FOR the generality of Nigerians, especially those who place very high premium and esteem on President Muhammadu Buhari’s much-touted personal integrity, the Presidency’s rebuttal of the growing rumour that he could be shuffling towards a possible “third term” agenda came as a great relief and reassurance.
The President’s Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, issued a statement that was unambiguous that his principal had no such intentions. According to Shehu, apart from having no such designs, the Constitution does not permit an extra term after two maximum terms in office.
He, in fact, made a reference to the failed attempt by a former President to change the Constitution and said: “No such attempt will happen under this President…Any activity aimed at altering the two-term limit will not succeed and shall never have his time or support”.
Buhari, with his cult following in the North and parts of the South West; and given his long quest for the presidential power, was seen by political pundits as a typical politician who might be tempted either by his own desires or the pressures of his followers to try tenure elongation, which many of our leaders both in military uniform and out of it had tried and failed.
The manner in which the military and security agencies have come so boldly into the picture in attempts to dilute human rights, the independence and powers of the National Assembly, the Judiciary and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in the past four years sent worrying signals that Constitution amendment for tenure elongation could be the next bus-stop.
This speculation was not helped by the sudden mushrooming of what Shehu described as “so-called support groups”, brazenly brandishing readiness to kick-start campaigns towards that end.
Much as we note the relief this assurance will bring to the polity, we still call for vigilance by all lovers of democracy and constitutionalism. Every attempt in the past was always met with an official denial of the plot while the perpetrators went on preparing underground. Let us watch and see what will happen in the next two, three years.
We urge the President to go beyond merely denying the ambition and take strong measures against those behind the plots.
If necessary actions are not taken to nip them in the bud, and if government and party officials suddenly begin describing the agitators as “enjoying their democratic rights”, then it is time for Nigerians to rise and protect our democracy.
The routine change of elected leaders and political parties within the limit of two maximum terms (eight years) is healthy for our unity in diversity. It is in the national interest and must be preserved at all costs.