BABANGIDA TO JONATHAN: FORGET SINGLE TERM PROPOSAL
Former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, has condemned the idea of a constitution amendment that would guarantee a six-year single tenure for a president and governors. He said the idea was brought up in bad faith to 'heat up the polity for no reason other than somebody is trying to be clever by half.'
He asked President Goodluck Jonathan to suspend the presentation of the proposed bill to the National Assembly, except if it contains clauses that would alleviate the sufferings of ordinary Nigerians.
Speaking through his spokesman, Kassim Afegbua, in a telephone interview on Thursday, Babangida queried the timing of the idea of a constitution amendment and said proposing such a bill immediately on assumption of office demonstrated the insensitiveness of President Jonathan's government.
He said: 'Have we found solutions to our declining GDP? Have we found solutions to our depleting foreign reserves? Have we found solutions to the insecurity in the country? Have we found the solution to the unemployment situation in the country? Is the clamour for a six-year single tenure going to solve all of that? I say capital no.
I think it is better for the government of President Goodluck Jonathan to sit back and confront the security and other challenges facing the nation now.
'If you take a look at the GDP of African countries, I think Nigeria is a distant third or fourth. That is not a good omen for a country that prides itself as the giant of Africa. This is our position and I think the government would see reasons why it is important to discard this unpopular idea in the interest of all.'
The former president traced the history of a new tenure for Nigerian leaders, noting that the six-year single tenure was not new in Nigeria.
For example, he said, prior to 1989, during his era, it was one of the issues discussed by the constitutional conference, which he set up under the leadership of the late Justice Anthony Aniagolu before the 1989 constitution was structured.
'After that, during the Abacha's constitutional conference of 1995/96, it was also tabled for discussion exhaustively and the conclusion was that this term of four-four years was better,' he said.
Babangida, however, admitted that there were proposals as to the effects of rotation and that former vice president, Dr. Alex Ekwueme's proposal of six vice presidents that would reflect the yearnings of the respective zones was exhaustively discussed.
'So, settling down for four years of single term or option of a rerun or a second term was considered as the best in the present circumstance, based on the discussions that were held before. So, this is one issue that was considered as settled. It doesn't need further deliberation, consultations or what have you,' the former military president remarked.
He spurned the reasons adduced by the presidency and its spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abatti and raised questions bordering on the credibility of the recently concluded polls.
Hear him: 'The reasons that the presidency and the presidential spokesman are giving are no longer tenable because if the 2011 elections were adjudged to be free and fair because it was President Jonathan that won the election.
Why would they complain that they want to stop the idea of spending so much money for re-election?
'If you say the elections were free, fair and credible and that President Jonathan has delivered on his promise of producing credible election, why do you fear about a re-election or absence of it if your hands are clean? So, I believe there are serious challenges confronting Nigeria. There are serious challenges confronting each and every one of us in trying to stabilize this democracy.'
Babangida said the issue is not Nigeria's priority for now and that it should not occupy the centre stage of socio-political discuss at this moment when Nigerians have challenges of insecurity, unemployment, poor infrastructure and poor economy.
'For example, why can't we come up with a provision, in the constitution, that would protect the rights of the common man in the village, in terms of their indiscriminate arrests by the police; in terms of torture? Why don't you make provisions that would free those who have been detained for donkey years in our prisons without trial? Why must it be single term tenure or what have you? I think we have travelled on this road before. We don't need to travel through it again,' he concluded.