THE INSIDE STORY

By NBF News
Listen to article

As the debate over the proposed tenure elongation rages on, Daily Sun can authoritatively confirm that the six-year single term tenure, was actually the idea of the late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, and not that of President Goodluck Jonathan. However, Jonathan bought into the project, following his alleged realisation that it was a possible way of remaining in power beyond 2015.

When Yar'Adua emerged President in 2007, through former President Olusegun Obasanjo, another power bloc hijacked him, and his first few appointments showed that he was not ready to toe Obasanjo's line. Daily Sun gathered that the immediate past Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Yayale Ahmed, was actually penciled down as Yar'Adua's SGF by Obasanjo.

But Yar'Adua and his new backers thought otherwise, and went for Ambassador Babagana Kingibe. Kingibe was later shown the way out in a rather 'disgraceful manner' following his alleged plots to topple his benefactor.

As soon as the cabinet was constituted, Yar'Adua carried on as a man of his own. From the cancellation of the sale of refineries to Dangote and several reversal of Obasanjo's policies, to the perceived persecution of those regarded as Obasanjo's boys. It was clear that Yar'Adua was willing to pursue his course without necessarily seeking any political assistance from the structure that made him President in 2007.

With that in mind, he began a subtle move for his second term ambition at a time he was barely a year in office. The first indication came through former Jigawa State governor, Senator Saminu Turaki. He was the first to canvass for a fresh two terms of seven years each for Yar'Adua, beginning from 2011.

Turaki, who was a member of the National Assembly's Joint Constitution Review Conference (JCRC) in the sixth Senate, was of the view that the only way Nigeria could realize the Vision 20-20 being canvassed by the Yar'Adua administration then, was to give Yar'Adua enough time to see 'to the successful implementation of the programme.'

Interestingly, once Turaki made his proposal public, neither the Presidency nor the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), distanced itself from the call, even though some Nigerians upbraided him for the proposal.

Barely three months after Turaki's proposal, the PDP in its submission to the Justice Mohammed Uwais-led Electoral Reform Panel, went ahead to canvass for a single term of seven years. Turaki, like Yar'Adua is from the North- West.

A Kaduna-based human rights activist, and a member of the Uwais committee, Festus Okoye, told Daily Sun: 'If you read the contribution of the PDP to the Uwais committee, they proposed a single term of seven years. I was a member of that committee, and that has been their position. The only thing is that when the things were hot, they abandoned that position.'

Okoye, however, warned that single term of either six or seven years would lead to internal insurrection in the states and at the federal level. He noted that rather than dissipate energy on the issue of single tenure, Jonathan and the political class should focus attention on security issues, youth unemployment, corruption and other challenges confronting the nation, adding that while the country could tolerate a bad leader for four years, it cannot have a bad leader for six or seven years.

Yar'Adua enlisted the support of the governors through the then Forum's chairman and former Kwara State governor, now Senator Bukola Saraki. The series of meetings held culminated in the October 29, 2008 sack of 20 ministers from the cabinet. The cabinet reshuffle was one of the steps towards ensuring that the late President got the governors on his side ahead of 2011 elections.

Daily Sun's findings revealed that apart from one or two of the ministers who might have been fired for incompetence, majority were fired to pave way for the governors' lackey, who would in turn pay back by ensuring the success of Yar'Adua at the polls in 2011.

The Katsina angle
Once the cabinet was re-constituted then, Katsina, Yar'Adua's home state became charged politically, with persons acknowledged publicly as Yar'Adua's men leading the onslaught against Governor Ibrahim Shema, who was himself installed by the late President. The group was made up of Yar'Adua's political appointees at the federal level, and a few lawmakers, excluding Senator Kanti Bello, but led by former Agriculture Minister, Sayyadi Abba Ruma.

Analysts believe strongly that if Yar'Adua had lived to contest a second term in office, Shema would probably find it difficult returning to the Katsina State Government House. Even if he did, it would certainly not have been with the same ease he was made governor in 2007. The 2011 election in Katsina confirmed the Katsina angle.

Jonathan's tenure elongation move
The first indication that Jonathan was going to buy into the tenure elongation project came when shortly after his election, and after promising that he needed just one term to make his mark, he publicly acknowledged that four years was too small in a life of a public officer in Nigeria to make an impact. Before the presidential poll, a member of the campaign team had in Kaduna, given a veiled indication that the issue of tenure elongation would be revisited, albeit through constitution amendment.

It came through no other person than one-time Kebbi State PDP gubernatorial candidate and former Sports Minister, Alhaji Samaila Sambawa. He was part of the North-West delegates that converged on Kaduna, in January to endorse Jonathan, as the zone's candidate then, ahead of the PDP's presidential primary. He was the Director of Publicity, Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Organization.

He told newsmen: 'Let me tell you, if you had followed any of our campaigns all through we've made our position very clear, that what this President wants is to complete the tenure he has started with his former boss, late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua.

'But even at that we want a situation whereby the tenure of the President of the country should be limited to one term, may be of five or seven years.  But for the National Assembly, because we want experience, there should be some form of continuity. Anyway, I'm not a member of the National Assembly, but this is what most Nigerians are looking forward to see.

'We have said it everywhere, our Director of Campaign has said it several times during the course of our campaign and consultations, and he has made it very clear that we want to have a President for only one time, not only for President Jonathan, but subsequent leaders.  This is our position, because this second tenure causes a lot of acrimony in the polity.'