IT'S TENURE ELONGATION IN DISGUISE -NZERIBE
President Goodluck Jonathan's proposal to amend the constitution to limit the tenure of the President and governors to a single term of six years has received more knocks as elder statesman, Senator Arthur Nzeribe, yesterday accused him of seeking an indirect extension of his tenure.
The President had last Tuesday through his Special Adviser (Media), Dr Rueben Abati, told Nlgerians that he would send the proposed single term proposal as a Constitution Amendment Bill to the National Assembly for ratification. The plan, if approved by the lawmakers, would start in 2015 while President Jonathan insisted that he and his deputy, Alhaji Namadi Sambo, will not benefit from the arrangement. The President reiterated this when he met with the National Executive Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Abuja, last Thursday.
But the opposition parties cried foul, insisting that the President could not be trusted on the single term. The proposed political arrangement had received knocks and a very few kudos from the opposition parties and the general public.
Speaking to reporters in Abuja yesterday, Senator Nzeribe said he did not support the plan since it was mooted by the Presidency. He dismissed the proposed deal as second-term move in disguise.
The Senator who also debunked his rumoured death, said he was surprised that former President Olusegun Obasanjo had not supported the proposal. He, however, said it was too early to judge if Jonathan would seek re-election at the end of his current tenure.
Reminded that he was a key supporter of Obasanjo's failed Third Term project, Nzeribe said the context was not the same, adding that 'anything political is doable.'
Nzeribe expressed surprise that the government had not been able to deal with the security challenge posed by the Boko Haram Islamist sect. He said he found it difficult to believe that the government was entirely helpless in solving the puzzle.
According to him, 'I find it strange that the government can't pin-point the people causing the problem. I don't believe it is a problem they cannot solve if they want to.'
He said that the Boko Haram crisis cannot be any worse than that posed by the former Niger Delta militants, hence, he wondered why the present problem appeared to have proved more difficult.
Noting that what was lacking was the political will to confront the security challenge, Nzeribe said what was required was not force, adding that he was not averse to amnesty if it would solve the problem. 'I am for whatever would bring peace,' he stated.
He described the emergence of Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal as the Speaker of the House of Representatives as democracy at work. He said he opposed the recent call by Obasanjo that the Speaker should resign after two years.
In any case, he said the same former President had pleaded with the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democracy Party (PDP) at its recent meeting 'that we should let the sleeping dog lie. He said that the act had been committed already.'
The former senator said it was wrong to conclude that he was sacked from the Senate, since according to him, the circumstances that led to his inability to return to the National Assembly in 2007 was a notorious fact.
'Did I really contest in the primaries? I saw what was coming. I am getting old, and my shock absorbers were getting weak. I know when to dive and when to punch, so it was a good thing,' he said.
Although he declined to say whether the salaries of federal lawmakers were over-bloated or not, Nzeribe explained that whatever amount paid was in accordance with the law since the money is paid from the treasury.
'Nobody has challenged it; it is not for me to say whether they are overpaid or underpaid, but how much they are paid is entirely according to the law. There is a process, they do not pay themselves; they are paid from the treasury,' he said.
Senator Nzeribe said he felt like a person who had just lost an election when former Governor Ikedi Ohakim lost the last gubernatorial poll in Imo State, adding that the former governor had believed he would win and had prepared for victory,'but unfortunately, nature said otherwise.'
He regretted that he was out of the country, in a hospital while the election took place, and said the story would have been different had he been in the country at that time.
Describing himself as a calculative person, Nzeribe said he had no regrets for any of his actions, including the role he played in the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential poll, adding, 'if I do it, I do it because I want to do it.'
Nzeribe attributed it to the handiwork of the 'evil-minded persons' just like those that masterminded the rumoured death of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe before his demise.