6-Years Single Term: Before Another National Hysteria
Nigeria we hail thee! It is yet another season of needles fury and noise from familiar quarters over what will not substantially elevate the nationhood of a country that is already beleaguered by diverse social and economic malaise. At a time when the nation is besotted with cries for infrastructural development, economic progression and improvement in the standard of living of its vast population, we are again inundated with the divisive issue of what number of years is good for our Executives both at the federal and state levels, to spend in office before they can deliver the much tout dividends of democracy by enhancing the lives of the common man and ultimately rescue Nigeria from totally drowning in the aqua of backwardness and arrested development .
The emerging hoopla is further disturbing because of the potentialities it has in its underbelly and also of its timeliness and appropriateness. Some pundits have even concluded inter alia that maybe we are just a doomed nation where those that are elected into public office and have made a lot of pre-election promises to the people suddenly forget the purpose for which they are in office and almost immediately begin to engage is clandestine and self-perpetuating intrigues that do not align with the expectations and aspirations of the generality of Nigerians. They swear an oath to bear true allegiance to the constitution and work for the benefit of the masses; but no sooner than they consolidate their positions, they are no longer beholden to those sacred vows.
It is within the context of the foregoing that one can succinctly situate this nauseating call for a six years single term for the executive, being the president and the governors. It is not in my style to quickly join the fray on contentious national issues as this, but I must interpolate quickly this time around as we are a people that do not learn from history because we forget it so fast and are therefore bound to repeat it. This tenure elongation gambit (that is what it is) always rears its ugly head whenever the National Assembly contemplates a constitutional amendment- the third attempt between 2007 and now. When former President Olusegun Obasanjo realised his time in office was up, he contrived a constitutional amendment where several sections were slated for alteration, among which was the gambit to allow for a third term for the President; which will also retroactively commence from his administration- thereby ensuring the elongation of his stay in office.
Nigerians saw through that constitutional amendment charade that was predestined to actualise the amoral desire of the wily general. Despite having other clear and positive sections of the document that really ought to be amended, that exercise was truncated. We are again back to the familiar path, the gladiators are back to the trenches and the method remain the same; suffice it to say the outcome is already a fait accompli, or will President Goodluck Jonathan succeed where valiant men like Babangida and Obasanjo failed? However, making a success or otherwise of this latest ploy is not the intendment of this essay, but making a censure on the implication and needlessness of this debate at this juncture. At this critical point in our national life, Nigeria is in dire need of a visionary leader brimming with revolutionary ideas on addressing key issues like the comatose power sector, unemployment, decrepit infrastructures, citizen's welfare, dwindling economic fortunes, plummeting education standards and the most debilitating of all, the rising epidemic of insecurity and sectarian violence as epitomised by the deadly Boko Haram sect.
What should be at the crux of the impending constitutional review is to look into our extant laws and do a plus or minus on them by either creating more laws to accelerate Mr. President's action plan on these sectors or expunging certain existing provisions that have become impediments to the implementation of policies formulated for the development of critical sectors. While one cannot expressly accuse President Jonathan of being behind this gambit, he cannot be wholly extricated from it. One is appalled that presidential minders in cahoots with certain unpatriotic, overpaid and indolent legislators are already scheming on extra-constitutional elongation of executive tenure at the expense of delivering democratic dividends. Why heat up the polity with another presidential selfish maneuver? Is there no limit to which our elected leaders elevate their shenanigans in their lustful bid for self perpetuation buy all means? The current four years term is barely two months old and our leaders are already scheming for post-2015, how ludicrous?
Mr. President should indicate that he is on the side of popular opinion by dissociating himself from this gambit and halt that particular proposal from the list of amendment he sent to the legislature, at least for now. He should concentrate on justifying the mandate he currently holds. Besides, this tenure argument persists because of our nature as a greedy and selfish people. It is not the number of years that matters but the level of impact a leader makes in the first four years that qualifies for continuity. Peradventure the six years single term eventually materialise, what assurances are there for performance? A visionless, clueless and corrupt leader that is surrounded by crass opportunists will grope around office for an assured six years and leave happily with his loot thereafter, while Nigeria remains as ever; but a visionary, patriotic and honest leader will jumpstart our socio-economic regeneration in four years and subsequently get another mandate to complete the good work.
President Jonathan and the National Assembly leadership should avoid this huge distraction and show a sense of history by desisting from this ominous path. We must not be thrown into another lengthy season of acrimony and national hysteria over an irrelevant tenure debate that will surely overshadow the constitution amendment. This moment calls for great discretion.
Bolajipundit, Executive Director, Lighthouse Communications, Abeokuta, Ogun State