Public outcry yesterday greeted President Goodluck Jonathan’s proposed six-year single term for the president and state governors from 2015.Nigerians from all walks of life rejected the proposal, saying the development was not the country’s priority at the moment.
Jonathan had this Tuesday disclosed that he would send a constitution amendment bill to the National Assembly to make provision for a single term for the president and state governors, saying that the bill if passed into law, would take effect from 2015 when his tenure will expire.
Although the president made it clear that he and the incumbent governors would not benefit from the proposal, Nigerians who reacted to the report, pointed out that the proposal was reminiscent of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s botched third term agenda.
Major opposition parties including the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), the Labour Party (LP) and other stakeholders kicked against the idea.
Other groups, like the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) and radical politician and former governor of old Kaduna
State Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa also faulted the proposal.
Prominent lawyers Prof. Itse Sagay, Abubakar Malami and Mr. Femi Falana also opposed the proposed six straight years’ tenure for the president and governors.
Though the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), a vocal political group kept mum, over the matter, its youth wing Arewa Youths Forum (AYF) insisted that Nigeria had never finished a debate logically, adding that only Nigerians should decide.
In its reaction, the ACN described as patently fraudulent, deceptively self-serving and a terrible misadventure, the plan by Jonathan to send a constitution amendment bill to the National Assembly to pave the way for a single tenure for the president and the governors of the 36 states.
In a statement issued in Ibadan by its national publicity secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, yesterday, the party said the plan also confirms fears being expressed in certain circles that the president enjoyed power for the sake of it instead of using it to the benefit of Nigerians.
It said the single tenure project was fraudulent because the president never for once promised Nigerians, during his electioneering, that this would be his priority project once elected into office, adding that the issue was also not known to be in the manifesto of his party, the PDP.
Also speaking, the CPC described the decision by Jonathan as preposterous, immoral and ludicrous.
In a statement by the national publicity secretary of the CPC, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, the CPC said: “Unfortunately, the priorities of the president as a public officer do not show a man that should ever be trusted.”
The ANPP and the LP also added their voices to the condemnation of the president’s single term proposal, calling on its lawmakers to be vigilant on the proposed bill.
According to them, amendment of the constitution should not be allowed to serve the personal interest of individuals but, rather, the interest of the nation.
CNPP in its position paper entitled “No to tenure elongation” via its spokesperson Osita Okechukwu stated, “CNPP joins the league of Nigerian patriotic democrats to condemn in no uncertain terms the reckless move by Jonathan and his Food-is-Ready politicians to not only divert the attention of Nigerians from the looting going on in the land under his watch, railroad Nigerians into forum shopping but to elongate his tenure through the back door.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP yesterday, the national chairman of LP, Chief Dan Nwayanwu, said he was not sure if the proposal was originated by the president,stressing that whoever made that proposal should be tried.
According to Sagay, under the present system, once a president or a governor comes into the office, he begins to work for his second term. By sheer act of desperation, he start to intimidate and want to crush his would-be rival in the next election.
“This is due to our political instability which the proposal is seeking to eliminate. And I think there is merit in it. But once we start getting our act together we can revert to the present four-year two-term system.
For Malami, “One thing is certain in law, and that is that once enacted can never be operated retrospectively. The sincerity of the bill depends on the specification of intended beneficiaries. This is to award legal tussle or constitutional crisis usually associated with such step in a system.
Falana said: “I think it is a diversionary campaign now, socially irrelevant and uncalled for. Instead of preoccupying ourselves with the debate, I think the National Assembly should advise the president to look into his own proposal to comprehensively re-write the constitution.
“There is no basis to make it more important to an extent that we will go into another constitution What is important is how to address his mandate The president has just been sworn in for a four- year tenure and he promises to hit the ground running and he hasn’t done that; his regime has not taken off, and he is talking of another six years tenure. So to me, tenure debate now is embarrassingly diversionary for the government. The government is riding on the crest of unpopularity.
The NLC in its reaction called on Jonathan to concentrate on good governance and desist from acts that could throw the country into crises.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP yesterday, the NLC acting general-secretary Comrade Owei Lakemfa, said that the issue with Nigeria was not for either one or two terms but for the country to experience good governance.
The director-general of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mr. Muda Yusuf in an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP in Lagos said the president has missed the point.
“For those of us in the organised private sector, the president has taken a step which suggests that he has not placed his priorities right. What those of us in the sector expects him to be doing now, is how to fix the economy, tackle corruption and bring down the cost of doing business in the country”
Other prominent Nigerians including former presidential candidate Dr. Tunji Braithwaite, and the publicity secretary of the Afenifere Renewal Group, Mr. Yinka Odumakin also decried the proposal describing it as ill-advised.
Meanwhile, a rights group, Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has condemned the move by Jonathan to extend the tenure of the executive arm of government at the federal and state levels even as it faulted the central bank’s adoption of Islamic banking.
In a statement jointly signed by its national coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, and the national media officer, Miss. Zainab Yusuf, said what was urgently needed in Nigeria now is for Jonathan to focus only on those policies and programmes that could positively address the unprecedented challenges of general breakdown of law and order in the North East.