The proposal by President Goodluck Jonathan for a single six-year tenure for presidents and governors,and an extension of tenure for National Assembly members,has been generating a lot of controversy in the polity.
The President had indicated recently that he intends to send a bill to the National Assembly for it to assent to a proposal that a single six-year term should replace the current two- term four-year tenure for presidents and governors.The National Assembly members also would have their tenures extended. The reasons adduced for this suggestion were the rancour, desperation for power,and overheating of the polity which re-election issues generate every four years,
Reactions to this proposal have been diverse.While some Nigerians have thrown their weight behind the President, indicating that it will help solve most of the nation’s problems, others see a tenure elongation agenda in the proposal.
The question as to the appropriate length of time elected leaders should stay in office has always been an issue in Nigeria. This is because of the corruption and negative attitude of some leaders while in office and the fact that some of them just do not contribute meaningfully to the nation,or to their states, yet would want to run for a second term. The feeling therefore, is that a single term in office for elected leaders would help solve these problems.
Ordinarily, the single six-year term option, seems like a good idea,considering these observed problems in the polity. But all things considered,the present system of two four- year terms still have an advantage, over it. This is because it rewards a good leader who has improved on the quality of life of the people with adequate time to do more. In present day Nigeria,the type of leader required is one who can impact positively on the lives of the people by providing basic infrastructures.
It would seem that the major problem of the present four- year, two-term option is the incidence of electoral fraud that has dogged the country’s elections for quite sometime.Elections in Nigeria have generally been characterised by violence,smuggling and snatching of ballot boxes, multiple thumb printing as well as intimidation and harassment of opposition parties. Such elections,can hardly produce the right leaders.They also discourage capable people from vying for elective office. If elections are free and fair, half of the problems associated with elections in Nigeria would not arise.
Another problem of the present system, is the issue of unrestrained expenditure of politicians in contesting for elective positions. So much money is expended in running for political office,that an average candidate stands little chance of getting elected .This leaves the very rich and those with access to easy money winning elections all the time. Although running for public office anywhere in the world is not a cheap affair, however, the rules governing campaign financing has to be stringent and enforced so that there will be a level playing field for everyone.This way,the process will not be hijacked by money bags.
Instead of doing away wholesale with the present system as being contemplated, the observed lapses of the present system should be corrected. The starting point will be by tackling the issue of electoral fraud in the country.The aim should be to conduct free and fair elections such that confidence of the people in the electoral process is achieved.This way,they will believe in the results coming from the Independent Electoral Commission,INEC. This can be done by always appointing only people of integrity to head the Commission
Mr Emmanuel Edeki is a staff of Vanguard newspapers