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African Social Science Review

Abstract

The post-colonial era in Africa has witnessed the emergence of the “hegemonic presidency,” which has been variously referred to as the “imperial presidency” and the “Big man/Big woman syndrome.” Essentially, the phenomenon entails the illegal exercise of presidential powers beyond both the constitutional and statutory boundaries. Against this background, this article examines three major interrelated issues. First, it interrogates the historical development of the phenomenon. Second, it probes the factors that have caused the emergence of the “hegemonic presidency.” Third, the study suggests some ways in which the phenomenon may be curtailed. In the case of the historical development of the phenomenon, the “hegemonic presidency” has its roots in colonialism, especially the ubiquity and the unfettered exercise of power by the chief colonial administrator—e.g. the governor-general. As for the major causes of the phenomenon, they include the constitution, statutes, weak public institutions, especially the legislature and the judiciary, and the acts of ultra vires, which are consequences of presidential arrogation of power. Finally, the article suggests various ways for curtailing the phenomenon, including constitutional redesign to limit the appointive and financial powers of the presidency and the strengthening of public institutions, particularly the legislative and judicial branches, so that they can play their effective rules as countervailing forces.

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