By Josef Omorotionmwan
Thesepoliticians may, after all, not be as smart as they pretend to be. Some of them are daft or simply hard of hearing. How else does anyone explain a situation where they keep doing the same old thing in the same old way and be expecting different outcomes?
To the fairly informed ones, it has since become clear that these conferences, by whatever name called, which are set up midstream in the life of an administration are mere euphemisms for seekers of tenure elongation.
Midway in his administration, General Olusegun Obasanjo assembled a group of friends to do the hatchet man’s job that collapsed half way, but not before billions of the tax payers’ Naira had been sunk into it.
From the very beginning, President Goodluck Jonathan knew what he wanted: he was not going to contend with five short years – one year inherited from the late Umaru Yar’Adua and four years ostensibly won by him. The ink on his inauguration papers had hardly dried when he forwarded a Bill to the National Assembly suggesting the obnoxious idea of single seven-year tenure.
For as long as the idea for the seven-year tenure did not fly, they kept reducing subsequent request Bills by one year until they got stuck at five years. Yet, the National Assembly could not pull it through.
So, let there be a conference. That explains why he quickly assembled 492 Nigerians, a few highly respectable and others not too honourable, to, as it were, work from the answer to the question. The silent message was to go there and find ways and means of extending the life span of the administration. This must be coated with other more attractive ideas in order not to expose the real thing. Plus, of course, it was another job for the boys.
That’s where we are now. All that has been going on at the Jonathan Conference could be mere preamble to the real issue. A senior delegate to the Conference, Chief Okon Osung, representing the South-South geopolitical zone has just hit the nail on the head. This member of the Committee on Public Finance and Revenue; Chairman, Nigeria Election Monitoring Group during the infamous June 1993 elections and former National Vice President of the NUJ, has called on the Federal Government and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to postpone the proposed 2015 general elections by at least 18 months.
Hear him: “With the present Nigeria’s national history and the insecurity [sic] challenges with Boko Haram engaging in massive killings of persons and wanton destruction of property in some parts of the country as well as cases of kidnapping, holding election in February next year is no longer feasible as it has become imperative for National Assembly politico-administrative moratorium”.
In Osung’s reckoning: “If the current security crises are not properly managed before the holding of elections, there would be deadlock, which could lead to the possibility of military intervention”.
So naïve was the man that he did not introduce the main mandate of the Conference on the floor of the Conference. Rather, he chose to put together a few journalists to launch his “manifesto”. Meanwhile, he has already set an agenda for his co-travellers to harp on.
Clearly, Jonathan wants the job but he does not want to do the work. A man cannot give what he does not have. Even if you give Jonathan 18 years more as President, things can only change for the worse.
Osung has just left us with fewer answers than questions. Such a man should have let his audience know exactly when his “insecurity challenges” will come to an end.
In his naivety, Osung failed to inform his audience that seeking to extend the tenure of incumbents is not a constitution-making issue and, therefore, outside the mandate of the Conference. That’s where the National Assembly steps in. But if there are inadequacies in the current instrument that need amendment, delegates at the Conference should seek straightforward ways of effecting such amendments without trying to pass through the back door.
We wonder if the Osungs of the Conference have ever looked at the provisions of Section 305 of our 1999 Constitution, which deal extensively with the procedure for declaring a state of emergency, particularly in the face of “insecurity challenges”.
While Section 305 aforementioned talks of a state of emergency of six months at a time, Osung should be seen now trying to convince his colleagues at the Conference to amend this clause to 18 months at a time, with his principal in view. That’s a civilized way to go.
Perhaps unwittingly, Osung may be endearing the military to the minds of Nigerians who will soon begin to ask what differences there are between this drab administration and the conditions under a direct military rule.
For one thing, most of the people running around in government today are of the same military stock. Or, is the khaki that makes the difference? For another, there are things, which only the military can do.
Under the military, you could go to bed one evening in State ‘A’ and wake up the following morning in State ‘B’ – a state had been created for you during the night! In a civilian administration such efforts would be consumed by endless debates.
And if we really fear the military intervention like plague, why don’t we behave? We have forever been celebrating the flag-off of the Second Niger Bridge, which we are told is about 1.5 kilometers long. Without the necessity for futile flag-off ceremonies, General Ibrahim Babangida built a 12-kilometre dual carriage bridge across the Lagos Lagoon. And no military administration would have given Ndigbo a toll bridge – a bridge whose criminally over-bloated cost they must pay, with the envisaged traffic jams!
Government is about human need, the satisfaction of which is the sole justification for government. Why don’t we remind the Osungs that there is no royal road to geometry and that it is not always too smart to be smart?