount Chiefs, I suggest that we give the ceremonial presidency to the chiefs, with one of them being a primus inter pares on a rotational basis by region, elected only once for a 7-year term, until all the chiefdoms have got a President.
This will further create an enabling environment for a woman to easily become President as there are female Paramount Chiefs.
2. Monarchy: We are a monarchical people, historically and traditionally, as we are still being ruled by chieftaincies whose history predates colonial rule and even Slavery.
The respect we have for the institution of chieftaincy has caused us to still have chiefs in Parliament and to now have a proposal in your abridged report of forming a House of Paramount Chiefs.
Instead of that, we can form the ceremonial presidency of chiefs – that is, after creating two other chiefdoms for the western rural and urban as requested by the Krios recently.
By so doing, each chiefdom is assured of one day assuming the presidency.
3. Shadow cabinet system: this means the main Opposition is given an opportunity to have its stand-by cabinet members who are also paid from the consolidated fund (though less than Cabinet Ministers) and get certain state benefits. This will help in maintaining standards within the polity especially in reducing the possibility of cross-carpeting for merely selfish and material reasons.
4. Simple first-past-the-post electoral system to avoid a run-off: a lot of state resources are being wasted and unnecessary tensions of violence stoked whenever the country goes into a run-off as provided by the current constitution. To prevent this, the parliamentary system has the solution – as there’s no need for a run-off, as the party with the highest votes by the simplest majority would win.
If it does not reach the threshold to form a government, it would be forced to go into negotiation with smaller parties, instead of going into a run-off.
By this system also, political parties will normally not declare support for another party before elections. They can only form a coalition after an election.
Therefore, only a party that has been tested at the ballot box would have the clout to negotiate with another.
5. Government will be more accountable as the Prime Minister is a Member of Parliament, even as most Ministers are also chosen from within Parliament.
They will be more committed to delivering on their promises as they would want to continue in office – even as they are subjected to continuous parliamentary scrutiny by their colleague MPs, especially the shadow cabinet ministers.
The author believes that this system will remove the fear of one man holding on to executive power beyond the people’s wish, but at the same time does not put a term limit. Like in Britain, if the Prime Minister is loved, the voters will retain him as long as they want; but if his popularity drops, he can even be removed before the end of his first term through the ‘no confidence’ vote.