By Henry Umoru & Daniel Idonor
ABUJA— FOLLOWING criticisms that trailed his proposal to forward a bill to the National Assembly for a single term tenure for the president and governors, President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, declared that the idea was not his but all the political parties except the Action Congress of Nigeria.
President Jonathan who said his current joint ticket with Vice President Namadi Sambo would end in 2015, insisted that he would not be a beneficiary of the constitutional amendment.
He said the bill will be sent to the National Assembly before the end of August.
Speaking while declaring open the 56th National Executive Committee, NEC meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, at the Wadata Plaza, National Secretariat of the Party, the President who noted that he was shocked that the information leaked when he was still consulting said, however, that he will not initiate such a bill when he had not met with the leadership, stakeholders of the party and the governors.
Reduction of acrimony
He said the idea of a single term of six years became imperative against the backdrop that it would reduce the acrimony associated with re-running for another election at the expiration of the first four-year time as well as the huge amount of money involved.
The president noted: “There is a brief comment I want to make on this so-called single tenure. I wouldn’t have loved to, but probably, it is becoming so topical in the papers. Most of the papers carried it today (yesterday) and when things happen, they do take it to a different direction.
“Since we are meeting here as the NEC of the party, it is probably proper to clarify some of these issues so that it will not be misunderstood. The rumour came in, it is me that asked a few people, whether a single tenure will be a better option than a double tenure.
“Before I take any decision, I used to consult. But, that is not the end of consultation. It is a major chain. So, before I can send such a bill to the National Assembly, I will consult with the governors because, any constitutional amendment involves the states and if they are not on the same page with you, there is no way such an amendment can easily sail through.”
President Jonathan told members of NEC that he had not brainstormed with the governors, the leadership of the party and the National Assembly except the discussions he had with some persons on the matter.
Discussion with governors
He said: “I have not even discussed with the governors. I have never. Though as individuals, probably I have mentioned to one or two; probably along the discussion crossing that area. Even the leadership of the party and the National Assembly, I might have mentioned to one or two persons, but not the formal group consultation. I have not done that level of consultation.”
On how the story of the proposed bill came about, the President said: “I asked one or two people about this and I felt that it was a good idea. So, the issue leaked out to the press and instead of talking about whether the issue is a single tenure or we should continue with the tenure, people are rather pinning it to elongation of tenure.
“And people were holding meetings. When we got to know that people were holding meetings, we said no, no, no, clarify this. Nobody should hold meeting about elongation of tenure, it has nothing to do with elongation of tenure. The tenure of Goodluck Jonathan and Namadi Sambo will end on May 29, 2015. That is the constitution. So, it has nothing to do with that.
“But, the clarification that came out, rather compounded the whole story. And how did it even come about? Some of you will remember that in 2008/2009 when we came on board and at the end of the election, the feeling that the election was poorly done was so dramatized both within and outside the country, people felt that elections were not properly conducted.
“I feel personally insulted whenever I travel abroad to hold meetings and people come to make issues as if it was a stolen mandate. I used to tell people around me that no Nigerian President or Vice-President will get out and get insulted. So, if I have the opportunity to oversee elections, elections must be credible so that people will accept us anywhere.
“Because of those challenges, the late President set up the Justice Uwais Committee to look into Electoral Reform and so on. He also asked all the parties to come together and form a team so that all the parties will submit a common position. And he asked me then as the Vice-President, to chair the inter-party committee to come up with a common memorandum to the Justice Uwais Committee.
“I chaired that committee. We invited all the parties that formed government and they participated. Only ACN did not participate. To be fair to them, the other parties attended and we spent almost three weeks or a month. The report is there.
“One of the things raised, discussed and accepted was that a single tenure option may reduce some of these acrimonies. One is not saying that it is the ultimate but if you look at the evolution of the political system, the two tenure is the ultimate. Because even countries which have single tenures, after some time, go for the double tenure. So, it is like evolutionary process.
“But, the feeling is that because of a lot of agitation, and so on, probably, in another year, we can go to that, probably to make it more effective, we go to consultations and so on. There were a number of reasons given. I will not bore your ears with them, but that is how this whole issue came up. So, it is not just an idea that was conceptualized by the President after winning election. No! It has been there; it was a memo submitted by all the parties. The memo submitted by all the parties contained that.
“Indeed, I started asking some people questions and so, the information leaked to the press and they started to make issues out of it. But, I assure the party that major constitutional amendment cannot go to the National Assembly except Mr. President consults with the leaders of the party and with the National Assembly and consults with the governors.
“Because the way the information flowed, we said we will correct the impression. I have nothing to do with the four year presidency that Nigerians have given to us. We just wanted to clarify it and I think we need to mention that it was not my idea; it was the idea of the committee that I chaired which we believe those of us, the majority members of the committee believe, is the best option.”
President Jonathan who said he would carry out a wide consultation before sending it to the National Assembly, however, urged party members not to respond to comments especially from the opposition which according to him, were quite insulting.
He said: “Though some of the statements are quite insulting because of the type of politics we play, I tell PDP members not to join issue with people but just clarify so that people will understand. I just need to mention this so that people will know the evolution of this so called single tenure.”
ROLL CALL AT THE MEETING
*President Goodluck Jonathan
*Vice President Namadi Sambo
*Senate President David Mark
*Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu
*House of Representatives Whip, Isiaka Bawa who represented the Speaker
*Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba
*Deputy Senate Leader, Abdul Ningi
*Chief Tony Anenih
*Chief Solomon Lar
*Senator Barnabas Gemade
*Chief Ojo Maduekwe
*Chief Ebenezer Babatope
*Senator Abdullahi Adamu
*Senator Stella Omu
*Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi
*Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State.
*Governor Muazu Babangida Aliyu of Niger State
*Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River State
*Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State
* Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau
*Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed, Minister of Defence
* Mustapha Shetima
*Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu
*Haruna Dabin, Chairman, PDP, Plateau
*Dan Orbih, Chairman, PDP, Edo
*Vita Abba, Chairman, PDP, Enugu
* Deputy Governor, Abia
*Deputy Governor, Jigawa
*Deputy governor, Sokoto
*Senator Andy Uba
*Former Governor Adamu Mauzu
* Mrs Josephine Anenih
*Deputy governor, Kogi
*Kwara State governor, among others