By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor; Rotimi Ajayi, Ben Agande, & Emma Ovuakporie
President Goodluck Jonathan and incumbent governors will not benefit from the proposed constitutional amendment to restrict the Presidential and gubernatorial tenure to a single six year term. This is in contrast to the failed third term amendment proposal conceived during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
Sources close to the National Assembly leadership said unlike the tenure elongation move by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, National Assembly leadership including a host of members, while admitting that no concrete bill has been submitted to the legislature , were opposed to the incumbent office holders benefiting from any such amendment.
The proposal which is reportedly coming from the presidency aims to curb the tension normally associated with the second term bid by incumbent governors and Presidents. President Jonathan, according to informed sources, may have decided to address the issue by a quick amendment of the constitution.
No bill yet
The bill is, however, yet to be submitted to the National Assembly. Findings in Abuja indicated that the Presidency was advised by the leadership of the National Assembly to hold on to the bill for now on the ground that it was too early in the day to initiate the process of constitution amendment.
The Presidency in its first reaction on the issue, through the Presidential Spokesman, Dr Reuben Abati, however, described the reports as mere speculation.
“I don’t react to speculation,” Abati told State House correspondents at the weekend.
With the contents of the proposed bill still murky, it is, however, unknown if the expected proposal from the Presidency would allow the incumbent President and other first term governors to benefit from the bill. However, a senior official of the National Assembly who has been sounded out by the presidency on the issue was adamant yesterday, insisting that there would be no way that the President or incumbent governors would be allowed to benefit from the proposal.
“Yes, we have been sounded out but the bill is yet to come to us,” a prominent Senator told Vanguard. But asked if the proposal would favour the incumbent president and governors, he said:
“There is no way we will amend the constitution to allow such. What the President desires is for a single term that would remove the usual tension associated with second term, bids” the senior official said.
His assertion nonetheless, the proposal is receiving mixed reactions in the National Assembly with senators and House members divided over the desirability of the proposal.
A normally reliable source close to Senate President David Mark revealed that the Senate was aware of the speculations but would not ascribe any seriousness to it yet.
According to the source, the plan would have to be reduced first to a legislative bill before it could draw any official decision in the Senate.
“This thing has to first come through a bill and once it comes, of course we will consider it on it’s merit,” the associate said yesterday.
Senate ‘ll set up committee
“The Senate would set up a committee to review it along with other constitutional amendment proposals and if it sails through, then we will pass it. If it does not sail through, we will throw it out”.
While a number of the House members were supportive of the proposal, nearly all in support did so on the condition that present office holders should not benefit from the amendment.
Among those flaying the proposal are Rep. Friday Itulah, PDP, Edo and Gideon Lucas, PDP Kaduna.
Some reps in support of proposal
Those supportive of the proposal include Rep Abubakar Momoh, ACN Edo; Akpan Micah Umoh, PDP Akwa Ibom; Tajudeen Yusuf, PDP Kwara; Rep Zakari Mohammed, PDP, Kwara and Rep Toby Ikechukwu, PDP Enugu.
“I am not in support because in doing that, what would be the motivation for the incumbent to perform in office? In any office one is occupying, there has to be a motivation to perform. You will know that if you perform well, you would be voted back; but if you do not perform well, you would be voted out.
If you allow the single tenure of six years, whether one performs or not, he would go. Some people would just carry on knowing that whether they perform well or not, they will go after the first term,” Itulah told Vanguard.
“In our circumstance, knowing how powerful the governors can be, they may decide to impose any candidate, knowing that they do not need to come and ask people for vote. I am not in support of it. The present arrangement where we have a two term of four years is better for our country”, he said.
In his reaction, Lucas spoke in the same vein.
“The four year term of two tenures is better because it gives room for the people in office to strive to work hard so that they can be re-elected. That is what is obtainable even in the United States of America where you see people striving to make a difference in the first tenure, because they know that if they don’t perform, they will be voted out. But if you say somebody should stay for only a term after which he leaves the office, some people might just behave any how knowing that whether they perform or not, they will go. I do not think we are matured for it. It will not augur well for us. Not now”, he said.
A member from Katsina who refused to be quoted,accused the president of flying a kite in his bid to perpetuate himself in office.
This is a game plan by the president for another tenure elongation. We are watching and I can assure you that if and when the proposal is finally brought before the National Assembly, we will defeat it as the third term of former president Olusegun Obasanjo was defeated. This cannot see the light of the day in the present National Assembly”,he said.
However, expressing conditional support, Momoh said :
“The six year single tenure is okay for governors and president if it takes effect after the current occupants of the office.”
Umoh representing Ikot Abasi/Mkpat/Enin/Eastern Obolo Federal constituency also gave support to the proposal but on the condition that it did “not lead to an elongation of office by the present office holders.”
Tajudeen Yusuf, representing Kabba/Bunu/Ijumu Federal Constituency said: “More importantly, the tenure will help stabilize the polity because this second term of a thing makes the governors to compromise a lot of things because they want to return to Government House.”
“I think we should maximize this opportunity as it would go a long way to address our own peculiarities. We cannot model everything after the US.”
Rep Zakari Mohammed, representing Barauten/Kaiama Federal Constituency in Kwara State said “provided there is a caveat that anybody running a four-year term now should not be part of it or it would be retroactive.”
It will reduce desperation
“If adopted, it would reduce desperation, help to nurse some projects to fruition and legislators would protect good policies of past governments as there is definitely going to be continuity.”
He explained further that “it is my prayer that it would not lead to dictatorship because there is always a second need like we have governors that are now senators. If they mismanage their tenure, they may still need same people later.”
Rep Toby Ikechukwu, representing Aninri/Agwu/Oji-Uzo Constituency in Enugu said the proposal “is a good one as it would make administrators to be more focused but at the same time, it could make bad administrators easily get away with their misdeeds as there is no second chance.”
“Well, when the time comes, we will fashion out ways and means as to how to checkmate poor governance and put the necessary clauses that would benefit all Nigerians so that no president or governor can take us for a ride and go scot free.”
Speaking on the issue, Lanre Odubote stated that even though a six year tenure would reduce tension in the polity, President Jonathan should not think of benefiting from such an amendment to the constitution.
“He cannot change the rules of the game in the middle of the game”, he said.