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TENURE: FIRST TERM GOVS SHOULD NOT BENEFIT -MBADINUJU

By NBF News
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 Mbadinuju
Former Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, in this interview with journalists in Abuja bares his mind on the proposed constitution amendments, Sovereign Wealth Fund and other issues. NIYI ODEBODE was there.

The governors disagree with the Federal Government over the Sovereign Wealth Fund. How should the issue be resolved?

I must say that majorities of our people do not know what the sovereign wealth fund means. It sounds like an insurance, to save money for future. The SWF both in concept and policy, falls within the President's Transformation Programme in terms of new ideas and the need to turn around from going in the wrong direction. It won't be a good practice for a nation to consume all it has without thinking of the future. Unfortunately, the governors in their wisdom decided a few days ago to delay the implementation of the SWF in order to first sort out constitutional issues that have arisen. The President on his part warned about the danger of delay, as they say 'delay is dangerous'. Both the President and the governors are correct. We hope that at the end of the day the governors will see the need to move fast on this major economic transformation policy, not only to feed well today but to have a leftover for tomorrow. Nobody can fault this new approach, except when it comes to implementation.

What do you think about the proposed six-year single tenure by President Goodluck Jonathan?

I support the proposal. I also urge Nigerians to support it. But there are reports that the bill will enable first term governors to stay in office for 10 years ,that is, to have their normal four years plus the newly proposed six years. This arrangement does not sound right as it raises the question of why some governors should stay in office for 10 years when the President voluntarily chose to stay for four years.

The plan for the first term governors, if not properly managed, may defeat the whole constitutional amendment as the third term led to the defeat of the whole exercise a few years back. When a situation like this develops, everyone affected must act in the nation's interest. It is the national interest that made President Jonathan decide not to benefit from the six- year-term arrangement.

What is the alternative?
It is either the affected first term governors do not benefit from the new six-year one term plan like the President, or the amended constitution should grant them additional two years to make their tenure six years. After the governors' additional two years, the Independent National Electoral Commission should then organise an election in those affected states and under the amended constitution on six years, one term basis. If the four -year first term governors are allowed to have another six years to make 10 years, then some former governors who did only four years first term but did not contest for second term of four years should also have the discretion to contest on the new six years of first term because as they say what is good for the goose is good also for the gander.

There have been calls for the removal of immunity clause. What is your take on this?

The impeachment clause should be retained in the new amended constitution and should apply strictly to the President, governors and local government chairmen against any form of abuse of office. Security votes or funds, which hitherto, have been alleged to be avenue of siphoning government funds should be pegged nationally and constitutionally. Or on the other extreme it should be abolished completely.

What of the plan on local government autonomy and other proposed amendment?

The local government autonomy should be enshrined in the new amended constitution. Equality of states should also be guaranteed. In this respect, it is either we create one additional state in the South-East to bring it at par, (that is, 6 states) with South-West, South -South, North-Central and North- East or we create two additional states from South- East and 1 additional State from South West, South South, North Central, for all the six zones to have seven states each. There should be a new zonal arrangement to make provision for two vice- presidents, one from the incumbent President's zone and the other from any other zone as may be provided in parties zoning arrangements. This is necessary should anything happen as in the case of Yar'Adua where the vice-president from the late President's zone would have taken over. The state structure we have now should be preserved but I strongly recommend the institution of state police with defined roles. Federal Revenue Allocation should no no longer be based on number of LGAs per state but rather on equality (number) of states. Furthermore, Federal Revenue Allocations should go straight to the LGAs without the usual detour of the allocation going through any state government authority.

Derivation principles should be enshrined in the new amended constitution such that states can retain 30 per cent of what they produce and 70 per cent accruing to the Federal Government.

Two former presidents, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (retd.), have publicly exchanged abusive words. What is the implication of this?

I feel it was very entertaining, and something good for Nigeria. I wouldn't have advised Mr. President to stop them. It has been long since the two generals have been sizing up each other in a way of cold war, of no war and no peace. So it is good that there is this opportunity for them to talk to themselves and to the people of Nigeria. We have been thoroughly educated as each general outlined his achievements in office as in the case of the period when Babangida was the Head of State, or the periods when Obasanjo was either the Military Head of State or the civilian President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We were told of how IBB and former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, and Gen. Gusau, former National Security Adviser, worked and plotted the freedom of Obasanjo who was jailed for life. They didn't stop at helping to free him, they also plotted to make him Nigeria's President.

We were told there was a 'gentle man's agreement' whereby after Obasanjo's four years as President, he would step down for former Head of State, Babangida. Obasanjo, according to Babangida, breached the accord twice in 2003 and 2004. This is the background of IBB's grouse against his friend and colleague General. With this, the public may still be waiting to hear from Obasanjo, his reasons for deciding to renege in his agreement.

What is your opinion on the deregistration of seven political parties?

The question agitating the minds of people is whether INEC has breached the constitution or the law/act of the National Assembly. To me, the presumption should be that ordinarily INEC will act within the laws and the constitution that established it so that the onus will rest on those who say that it acted outside the law. So far, all we have heard and seen are mere emotions from groups and individuals insisting that INEC has no powers to deregister an already existing political party. INEC itself justified its action based on the fact that the seven de-registered parties won no seat in the last April elections and that there was no justification to fund such parties and allow them to be a drain on the public purse. To me this makes sense, but what is the position of the law?

Those opposing the action of INEC insists that when once a party is registered it remains registered and because it wins no seat in any election should not be reason for deregistration. The argument of the Chairman of the ANPP, Dr. Ogbonnia Onu, seems to make sense that if a party does not win now it might win next time. But not every argument that makes sense is legal or lawful. It has to be lawful before it can make sense in the context of issue on hand.

However, many will like to see INEC satisfy the public demand for proof of its legal basis in taking the action to deregister. Indeed because of our constitutional provision for freedom of association, to belong or not belong to one group or the other, nothing done outside the law and the constitution can stand no matter how compelling the need may be. The ball therefore is in the court of INEC to explain its legal basis for the actions it took.

President Goodluck Jonathan has been criticised over his action on the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami…

On the issue of removal of Justice Salami from the office as President of the Court of Appeal, again we must have recourse to the law and whether his removal was grounded in the provisions of the constitution or that of the National Assembly. Now it is a public knowledge that the National Judicial Council has the constitutional role to recommend people to Mr. President for appointment into categories of judicial offices or posts subject to two-thirds confirmation vote in the Senate. This was the process through which Justice Salami got into that post in the first place. The controversy now is not whether he could be removed, but rather whether the process of his removal followed due process and rule of law.

The point has been made that while Justice Salami's matter was already in court, the NJC recommended the Court of Appeal President for discharge from his office. The President in excercise of his discretion did not dismiss Justice Salami from office, rather the President played safe and merely appointed an acting President of the Court. If the President has dismissed Salami without going through the Senate the action would have come in for debate. But the President said he wanted the judicial process to be running while the issues surrounding the NJC and Justice Salami are sorted out. This is the President's job to do in his absolute discretion.