President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday disagreed sharply with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, over whose duty it is to prepare the budget.
Jonathan warned that implementing total separation of powers would hurt development and good governance.
Jonathan was of the view that the National Assembly was delving into the duties of the Executive on budgeting and that it was wrong for them to tear the provisions to shreds each time it was submitted to them and was thereby taking over the duty of planning the economy.
But Tambuwal insisted that they had a duty to ensure that the rights of the people they represent were protected.
Tambuwal complained that the Executive was frustrating their work by refusing to assent to bills they passed forcing them to reintroduce such bills de novo after the end of a legislative session which was cumbersome.
He further challenged the president that the Executive was made up of two people, the president and the vice-president while they represent all the constituencies, adding: "The National Assembly has acted responsibly and cautiously in the exercise of this power in the belief that the Executive will come to terms with this reality before long."
Jonathan stressed the need to de-emphasise the strict separation of powers as was being understood and practised as such was detrimental to development and smooth running of good governance and declared that development rather than adherence to strict and near impracticable political dicta should rule the desire of political offices.
Both disagreed at the 2012 Democracy Day National symposium tagged, "Our Democracy: Progress and Challenges" held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja where Jonathan said he was preserving his main speech till his national broadcast today.
He insisted that while the Judiciary could be so distanced from the Executive, it was virtually impracticable to do so between the Executive and Legislature.
He asked of it was possible to achieve stability with such separation of powers and answered in the negative, pointing out that "if you separate it between the Executive and Legislature as if there is a wall between them, then there will be problem".
The president said if politicians elected under the same platform with manifesto start talking about separation of powers, it would not work as all hands ought to be on deck to achieve the common goal of the party manifesto.
He also cited an instance which the same principle works against development as a situation where the Executive prepares a budget and sends it to the National Assembly which will mutilate it and change things in a way it would be difficult to implement where there were indices on which the provisions were based.
Jonathan also said that while it was possible under a non-democratic administration to do certain things with fiat, it was not so under a democratic government where rule of law must hold sway, pointing out that there was currently a judgment debt of N185 billion which he said must stop as it was too unwieldy, hence the need to follow rule of law.
He said: "Let me talk about separation of powers which in some cases sounds even absurd. How separate are these powers. Yes, you can separate the judiciary to some reasonable level but can you really separate the parliament from the executive and have a stable government? That is one of the greatest challenges we have and especially in Nigeria.
"I believe if the parliamentarian and those in the executive maintain that theoretical separation of powers as if there is a wall separating the executive from the legislature, then this country would continue to have problems.
The Speaker made reference to bills for example, we all belong to political parties but the judiciary does not belong to parties. Every political party has a manifesto and those who contest elections to hold any office whether in the executive arm of government as President, Vice President, Governor or those who contest election to be in the legislative arm of government either as a legislator or councillor are supposed to campaign based on the party manifesto and that is why individual governors don't have their separate manifesto.
"Every member of PDP for example are supposed to key into the PDP manifesto so when we are elected into office, both arms of government are supposed to work together to make sure that the party manifestoes guide our actions, if that is true, how do we separate them.
"I believe both parliament and executive must work together for us to succeed, for Nigerians to get the dividends of democracy, for us to even have good governance. I plead with our legislators now and the next set of people that would come. Today Mr. Jonathan is the President but we are talking about what should be the ideal is for us to continue to work together and work together as a team.
"If we begin to see this clear division, we are exposing the National Assembly for people who are anti-government to use. It is not good to always celebrate the separation, when we begin to celebrate the separation, those outside government would use National Assembly against the Executive."
Tambuwal had earlier in his presentation said: "Another challenge is the issue of assent to bills passed by the National Assembly. In as much as it is the constitutional duty of the legislature to pass laws, it is equally the constitutional responsibility of Mr. President to assent to same.
It is however disturbing to note that the Executive has shied away from this responsibility by not assenting to bills passed by the National Assembly.
This makes the legislative process cumbersome because some of these bills have to be re-introduced de novo. This is not a healthy situation for the Executive-Legislature relationship neither does it portray our democracy in good light amongst the Comity of Nations.
"Representation is the third function of the Legislature; it denotes the power of the people to either act directly or through their representatives. In this regard, I wish to allude to the issue of budgeting.
The Executive Arm of government is made up of only 2 elected functionaries to wit the President and the Vice whereas the National Assembly is a body of 469 elected functionaries. The adage 2 heads are better than one is reinforced by that which says he who wears the shoe knows better where it pinches and both favour the position of the elected representatives. In the people's wisdom enunciated in the 1999 Constitution (As Amended), the Legislature has the final say on the budget document by way of a veto where the right of final say is resisted."
Both however agreed on the need for sustained democracy as development and good governance was better assured under democratic rule.
Chairman of the occasion, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, pleaded with the media and politicians to stop heating the polity through playing the politics of 2015 while he charged the government to do all within its powers to tame the corruption and collectively face the challenges of development.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, stressed the need for team work in democracy while Frank Nweke called for a total fight against corruption and provision of employment for stable polity.
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Attahiru Jega, assured Nigerians that with the lessons from 2011 elections, the 2015 election would become better and harped on the need for action to be expedited on election tribunals to try election offenders.
Already, he said that more than 200 offenders were being tried for offences in 2011 elections while in the course of voter's registration it was discovered that 870,000 persons engaged in multiple registration.
Former Acting Director of State Security Services, Mr. Kayode Are, said that good policies help to douse tension and improve security and advised that selective enforcement of law and order was detrimental to security and development and should be avoided.
He said that security was the responsibility of everybody but pointed out that without good governance the electorates would not have a sense of belonging to identify with the programmes of government.