By SKC Ogbonnia
THe plan to introduce a single six-year term for the offices of the President and Governors is another joke being conceived to further confuse the masses. Such plan is anti-democratic, regressive, defeatist, and will worsen corruption.
The current hoopla on term of office revolves around a claim by a new wave of influential pundits that the concept of re-election is the bane of our problems. To these pundits, the quest for re-election usually overheats the polity and, in most cases, marries the politicians to the reigning culture of embezzling public funds or making wild promises, so as to get re-elected.
Modern democratic principles
Thus, it is believed that a single term would free the governors or the president from the temptations commonly associated with re-elections, thereby allowing these executives to focus on the jobs they swore to do. The argument sounds very good in theory but guarantees to disappoint big time in practice.
In the first place, a single six-year term is archaic and polar opposite to modern democratic principles. Its lame duck nature is similar to autocratic monarchies, where kings assume power and sit idly by, since only act of death can dethrone them.
Unlike in the monarchies, the concept of re-election promotes competition and opposition activities, which are central to democracy. It also breeds the checks and balances by serving as a referendum on the activities of the office holders. The proponents of the single term will definitely argue otherwise, suggesting that the legislatures can facilitate the essential checks and balances. But they need a serious rethink.
The hope for re-election is a powerful incentive for efficient and responsive governance. It enhances performances and further promotes pursuit for excellence and, by extension, greater purpose and possibilities. Recall how, during his re-election campaign, President Goodluck Jonathan breezed into Enugu one December afternoon to proclaim Akanu Ibiam Airport to an international status. Recall how many of such promises were showered on all the other political zones. Or, do we forget the sensational power roadmap? Perhaps these are worthy projects, well studied, supported with superb personnel, and remain very attainable today.
Instead of embarking on yet another phantom legislation, our honorable legislators should be breaking into committees and holding the president and governors accountable to their promises; and, where necessary, identifying omissions and concrete plans for immediate implementation.
Another compelling reason is that, if the single term is to be adopted, the politicians will simply deploy their infamous strategies from re-election to sustaining themselves in power for the entire duration of the term. And given that politicians typically prefer to enthrone others who can shield their evil deeds upon leaving office, the vogue will then shift from re-election to dynasty, imperialism, or god-fatherism. According to the single term model, governors and presidents would quietly do their jobs and retire away. But if history is any foreteller of the future, Nigerians should know better. After all, Olusegun Obasanjo and many governors just completed two terms in office not long ago and were supposed go away quietly. It was quite the opposite.
To make matters worse, the political leaders of the 4th Republic have capitalized on an imprudent clause in 1999 Constitution that provides immunity for governors and the president while they are in office. This standing order——suggestive of no consequences for bad behavior——for the Executive branch; thence encourages members of the Legislature as well as the Judiciary to abuse their offices too. The immunity clause notwithstanding, there is scant interest in probing the activities of the politicians even when they are out of office.
While politicians can perpetrate evils deeds in course of re-election or while they are in power, the worst and most inexplicable culprits are the successive governments that never probe their predecessors. Today, ex-government officials who were either indicted or convicted for embezzling public funds or involved in electoral malpractices are not only being allowed to feast on their loot but are steadily extolled and appointed to the highest levels within the different ruling parties.
Even if and when they eventually face the wrath of the law, their crimes are never meted with fitting penalties——all in name of American styled plea bargain. Perhaps Nigeria’s adoption of the American styled presidential system of government is widely acclaimed but Nigeria must realize fast that America’s system has its good – and its bad. And plea bargain is simply bad for Nigeria.
Any attempt to relate President Obasanjo’s era to effective leadership is like viewing history from a rear-view mirror.
*Dr. Ogbonnia is the chairman of First Texas Energy Corporation and Adjunct professor of leadership at Davenport University. He can be reached on SKCOgbonnia@firsttexasenergy.com