• Wednesday, July 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

Controversy trails 6-year single term proposal for president, governors

Fourth Quarter appraisal of the 10th Senate

…Fantastic idea, 8 years just waste of time – SAN

…Must not be ploy to elongate incumbent govt

… Falana, others kick, ‘It is a misplaced priority’

Many Nigerians have reacted to the recent proposal by a group of federal lawmakers championing bill for an amendment to the 1999 Constitution to give way for a single six-year term for the president and governors.

The recommendation, which is yet to be discussed in the plenary session of the two chambers, is only one of several other proposals made by the lawmakers.

It is not yet clear if current occupants of elective offices would benefit if the bill is passed and signed into law in the current dispensation.

The lawmakers are also proposing the rotation of the presidency between the North and South as well as the creation of a second vice president.

These proposals are part of six constitutional alteration bills introduced by the lawmakers on the floor of the House.

Since the lawmakers made the bill public last week, it has attracted mixed reactions among Nigerians.

Read also: Reps propose six-year single term for president, zonal rotation

While some said it would go a long way in checking the desperation associated with second term and enables the incumbent to focus on their job, some others were of the opinion that such was not a pressing need of the hour, alleging that the proposal tended to distract Nigerians.

Those who have thrown their weight behind the proposal however, said that it was the solution to bad governance and chaos seen in the nation’s electoral process.

They particularly said that it would go a long way in checking the desperation of politicians to win re-election at all cost and would make them settle down to work knowing they only have one tenure.

Ladipo Johnson, publicity secretary of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) said it was not a bad idea, he however, warned that the move must not be to extend the tenure of the current administration.

Johnson said: “The proposal makes sense; some countries are doing it. But it must not be to elongate the tenure of this government?”

Udo uduak, lawyer, said it was obvious the current system was not working and that the country needed a change.

He noted such amendments should be part of the holistic change that should be carried out in the constitution going forward.

“Is it not obvious that the current system is not working? We need a new constitution, or a comprehensive amendment should be made and part of it should be for single tenure for president and governors to save us from this logjam and trouble we often see because someone wants re-election. They can now face governance, knowing you have only one term,” he said.

Reacting to the development recently, Olisa Agbakoba, a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), said he supported one term of not even 6 years but four years.

According to him, “Why do I need two terms of 8 years to do whatever I want to do as President. Anybody who is serious about governance can make the mark in two years. How long did it take Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) to turn things around in America in the 30s which could be termed one of the worst periods in America? Don’t forget that it was from him we now have 100 days in office that politicians celebrate. Within 100 days FDR had made his marks. But we don’t see such hunger to do the right thing here. We wait for second term.

“It is this illusion that ‘O, I have more four years’ that elected office holders waste their time and the time of everybody. If I had four years as a president, within two years, I would have done the major work I need to do. I don’t need eight years. It is a waste of time.”

A former party leader who spoke to BusinessDay Sunday on condition of anonymity said that Nigerians must “shine their eyes” to know where the proponents are coming from.

“I just want to warn Nigerians to shine their eyes to know where those making the proposals are coming from. A lot of things look innocent on the face value but there are deeper meanings underneath. Is a single term good? If you ask me, that’s the way to go to make us serious in Nigeria. But how sincere and genuine are the proponents? We must put our eyes on the National Assembly on this matter,” the politician said.

Andrew Okon, a public affairs commentator, argued that the desperation for second term is not necessarily driven by patriotism or the passion for service, but by the obsession with the greed for power for its own sake.

He was of the opinion that the two terms of four years have been a curse rather than a blessing to Nigeria since 1999, and needs an urgent review in view of prevailing events that have characterised elections in Nigeria.

Okon said: “It the bill sails through, it would be great. Two terms of eight years have not really helped Nigeria. A serious and good leader hits the ground running the moment he is inaugurated. But what we see here is a situation where the president and governors gallivant all over the place in the first two years they should have sat down to work, the third year they begin to plot for re-election thinking they would do magic after re-election.

“If I may ask, how long did Murtala Mohammed last in government as the head of state in Nigeria? But within that short space of time, every Nigerian knew a leader was in the saddle. I am sure, if that man had lasted for two years, there would have been a great change in the country. So, it is not about how long, it is how well.”

Falana, others kick

Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, dismissed agitations for six years single term for president and state governors by federal lawmakers, he noted that the country had more pressing, bigger and challenging issues facing it now than term limit for president and state governors.

“I don’t think the suggestion of six-year single term for the president is part of the issues facing Nigeria,” Falana said.

The Conference of United Political Parties (CUPP) said the main challenge facing Nigeria today is not the tenure of political office holders but the question of purposeful leadership.

Spokesperson for the group, Peter Ameh said Nigerians must also change their mind set about public office.

Ameh said: “What we have now is good enough if we have purposeful leadership to drive it.

“Even if we return to the regional government today, what we will have is the decentralisation of corruption.

“What we should be looking at is putting in place appropriate sanctions for those who loot the treasury and deny citizens the basic necessities of life.

“Our people are suffering, they are hungry, infant and maternal mortality in Nigeria is one of the highest in the world, these are things our lawmakers should be concerned about.

“No matter the system you have in place, if those who are to drive it lack sincerity, it will take us nowhere. Let’s not deceive ourselves.”

Speaking in a similar vein, the National Coordinator of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), Emmanuel Onwubiko, described the pursuit of such a bill at this point in Nigeria’s history as misplacement of priority.

According to him, “Such a bill is a misplacement of priority. What we need now is equity and the National Assembly needs to pay attention to this. We have more serious issues such as insecurity and our dwindling economy.

“On the issue of equity, one more state should be created for the South East. It is becoming increasingly worrisome that each time the issue of constitutional amendment comes up, tenure of political office holders comes up.

“The constitution should be used for a substantial period of time before any major amendment is carried out. This ritual of amending the constitution every four years is not taking us anywhere.”

Recent events in Kogi and Bayelsa States gubernatorial elections have perhaps fuelled these agitations for electoral reforms, especially as regard the introduction of electronic voting and transmission of results.

The six-year single tenure proposal is not new to Nigeria. In 2014, former president, Goodluck Jonathan, proposed the six-year single term for president and governors, saying it would ensure good governance.

Jonathan’s proposal was then taken with a pinch-of-salt by political leaders across the country. In 2019 such bill was also brought before the National Assembly. It was sponsored by John Dyegh (APC-Gboko/Tarka Federal constituency of Benue State), but was rejected.

Dyegh had attributed the rejection of the bill by his colleagues to their lack of understanding of its intent.

But five years later, it appears that the logjam which has characterised the nation’s electoral system has necessitated the reintroduction of the bill.