JONATHAN'S SIX-YEAR SINGLE TERM BILL
The latest debate in the country now is the desirability or otherwise of a six-year single term for president and governors of the 36 states of the federation. The bill yet to be sent to the National Assembly for consideration is the brain child of President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan.
The proposed bill was not explicit on the tenure of federal law makers but says that they can vie for re-election depending on the need of their constituency. It was silent on what happens at the third tier of government-the local government administration. These are some of the short-comings of the ill-intentioned bill that may likely be thrown out by the federal legislators.
Jonathan's bill is meant just to elongate the tenure of the executive arm at federal and state levels. It spared no thought on the tenure of chairmen of local governments, and the state legislators. The bill, if it sails through, will take effect from 2015. Why should a bill emanating from a transformational government be silent on the tenure of political officers at council level as well as state legislators and allowing the fate of federal legislators to their constituencies?
The president also assured that he and his deputy, Namadi Sambo will not inherit the new tenure arrangement. His reason for introducing the bill is to remove the acrimony and violence that trail second term ambition of the executive arm of government. A lot of resources too are wasted conducting elections every four years. He said that during the campaign for second term bid, that governance suffers. But bringing six-year tenure, in his estimation, will solve the problem posed by the quest for second term.
In reality, Jonathan's fears are indeed well known but whether a single term of six years will be the panacea to the problem is yet another issue. This is not the first time that the idea of a single term is being mooted. But each time the issue crops up there has never been an agreement on the number of years. During Olusegun Obasanjo era, the matter came up with some people suggesting a single term of five years. Later nothing came out of the exercise as the then president was hell-bent on his third term agenda which Nigerians vehemently opposed. And because OBJ did no get his third term agenda, everything about constitutional amendment of that era was thrown away.
Though, the president like any other Nigerian is free to air his views on any national issue he feels strongly about, but he needs to convince Nigerians of his motive and sincerity of purpose in proposing the bill. Nigerians cannot be blamed for having cause to doubt their leaders. They have been deceived severally by many of their leaders that it has become very difficult to know when a leader is saying the truth and when he is telling the lie. In this era of politics, anything can be rationalized including falsehood painted as truth.
A leader can deny what he said and even add that he was quoted out of context or that the reporter was mischievous in misquoting him. We have had plenty of such trash in the past that we do not want a repeat. A government that reneges on agreement cannot be easily trusted. If you are in doubt, ask Labour, ASUU just for example.
Jonathan will find it extremely difficult convincing Nigerians of his sincerity in proposing the bill being labelled toxic by critics. They will not believe him that he will not partake of the long term he is the architect and midwife of. Even if Joe does not want it initially, the politicians will push him into it and before you know it, advertisements endorsing such move will flood the media. Or, the lawmakers can amend the constitution in such a way that it is neither here nor there on serving president taking a shot. What it requires is instituting a lawsuit for Supreme Court interpretation on the contentious section. At the end of the day, the president will have his way and nothing will happen.
If Joe is not interested in testing the pie why is it that upon all the constitutional problems facing the country like structural imbalance, true or fiscal federalism, ethnicity, religious fanaticism, Boko Haram insurrection, Islamic banking, terrorism amongst others that the tenure issue ranks highest in his estimation? Why the haste to bring the bill? There is more to the bill than meets the eye.
Agreed that democracy is not the same everywhere in the world but we must be careful not to bring in things that would undermine the very principles of democracy. Are there countries that practice single term democracy that we can learn from? Democracy allows the electorate to make a choice among those offering to lead. It also allows the voter to effect a change in leadership when he feels there is the need to do so. This was amply demonstrated in Imo and some other states where the people voted against inept leadership. A single term will rob the electorate of this right and opportunity to change leadership. A single term will lead to dictatorship.
The argument that the bid for second term tasks much on the quality of governance and is attended by much bickering, violence and waste of resources is true but should not be overstretched. The problem here does not lie essentially with second term ambition. Part of the problem is corruption of the electoral process. If the electoral process is weaned of corruption as was the case in Imo State supplementary polls of May 6, 2011, the fears over second term ambition will no longer be there. If the votes of the electorate count, the issue of second term war should be a thing of the past. It is when wuruwuru and magomago held sway that second term ambition over-heats the polity and causes wars and unconscionable sleaze among politicians. Make the polls credible and the violence will give way. Violence ensues when people are short-changed. It occurs when the sanctity of the ballot is violated.
It is not true that a single term of six years will eliminate the wars over election or corruption among elected officers. If Jonathan and Sambo are not interested in second term, what about state governors that are running their first term now?
What about state assembly legislators? The new bill will create a lot of confusion. It is not going to solve any problem. The wars now will be transferred to the beginning of the single term since there will be no second term. Six years is even enough for one to corruptly enrich himself and damn the consequences. The solution lies in good governance and not the number of terms we run. Trust Nigerians, any system you run, you will find those that will circumvent it, except if run by gods. Some Nigerians have great capacity for novelties. They are very inventive in finding a way out of a tight situation even if it means contravening the law.
The nation's problem now is not tenure elongation but having a credible administration that will govern the people well. Nigerians need good governance. They want transparency in governance. They want leaders that will do what they preach. We want leaders that we can trust. We need honest and patriotic leadership that will be selfless and patriotic. And we have since independence lacked exemplary leadership.
Corruption is the main problem confronting the nation. I had thought that the president will dwell more on that instead of the single term tenure issue. Jonathan should leave this bill to die a natural death. It is not in the best interest of the country. It is seen as being selfish and deceitful and a subtle attempt to elongate his regime. No matter how hard government spokespersons tried to sell this bill, it will not sail through. Even if this bill emanates from all the political parties except the ACN, it is not what Nigerians want now. Even if it has been on since Umaru Yar'Adua, is it what Nigerians need now? Is it top of our priorities? The answer is no doubt in the negative.
Nigerians want peace, good roads, water, hospitals, electricity, food, shelter, quality education, jobs and enhanced wages. These are the issues confronting Jonathan's presidency. He should tackle them frontally and leave the tenure bill alone. The bill is unpopular and uncalled for at this period of our nationhood. Above all, most Nigerians are opposed to it.