4th August, 2011
The venom was even ready before the proposal. It was a very good example of the chicken and the egg.
President Goodluck Jonathanâ€™s proposal for a single 6-year term for Nigerian Presidents and Governors drew a rancourous criticisms that even baffled the President himself.
The crux of the matter is not that the proposal is enviable and unproductive or irrelevant but that the opposition parties mostly from the northern and south western states do not believe in a president coming from the south-south zone of Nigeria.
It is another convenient excuse for the Northern elite to make â€œNigeria ungovernable if President Goodluck Jonathan winsâ€.
If not, why the hullabaloo about a very patriotic proposal that will only accelerate the nationâ€™s progress with an incontestable domino effect on the national economy and all facets of Nigerian life? If not, why so much ado about an innocuous proposal that will only concretise the gains of Nigeriaâ€™s nascent democracy?
No wonder Alexander Pope in the â€œRape of the Lockâ€ laments â€œwhat mighty contests rise from trivial things.â€
This banal opposition to every good proposal and achievement of the president is only meant to frustrate and distract him from the good work he has decided to embark upon.
The opposition parties of ACN, CPC and ANPP had a field day in their rush to kill a proposal they had not had time to fully scrutinise.
This shows the quality of our present day opposition parties in Nigeria. An opposition party must be able to give superior alternative argument to proposals of any government in power. This was the case in the 50s and 60s when Chief Obafemi Awolowoâ€™s Action Group was always ahead of the then government at the centre. This is because Chief Awolowoâ€™s Action Group was intellectually and mentally better equipped than the parties at the centre.
But today the reverse is the case The mad rush to kill any Jonathan proposal and idea is the beginning of wisdom for Nigeriaâ€™s opposition parties. It is not meant to be so.
Another reason why the single 6-year term is repulsive to Nigerians is because our politicians see politics as a full time occupation. For some it is a limited liability affair. For others it is a do-or-die affair. For this category of political jobbers, 6 years is too long a time to wait for another round of financial profligacy and political recklessness.
This is so because in Nigeria another election means the emergence of a new set of millionaires who assault and ravage government treasuries to power themselves into positions of authority.
Most of those in the opposition camp of Jonathanâ€™s single 6-year term are either conveniently ignorant or flagrantly mischievous. Most of them mischievously input this proposal to an elongation of Jonathanâ€™s tenure. But the President on Thursday, 28 July, 2011 explained the rationale and his position on the proposal which is billed to resume with the senators at the end of August 2011. The Presidentâ€™s elucidation further fuelled a bitter opposition to this life-saving bill.
Political engineering and process is never static. So many countries all over the world have adopted the six-year tenure but their politicians have not persecuted the presidents of these countries. Countries like Finland, Sir Lanka, Philippines Mexico, Australia and Ethiopia) with neighbouring Liberia all change their governments after 6 years. Some of these countries never started off with a 6-year tenure. They must have arrived this station through an evolutionary process. Nigerians should allow our political system to evolve too.
The 6-year single term proposal is the better of the two options. For instance, the American system is based on a 4-year tenure with a renewable option. And today as I write, America has just been saved from the brink of disaster as she risked being downgraded from her triple â€œAâ€ credit rating if her debt ceiling had not been raised by 2 August, 2011.
And even in the worldâ€™s greatest country bipartisan polarity has made it impossible for both Houses and the President to agree because of the 2012 Presidential elections in America.
But the opposite Republican Party and the ruling Democratic Party are all playing to the gallery hoping to win laurels for next yearâ€™s presidential election.
Even in America, elections are a â€œfight to the finishâ€.
There is no doubt that under such circumstances, the incumbent presidentâ€™s focus is distracted and sometimes frustrated as he targets votes in the forthcoming elections rather than concentrating on governance.
We have seen it displayed even under worse circumstances in Nigeria. Most of the previous Nigerian rulers spent about one year settling into office and spent a few months at governance before plunging full time into strategies on how to win the next election. It does not end there. From there the incumbent president builds superlative personal and party structures for an election that is over 2 years away- all at government expenses.
That is why a former Federal Government spent N300 billion on Federal Roads without any visible impact. Of course, we all know that the money was ploughed back into the ruling party to strengthen it for the next election.
But on the contrary a single, 6-year tenure will not bother about a forthcoming election as the constitution has already constrained him to a single term.
There is therefore an incontestable proof to show that for a highly corrupt and developing country like Nigeria the 2-term 4-year tenure is irrelevant, unproductive and inarguably detrimental to the survival of our nascent democracy.
The single 6-year tenure will reduce the pressure and financial wastages associated with the campaign for a 2nd term as early as the 2nd year of the first term. This 2nd term success could even goad an over-ambitions President to try a 3rd tenure. Our experience in this regard has been very disastrous with calamitous economic consequences. The 4-year double tenure system also encourages acrimony intrigues, bad blood, assassinations, mayhem, violence and quantum deaths. This is because there is so much haste in taking party decisions and these hasty conclusions most times result in assassinations which are physical manifestations of subterranean acrimony and intrigues. It is therefore inarguably true that the single 6-year tenure encourages party and political maturity and stability. We are all aware of the political assassinations between 1999 and 2007. May Nigeria never experience that era again- Amen. These are all offshoots of shorter electoral intervals.
It is true that President Goodluck Jonathan conducted a free and fair election but this may not be so when the next president comes in. We may be back to the old bitter days of do-or-die politics. And so reducing the risks of elections can be achieved by reducing the frequency of elections.
Past Nigerian presidents have frequently abandoned governance to concentrate on future elections by depleting government treasury to win such elections.
The one term 6-year tenure encourages leaders to concentrate on governance without distraction. This also translates to a positive and purposeful leadership style because of the lack of distractions by way of intrigues and hidden agenda.
The 6-year single tenure will also make it possible for more geopolitical zones in this country to have a shot at the Presidency.
Nigerians have conveniently decided to forget the 1995 constitutional conference which recommended a constitutionally backed single 6-year tenure for Nigerian Presidents and Governors. Even though the recommendations of this conference did not see the light of day, it is a pointer to the fact that the proposal has been in the cooler for some time now. Even the late President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua was in love with the idea before his death.
So to now say that President Goodluck Jonathan wants to perpetuate himself in office is a very baseless and wicked insinuation which has neither merit nor foundation.
It is the handiwork of those politicians who believe that it is their inalienable right to rule this country forever. They believe that 6 years outside the corridors of power will spell doom for them as they neither till nor sow and have no other job or income apart from stashing away huge government funds in secret bank vaults abroad.
Nigerians should rather rally round their President so that we can all with a united destiny move this great country forward into the comity of great and prosperous nations.
God Bless Nigeria.
â€¢Ben NANAGHAN could be reached through this e-mail address: [email protected]