YET again, the vexed issue of a single term for presidents and vice presidents, as well as governors and deputies, has reared its ugly head. Also being proposed along with it is that the tenure of the current crop of elected officials should be allowed to run beyond 2015 after which the single tenure will start taking effect.
The Chairman of the National Assembly Constitution Review Committee, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has renewed his earlier discredited campaign for Sections 136 and 180 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, which guarantee two maximum terms of four years for elected executives, to be amended in favour of single terms of office. According to him, it would help to douse the political heat in the system which is associated with the quest for second terms.
We are baffled that Ekweremadu, who is also the Deputy President of the Senate, would raise this issue yet again even after it was roundly defeated during the debates on it in the federal legislature. It will also be recalled how President Goodluck Jonathan had drawn heavy fire when, soon after being sworn into office, he started preaching for single six-year terms, a gambit that was criticised as a quest for tenure elongation by other means.
It should be clear to all that Nigerians have long conditioned themselves to impulsive rejection of tenure elongation, from the earliest years of military rule all the way down to the failed attempt by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2006. It has become a settled national issue that Nigerians will not accept tenure tampering under whatever guise.
Even single tenures will not come without drawbacks. Two terms, at least, force even the office holders who are not interested in performance to work hard in their first term with an eye on re-election. Single tenure can de-motivate performance and increase insensitivity and impunity.
Besides, we tend to overlook the role frequent renewal of mandates plays in the development of our democratic culture. Democracy is a system of continuous engagement between the electorate and the mandate holders for the rapid development of society. Maximum two terms is an acceptable mid-point between extremities of single tenures and unlimited terms office.
We must allow office seekers enough time in office to give their best. Rather than impose a single tenure on all irrespective of their performance or acceptability, we should work harder to empower the electorate to be able to vote out poor performers and to see that those who commit misconduct are removed from office through impeachment.
The 1999 Constitution has enough provisions to ensure the operation of a viable and robust democracy in Nigeria. We should not be amending the constitution to compensate for our inability to do the right thing.