With Mazi Nnamdi Nwigwe
When President Goodluck Jonathan, in his first year in office, mooted the idea for a single term of office for the President and the State Governors, one of the reasons he gave was to reduce the acrimony that usually trailed quests for second term.
The President suggested a single seven-year tenure for the Chief Executive Officers, after which they would not qualify to vie for the same office again.
But trust our people and their scepticism as a deluge of verbal attacks descended on Dr. Jonathan who was accused of preparing the ground for an extended tenure of 11 years for himself if his proposal was accepted and adopted.
Apparently surprised and astounded by the swell of opposition to his suggestion, and especially the imputation that his ambition was for an extension of his four-year tenure, President Jonathan confessed that what he said wasn’t an original thinking of his.
According to him, he was only ventilating the view of the Council of State which is composed of himself, the Governors, past Heads of State and a few other statesmen. In fact he said that he would personally not benefit from such a Constitutional amendment.
Now, the Senate Sub-Committee that canvassed the opinions of Nigerians in the course of its assignment to articulate proposals for a possible Constitutional amendment, has submitted its report to the Senate.
Among the proposals that are now to be debated by the Senate is that for a single-term of six years for future Presidents and Governors, effective from the moment the idea is legislatively approved.
Irrespective of the fact that no deadline was given for the Constitutional amendment processes to be completed, a fresh torrent of criticisms broke out on this issue of tenure of office of the President and the Governors.
Leading the pack of those opposing a single term are individuals and political party spokesmen who tend to speak before they begin to think.
To them it is, “shoot, aim and then select.”
Ever since Senate Deputy President, Ike Ekweremadu, in his capacity as Chairman of the Senate Sub-Committee on Constitution Review, presented his Committee’s report and recommendations, our print and electronic media have been inundated with all types of criticisms and condemnations, even when it is obvious that many of the opponents to the tenure proposal have not actually read the committee’s report.
If the more vociferous opponents of a six-year single tenure had given themselves some hours of introspection and retrospection, they would have said something on the point of atavistic bickering and blood-letting that usually go with the desire of incumbent chief executives to return for a second term and the equally hell-bent and single-minded fight-to-a-finish by party colleagues and opponents determined to unseat them.
It is amazing that anybody at all should sincerely oppose an idea that would put paid to the unnecessary wastage of public funds, in-fighting among both Cabinet and party colleagues, diversion from governance and the egregious corruption that trail the mad quest of incumbents to succeed themselves.
That some otherwise respectable political parties and their official spokespersons have rejected a single-term tenure is most baffling.
They have given no alternative explanation than that “we don’t see anything wrong with the existing four-year first term and a second and final four-year term.”
Does such a mentality not betray a dangerous politician who thinks nothing of a possible credible election that could throw an incumbent out of office?
To say so blandly that a sitting President or Governor should be allowed a second term to complete projects he started suggests, subconsciously, a suspect democrat who has little respect for transparent elections and is prepared to rig the poll to enable his principal to return.
It also suggests that the incumbent who looks forward to a second term before he can perform is a failure ab initio.
If a President or Governor cannot do anything substantial in his four-year tenure, it means he romped into office without a programme or a vision.
Another plank of argument by proponents of second term is that a one-tenure chief executive would be unrestrained in his looting of public funds and other misdemeanours since he is sure he is not coming back.
Again this is a naïve and specious reasoning.
In real terms, where lies the difference between a man doing a second final term and one doing a single final term?
Secondly, does it ever occur to people who think so shallowly that there is an in-built restraint, called impeachment, to take care of a misbehaving President or Governor?
There again, we betray our democratic innocence when we do not factor such constitutional provisions in our public pronouncements and criticisms.
We actually need to begin to think like people practising democracy.
The arguments of many of our political leaders do not portray a deep knowledge and appreciation of the political system we pretend to practise.