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The Six-Year Serious Joke

IT always starts as a joke, grows into a yoke and finally the authorities jostle with the idea until it throws the country into a frenzy. Whether with the military or civilians, speculations about tenure elongation have unfortunately become part of our national life, a major distraction that holds the country hostage until either the promoters of the ideas are tired or defeated.

Another round of amendments of the Constitution is definitely on the way. The enthusiasm of the National Assembly is evident. There is hardly any doubt that the Constitution will be amended, the second time since the failed effort in 2006.

The House of Representatives has ignored its paucity of funds and constituted a 37-member Constitution Review Committee, CRC, though it has not constituted other Committees of the House. An amendment of the Constitution is not only imminent, but urgent, as the House wants Nigerians to note.

Issues that interest promoters of the present enterprise are six-year tenure for the president and governors, state creation and a new revenue formula.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s interest in the amendment of the Constitution collapsed because the general thinking was that he wanted to extend his tenure.

The logic was simple. Provisions of a new Constitution will not have a retrogressive effect. Anyone who has run for the maximum terms in office may not be affected by a new constitutional provision on tenure. Since the Constitution is not intended to target certain people, there may not be a clause excluding President Goodluck Jonathan and others who the current Constitution may encumber.

Fears about the intentions of the President flow from his inauguration lecture, last May, where he noted thus, “The Constitution has said four years, though some believe four years are too short to make any change, which I also believe.

I believe because, if you are a new person and you are elected as a governor today, it will take one to one and half years for you to really stabilise, and you also know that some members of your cabinet are not good and that is why in most cases, after one year or two Mr. President reshuffles the cabinet and by the time you want to go for another two and half years, it is another election and you are all busy about winning election.”

Where would the National Assembly get funds for the latest constitutional amendment, as it has no provision in the current budget? What is so urgent about amending the Constitution, more urgent than the myriads of problems that face the Jonathan administration?

Some of these challenges are infrastructure, while other more demanding ones are about making the Constitution workable enough to cater for the needs of vast majority of Nigerians who feel left out in the administration of their country.

None of these would feature in amendments, which with hindsight, has always been for the sustenance of politicians. Those who want more States will support the amendments. Those in office would want tenure extension as well as new revenue allocations, if the scale will tilt in their favour. Who cares about ordinary people? When will their interests be considered in the affairs of Nigeria?

Politicians in their smartness should desist from reducing democracy to government of the people by the people for politicians. This version of democracy is more despicable than any form of dictatorship for its subtlety hides the deceit, even if unsuccessfully.


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