It was NATIONAL MIRROR newspaper of Tuesday, July 12, 2011, which first reported that the presidency had “concluded plans to send a bill to the National Assembly for a single term of seven years for governors and presidents. It had “reasoned that political violence was always caused by the resolve of incumbent governors and presidents to run for a second tenure of office”. By Monday, July 18th, a slight amendment to the NATIONAL MIRROR story emerged in DAILY SUN and NIGERIAN TRIBUNE; the tenure shortened by a year, to six. On Tuesday, July 26th, presidential spin doctor, Reuben Abati confirmed that a bill would be sent to the National Assembly “to seek for a single term for the offices of the President and Governors”. An issue long whispered within the closeted world of politics finally made it to the front burner of society, but the nut and bolt has remained constant: Goodluck Jonathan is working on a tenure elongation agenda!
After he was “freed and faired” into power in April, Jonathan informed mandarins of the private sector at a dinner party, that the four-year tenure was too short to make a meaningful impact in governance. A few days later, Chief Emeka Anyaoku canvassed tenure elongation for Jonathan. Reuben Abati’s confirmation in the past few days showed that we were not dealing with a Freudian slip, but an elaborate agenda to manipulate Nigeria’s democratic space for the umpteenth time; and the cast of characters has a permanence which should worry all patriots.
Goodluck Jonathan’s emergence as PDP candidate and eventual winner of the April polls bitterly divided the country, in a manner reminiscent of the June 12, 1993 debacle. To soothe frayed nerves, Jonathan promised to do a single term ending by 2015. By seeking a constitutional amendment, Jonathan is attempting to be clever by a half: if his amendment is for a 7-year term, he would have been in power effectively for eight years anyway; and even a single 6-year term would make meaningless his promise to leave by 2015. In any case, why should we believe Jonathan’s protestations that he would not “enjoy” the single term, if the amendment sailed through? It is a question of honour and unfortunately, the man is not trust worthy, given his political antecedents. Have we forgotten that he PERSONALLY put his signature to the 2002 statement by the PDP on power rotation between South and North? Didn’t he renege on the agreement, plunging Nigeria into a most division which culminated in his election in April?
It does not take too much effort to put together groups of people to “beg”, “appeal”, “cajole”, “call” Jonathan before 2015, that he is the best thing ever to happen to Nigeria and he must therefore be the first to enjoy the new single term, in order to “consolidate” his “transformation agenda”, etc. And that is what will happen, if we allow the so-called amendment to sail through. It is a self-serving amendment, because legally, the man will or can turn round to say he has only used a term in office. Afterall, he only concluded Umaru Yar’adua’s first tenure! So a president that took like forever to put together a cabinet is now moving with the speed of light for an emendation of our Constitution to achieve a tenure elongation!
The past few months have seen several conspiracy theories which seem to make sense now. One of these ‘theories’ was that the presidency had been desperate to impose a minion as Speaker of the House of Representatives, because of the tenure elongation project. David Mark as Senate President was trusted, given his gung-ho antecedents for Obasanjo’s Third Term agenda, to support Jonathan’s. A Speaker that would play ball was the missing piece of the jigsaw. But by supporting Tambuwal’s emergence as Speaker, Dimeji Bankole threw a spanner into the works. To punish his temerity, Obasanjo’s old method of politics by hostage-taking was then deployed: check the accounts of the House of Representatives to bring the young man to court!
An elaborate quid pro quo is also said to be embedded in the tenure elongation project, in the shape of an alleged plan to create states which might favour top leaders of Senate who are said to want states of their own. So from all political angles, we face a determined onslaught by individuals with every reason to push their personal agendas down our throats: Jonathan wants an elongated single tenure while leading Senators need states! So it is head they win; tail, Nigeria loses! A new front of struggle has now opened. We must ensure the proposed emendation of the constitution is dead on arrival, because it is not in the people’s interest. Jonathan was elected for a four-year term and he should not get extra years through the back door of a contrived constitutional amendment. He should brace up and work on his much-vaunted “transformation agenda”, rather than distract us with a tenure elongation agenda. Jonathan protested that the emendation is “being aligned with tenure elongation plan”; and that his tenure ends in 2015. But it is a question of trust, Mister President; and Nigerians remember your antecedents. We do not trust you. Simple! We will defeat the tenure elongation project!