Thursday, July 28, 2011

SINGLE TERM: Nigerians split over Jonathan’s proposal

IN torrents, mixed reactions yesterday continued to trail President Goodluck Jonathan’s proposal to initiate a bill for a single tenure for president and governors in the country beginning from 2015.
Although, President Jonathan said he would not be a beneficiary, the proposal drew opponents and supporters in equal measure from all parts of the country.

It got a strident kick from leading opposition parties and platforms in the country such as the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP),  Patriotic Alliance for Nigeria (PAN), Civil Liberties Organisation and Transition Monitoring Group (TMG).

Conversely, The Patriots, Afenifere and Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) endorsed the proposal, saying that it could make way for good governance in the country.

Eminent Nigerians, who spoke on the matter in separate chats with Vanguard include Second Republic politician, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, a stalwart of The Patriots, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, former Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), 1999 AD/APP Presidential Candidate, Chief Olu Falae and Afenifere Leader, Chief Reuben Fasoranti,  retired Anglican Bishop of Akure Diocese, Bishop Bolanle Gbinigi and Mr. Sebastine Hon (SAN)

The rest include Bamidele Aturu, Chief Maxi Okwu, Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, Mr Taiwo Taiwo, Mr. Peter Ogana and Moshood Erubami.

While opposing the proposal, the CNPP in a statement by Osita Okechukwu, said it was a plot by Jonathan to elongate his tenure and perpetuate himself in office. The CPC said it was the “unveiling of a grand delusion” and the ACN said it was “nothing but tenure elongation by subterfuge.”

In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the ACN said the project was also self-serving because, “despite the deceptive proviso that President Jonathan will not benefit from it, there is nothing in the constitution that bars him from seeking another term of office in 2015. In any case, he has not told anyone that he will not run again after his current tenure.

‘’This is nothing but tenure elongation by subterfuge, and it is worse than the third term misadventure of his Godfather (Olusegun Obasanjo).”

Agbakoba, Aturu, others  back Jonathan

Speaking on the issue, Rights activist and lawyer, Mr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) lauded the proposed single tenure for elected public officers in Nigeria

Agbakoba said the proposal was good and commended Jonathan for also proposing that the arrangement would take effect after the current administration’s tenure.

The  former NBA President, however, said  there was need to consult Nigerians on the matter.

He said: “The timing of the proposal was wrong. What I expect is for the government to come up with ways of making the nation’s economy work again and alleviate the plight of Nigerians,” he said and suggested that the National Assembly should amend the entire Constitution.

“There are so many issues that call for amendment, including the issue of true federalism that should give more powers to states. A holistic approach will take care of all these issues.”

Social critic, Mr Bamidele Aturu said that such an arrangement would make Nigeria’s democracy more fruitful because “it will reduce the eight years of ‘looting’ by elected public officers.”

Okwu, Adegboruwa kick

On the contrary, Coordinator of Patriotic Alliance for Nigeria (PAN), Chief Maxi Okwu, said that Nigeria should continue with its renewable four-year tenure as “a single tenure will encourage corruption because beneficiaries will know that it is a one-off thing and will, therefore, do what they like, knowing that they will not come back.”

Relatedly, Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, a lawyer and human rights activist, said  the proposal was not necessary and should be dispensed with.

He said: “It is too early to be talking about tenure, Mr President should be focusing on more immediate things such as power generation, food insecurity and security of lives and property. Issues of national development such as restructuring our federal system and managing the threat posed by the Boko Haram sect ought to occupy the mind of our leaders now,” he said.

Afenifere, Gbonigi laud move

The Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, yesterday supported the proposed single term of six year President and governors.

Its leader Chief Reuben Fasoranti who spoke with Vanguard in Akure said the move has always been the position of the Afenifere because it would allow the president and the governors to plan and execute their policies during their tenure.

He said the issue of second term had always been a problem in the country because the President and the governors instead of facing governance usually use the middle of their tenure to plan for a second term at the detriment of the electorate.

The Retired Anglican Bishop of Akure Diocese, Bishop Bolanle Gbinigi said that the proposal was laudable and would prevent diversion, help the economy and rule out acrimony and vendetta associated with second term.

Bishop Gbonigi said that the present system was too expensive and short for the president and governors to perform.
“ If a governor is elected, he spends the first six months to settle down and work for another two and half years before he starts to strategise for a second term. But if it is six year single term, he would use one year to settle down and appoint political officers and the next five years to work knowing that there is no second term.”

Single term tenure ‘ll stabilise the polity –  Yakasai

Former Special Adviser to President Shehu Shagari and elderstatesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, on his part lent his weight to the proposal.

He urged President Jonathan to adopt a holistic approach to other variables like rotation of power at the three tiers of government in Nigeria to lessen acrimony among competing forces.

Yakassai, who was a member of the 1995 Constitutional Conference, said: ‘What Mr. President is proposing is not new to Nigeria, the concept was captured in 1995 constitution that never saw the light of the day. My support for Jonathan’s proposal stem from the fact that his initiative is in tandem with the 1995 constitution that stipulates among others rotation of power among interest groups in the three tiers of government.”

Yakassai noted that the proposal would eliminate do-or-die politics in the system pointing out that the current system that allows Presidents and Governors two terms was ‘unproductive and detrimental’ to democracy. He said: “We have seen in practice the merits and demerits of  the current system that recognizes two-term tenure for president and governors, and the summary is that the essence put at risk the whole concept of civil governance.”

He added that if the proposal sailed through, it would compel the president and governors to be more proactive to governance and “state resources will  no longer suffer quantum assault for reelection bid of an incumbent.”

Adebanjo, Falae differ

Relatedly, a chieftain of NADECO and The Patriots, which had been calling for a single term of five years,  Chief Ayo Adebanjo, urged Nigerians to back the move.

“I do not think Nigerians should express any fear since the President has said he would not be a beneficiary. He has also promised not to seek another term,” he said.

National Coordinator of Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, Otunba Gani Adams, welcomed the idea of having a six-year single tenure for governors and presidents noting that it would enhance performance.
“I think the six years one term is okay for our system because it will reduce corruption in the polity. However,  Chief Falae said he was disappointed with the decision of the president.”

However, Chief Falae said he was disappointed with the decision of the president.

He said: “Whose mandate is that? Was that one of his campaign promises? Who asked him to embark on another constitutional amendment? To me, this is the beginning of another Third Term agenda. He is expected to consult far and wide before embarking on another form of constitutional amendment. I think he has misfired and I am really disappointed in him.”

It’s a grand delusion – CPC

For the CPC, the push was delusory. In a statement by its Natonal Publicity Secretary, Engr. Rotimi Fashakin, the party viewed with the proposal with disgust. “‘Though the President predicated his proposal as  “borne out of a patriotic zeal, after a painstaking study and belief that the constitutionally guaranteed two terms for Presidents and Governors is not helping the focus of Governance and institutionalization of democracy at this stage of our developmen,’ nothing can be more mendacious and delusory!”

He continued: “ Chapter 2 of the subsisting constitution deals with the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy with section 14 accentuating the fact of  “Sovereignty belonging to the people and from whom Government derives its powers.”

It was the good intention of the drafters of the Nation’s Constitution to compulsorily make the Political rulers to always return to the people for renewal of their mandate as an incentive to meritorious performance and good Governance. This is why the proposal of Mr President is Preposterous, immoral and ludicrous.”

ANPP to resist moves to manipulate process

Clearly, the  All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, was the only leading party that backed the proposal yesterday. It however said it would resist any attempt by the Federal Government to manipulate the proposed six years single tenure for President and state governors.

The party, in statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Emma Eneukwu gave its support to the proposed amendment with a warning to the National Assembly to put the interest of the Nation first in the amendment exercise.

He said: “Our great Party has taken notice of the reported intention of Mr. President to forward a Bill to the National Assembly proposing the amendment of the Constitution to limit the tenure of office of the President and State Governors to a single term of six years.We have also taken cognizance of the effective date of the year 2015 for the amendment, if passed and assented to, to become effective.

“However, we wish to urge Mr. President and the National Assembly to put the interest of the nation above every other consideration in the process. The experience of the recent past in similar efforts in this regard should remind all true patriots that Nigerians will resist any attempt to manipulate the constitutional amendment process to further any hidden agenda. We call on all our members in the National Assembly to remain vigilant.”

It ‘ll overheat the polity–Sen Anyanwu

The Senator representing Imo East, Imo State, Senator Chris Anyanwu yesterday said the proposed constitutional amendment to restrict the Presidential and gubernatorial tenure to a single six year term was not a core national agenda at the moment.

Anyanwu, the only All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, senator wondered why the issue should be a priority of the government now, adding that it would overheat the system.

According to her, what should form the centre of discourse at this critical period should be how to better the lives of the ordinary Nigerians, how to address the problem of unemployment, insecurity, Niger Delta and Boko Haram among others.

Reps agree

Members of the House of Representatives were divided in their opinions on the matter.
Hon Ken Chikere (PDP Rivers) said a single tenure for the executive would reduce the pressure and financial wastage associated with the campaign for the second term.

“I believe that with the knowledge of the people now, it is a good proposal that should be look at dispassionately. I believe that we should take out time to take a further look at it but on the face I think it is a good proposal. If you look at the acrimony and the expenses that come with election is one aspect of our national life that should be looked.

It is a drain on the resources both at the individual and national level. If we remove the second term, it would be better for the individuals and the country” he said.

Hon. Eseme Eyiboh in his reaction noted that in order to guarantee national peace, the six year single tenure was the best option for the country now as there would be less distraction for the occupants of the offices.

“As a politician and one desirous of a peaceful nation, I think it is a good thing. You discover that during the first term most occupants of the executive office would use the major part of the term to building structures preparatory for the second term contest. If it is a single term, the occupant knows that he has only one term and he would concentrate. on providing purposeful leadership for the people who voted for him” he said.

Hon.  Daniel Reyenieju (PDP, Delta) said the proposal was good for the country as quest for second term always encouraged corruption. “I will support it provided it is good for the nation and the future of this country.”

Hon. Victor Ogene (APGA Anambra) said since the incumbent office holders would not benefit from the arrangement, ‘I will heartily support it’.

But Hon. Emmanuel Jime (PDP Benue) said a single tenure would not promote national cohesion but would rather drive the country apart and cause more havoc for the country.

“I do not think it is something that should be mentioned at this point in time. What we should be doing is providing leadership that would make a difference in the lives of our people. Some people benefitted from the 1999 constitution especially in the states. How then do you ensure that you operate it in such a way that it is morally consistent with its operation?

What does it matter whether you have a single term or a two term? The advantages that are associated with a single term are neutralized by the many disadvantages inherent in it” he said.

Toby Ikechukwu representing Enugu simply said, “if they bring it we will debate it and the House will take a position on it but for now let us wait for it to come so that we won’t contradict ourselves on the subject.”

Rep Zakari Mohammed representing Barauten/Kaiama Federal constituency said “ we are waiting for it to come but certainly some people will not benefit from it.”

It’s a welcome development – Ali
Speaking on the matter, Legal luminary, Yusuf  Ali, SAN, said: “The president’s proposal is a welcome development. I have said this in different for a that part of what can reduce tension in one political  transition to the other is having a tenure of one term of six years. However, some have suggested a single term of five years.

My own view then was that six years term is the middle number between  four and eight years. At that time we were thinking of the problem associating with the civilian transition. Even the Nigerian Bar  Association, NBA , proposed five years single time. Then we all agreed on a single denominator that could make the political class see reason.

“On issue of whether the issue is supposed to be decided by Nigerians, I believe that when the bill gets to the National  Assembly, there will be public hearing on the matter, which will take care of all interest. ”

It’s another Obasanjo’s idea – Ngige
For Mr. Emeka Ngige, SAN, the proposal was not part of Jonathan’s campaign promises. “President Jonathan during his campaign did not promise that if elected he would amend the constitution to provide for single tenure of six years.  So, it is amazing for him to leave all his promises unattended to and dabble into a new agitation.

That makes the intention very suspicious. We recalled that Obasanjo tried to do this during the constitutional conference he called in 2005-2006, which latter became known as the third term bid and that proposal failed. For Jonathan to bring this  issue at the very beginning of his tenure, shows that Obasanjo is still looming large in our political horizon.

It is now a case of the hand of Esau and voice of Jacob. My only worry is that we don’t have the likes of Ken Nnamani, or Aminu Masari at the two chambers  to put this obnoxious proposal in check. So, I am calling on men of goodwill to prevail on Mr. President to let sleeping dogs lye. Our problem is not about tenure review, our problem is for us to have a keen and transparent election, from there we fight corruption.

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