By Rotimi Ajayi, Regional Editor, North; DANIEL IDONOR, DAPO AKINREFON, EMMAN OVUAKPORIE & Inalegwu Shaibu
ABUJA — The Presidency yesterday confirmed Vanguard’s report last Monday on a proposed constitutional amendment to restrict the Presidential and gubernatorial tenure to a single six-year term. Vanguard had also reported that President Jonathan and the incumbent governors will not benefit from the proposed single tenure.
Presidential spokesman, Dr Reuben Abati yesterday issued a statement confirming that President Goodluck Jonathan has concluded plans to send a bill to that effect to the National Assembly for consideration and passage.
According to the statement signed by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Dr Abati, “President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is to send a Constitution amendment Bill to the National Assembly that will provide a single tenure for the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Governors of the 36 states of the Federation”.
He disclosed that “in the envisaged Bill, the tenure of members of the National and State Assemblies will also be a little more than four years, although lawmakers will still be eligible for re-election as their constituencies may determine”.
Jonathan’s patriotic zeal
“President Jonathan’s commitment to a single term for the President and Governors is borne out of a patriotic zeal, after a painstaking study and belief that the constitutionally guaranteed two terms for Presidents and Governors is not helping the focus of Governance and institutionalization of democracy at this stage of our development. A longer term for lawmakers would also help to stabilise the polity”, he added.
The aide said, “President Jonathan is concerned about the acrimony which the issue of re-election, every four years, generates both at the Federal and State levels. The nation is still smarting from the unrest, the desperation for power and the overheating of the polity that has attended each general election, the fall-out of all this is the unending inter and intra-party squabbles which have affected the growth of party democracy in the country, and have further undermined the country’s developmental aspirations”.
In addition, he noted that “the cost of conducting party primaries and the general elections have become too high for the economy to accommodate every four years”; adding that “the proposed amendment Bill is necessary to consolidate our democracy and allow elected Executives to concentrate on governance and service delivery for their full term, instead of running governments with re-election as their primary focus”.
He stated that “this clarification has become necessary in the light of certain reports in a section of the media that the proposed Bill is meant to elongate President Goodluck Jonathan’s tenure”.
“Nothing can be more untrue. The energy that has been devoted to speculations on the content of the likely bill is akin to an attempt to force the abortion of a non-existent pregnancy. The details of the Bill will be clear in terms of its provisions when it is forwarded to the National Assembly for consideration. The President makes it clear that his push for a single tenure for the office of the President and that of the Governors is not borne out of any personal interest”.
Besides, he explained that “the proposed amendment will not have anything to do with him as a person; what he owes Nigerians is good governance, and he is singularly committed to this. Besides, it is trite law that the envisaged amendment cannot have a retroactive effect. This means that whatever single-term tenure that is enacted into law by the National Assembly will take effect from 2015”.
“The President also states that the greater good of Nigeria is greater than the ambition of any one individual. The envisaged Bill is part of the Jonathan administration’s transformation agenda aimed at sanitizing the nation’s politics”.
Dr Abati further said that “the President believes that this single move, when actualized, will change the face of our politics and accelerate the overall development of our nation. If the proposed amendment is accepted by the National Assembly, the President assures that he will not in any way be a beneficiary”.
Bill will not be rubber-stamped
Meanwhile, the Senate has assured Nigerians that the proposed bill will not be rubber-stamped.
A top source in the office of Senate President revealed that even though it would be an executive bill, it would still be considered on its own merit.
The source said that with the announcement, the Senate President, David Mark will soon set up a constitutional review committee for the Senate.
On the composition of the Committee he said, “by convention, the Deputy Senate President will be the Chair of the Committee with a nomination from each state of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory.
“After this, if there is any special interest, such as zonal interest, this may be accommodated.
“The Senate will announce standing committee by next week after that the Constitutional Review Committee will be announced.”
Buhari, Musa fault move
Reactions have however trailed the proposed bill. Presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) who spoke through his media aide, Mr Yinka Odumakin called on Nigerians to resist moves by the presidency to elongate tenure for governors and presidents.
He said: “It is unfortunate that the President has not spent up to three months in office and he is contemplating tenure elongation. Why should that be his first priority? When the late Yar’Adua was president, he came up with his own agenda, he had his seven points agenda but the president, as far as we are concerned, has no agenda for the country. What that tells you is that he does not mean well for the country.
Just like he used the advantage when he took over after the death of Yar’Adua to consolidate his hold on power, he wants to use the same advantage to amend the constitution in his own favour.”
Speaking further, he said “Nigerians should oppose this plan and resist tenure elongation; tenure elongation should not be his priority for now. He has no solution to the Boko Haram crisis, inflation is threatening the country’s economy and all he is interested in is to elongate his tenure.”
In the same vein, former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa described the move by the president as “a serious miscalculation.”
He said “the proposed tenure elongation is equivalent to 3rd Term. He should remember that Ibrahim Babangida, the late Sani Abacha and former President Olusegun Obasanjo failed while in office because their performance was beyond average.
Since he (Jonathan) became president, there is nothing fundamental he has achieved. As for me, tenure elongation is a serious miscalculation; and as far as Nigerians are concerned, they should not allow tenure elongation under any guise because the president and our governors have not performed well. If the president goes ahead, there will be serious consequence for him and the country.”
The Senators whose reactions were sought yesterday on the proposed bill however kept sealed lips, insisting that they can only comment when they are fully furnished with the details of the bill.
Two senators who spoke to vanguard yesterday in Abuja maintained that they cannot comment on a bill which they do not have details of.
Senator Smart Adeyemi, PDP Kogi in his reaction opted to make his comment when the bill is physically presented to the Senate. He said, “I cannot react to what I have not seen. I must see the content and the spirit of the bill first before I can make any comment. It means my education is not right for me to start commenting on what I have not seen.”
Also commenting, Senator Datti Ahmed, CPC Kaduna north, said he will reserve his comments till the official reading of the bill at the Senate. “I cannot say anything on the matter for two reasons, one the matter is too important for me to comment on phone without reading it on the order paper and two, it is also too important for me to comment on the phone on such a sensitive matter,” he added.
At the House of Representatives, Victor Ogene representing Ogbauru Federal Constituency said “if we ever get such a bill considered by both the House and the nation that will be okay but this crop of office holders who swore to an oath of allegiance for four years should count themselves out of it. It must be at all levels because we the legislators took our oath for four years so all current office holders are out of it till after 2015.”
Toby Ikechukwu representing Enugu simply said” if they bring it we will debate it and the House will take a position on it but for now let us wait for it to come so that we won’t contradict ourselves on the subject.”
Rep Zakari Mohammed representing Barauten/Kaiama Federal constituency said “ we are waiting for it to come but certainly some people will not benefit from it.”