2nd August, 2011
The debate on the six-year single term tenure for the President and the Governors in Nigeria is unnecessary, diversionary and stupid. This country does not need this useless debate now. This country is lying prostrate in the age of progress. This country is going through very difficult times now. This country is suffering decay of infrastructure on all fronts. This country is seriously facing leadership challenges from all corners. This country is going down and hopelessly and helplessly losing respect in the world.
Given the monumental problems facing the country now, one would have thought that President Goodluck Jonathan and his team will roll up their sleeves and go to work but see what we are getting. Is this what Jonathan promised us? Is this what to expect? Is it a priority? Is it important? Will it be beneficial to all concerned? Will it add value to Nigeria ? Is it fair to all concerned? Six-year single term: Qui bono? (For whose benefit?)
President Jonathan and his handlers keep on insulting our collective intelligence that six-year single term will reduce cost of elections, checkmate acrimony, killings and division every election year. They tell us it will checkmate the old practice of governors who will use their first term in office to campaign for second term. They tell us it will make it easy for all the zones in Nigeria to have a shot at the presidency. But this is kindergarten, self-serving and retrogressive. It makes no sense to me. It shows lack of depth. It shows weakness or laziness or both.
The 2011 elections proved to me that we can get it right if there is the political will. If Ikeddy Ohakim, Adebayo Alao-Akala and other incumbents can be voted out of office in a free and fair election, then the debate is unnecessary and uncalled for at this critical point in the nationâ€™s chequered history. Professor Attahiru Jega has proved beyond reasonable doubt that it is possible to bring about the desired change in Nigeria if given the right platform to work on and the necessary support. What we need in this country is the political will to take strong actions against election riggers and bring the culprits to book and the rest will learn their lessons. Once this is done, all these fears will be taken care of. It is possible to organise a free and fair election from the local government to the Presidency if we so wish. The people get the kind of government they deserve.
President Jonathan has told us that he is not going to benefit from the six-year term deal. Yes, he said that but we cannot trust him, judging from our past experiences. In the last 26 years we have been very busy fighting sit-tight leaders who wanted to remain in office forever, from IBB to Obasanjo. A lot of our brightest and best have been killed in the process and time and space will not permit me to mention their names here. IBB told us that his stay in office will be brief in 1985 but he spent almost 9 years in office until he was chased out in 1993 unceremoniously. Shonekan deceived us and Abacha came and threw him away. Abacha came and told us that his government was a child of circumstance and child of necessity and promised to spend less than one year in office to organise elections. He spent five years in office and wanted to succeed himself but God took life out of him. General Abdulsalami Abubakar could not contemplate staying a day longer than necessary because the whole world was on his neck. When Obasanjo came in 1999, we thought that having been former Head of State, the bug of self-succession will not catch him but we were wrong. OBJ spent billions to succeed himself after eight years in office but failed woefully.
Now, do you think President Goodluck can be trusted? He may not want it but the hawks, charlatans and PDP goons will force him to change his mind. This is the reason I want the National Assembly and State Assemblies to shine their eyes and stop this useless bill. This is not what we need now.
President Jonathan and his co-travelers will tell you again that the six-year single term will make each political zone in the country to have a shot at the presidency, but please tell me, is this what we need now? Primordial sentiments and ethnic preoccupation in determining political leadership in Nigeria have destroyed all the values we hold dear. This myopic engagement has foisted mediocrity and incompetence on the political space and the damage has been colossal. If where we are presently is anything to go by, I suggest that only the best is good enough for this country and anything short of this is unacceptable to me and other well-meaning Nigerians.
I remind the National Assembly members to remember the days of the debate for OBJâ€™s self succession bid. It was the then President of the Senate, Senator Ken Nnamani that told us that Senators will come to the hallowed chambers of the Senate to answer their fathersâ€™ names and they did by rejecting the poisoned chalice. I challenge David Mark to know that the world is watching and Nigerians are watching too. Please do not deny us the opportunity of re-electing a good president or governor after four years of excellent leadership. Please, do not foist a useless president or governor on us for six years. A day is very important in the life of a nation like Nigeria not to talk of when you have to force a worthless president or governor on us for six years.
The truth is that if the National Assembly and the State Houses of Assembly make the mistake of passing this bill, then they should know that the battle line has been drawn and they will be the losers. I advise them to come home for consultations if they are in doubt.
And for President Jonathan, please know that this is not what we voted you to do. Please remove the kid gloves and give us light, fix all the federal roads, fix our educational system, provide adequate security for lives and property, fix our hospitals, provide jobs for Nigerians and put food on our table. Nigerians will in return do other things. This is our demand, GEJ!
â€¢Joe Igbokwe is the Publicity Secretary of Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Lagos State.