One subject which has been so volatile in recent times has to do with a proposal to amend section 135, subsection 2(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. That section states in part that “subject to the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, the President shall vacate his office at the expiration of a period of four years commencing from the date he took the oath of allegiance and the oath of office…”
Proposal to amend that section was first muted in July 2011 by President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Ebele Goodluck Jonathan with a bill he sent to the National Assembly to elongate the tenure of office of the President and Governors from the present four years to six years single term without an option of renewal.
Speaking on this contentious subject, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Ruben Abati explained that the proposed bill is borne out of a patriotic zeal, after a painstaking study and belief that the constitutionally guaranteed two terms for Presidents and Governors is not helping the focus of governance and institutionalization of democracy at this stage of our development”, adding that the President is concerned about the acrimony which the issue of re-election every four years generates both at Federal and state levels.
In one of his media chat, the President went a step further to put into perspective his interest in a single tenure of six years.
“The issue is that in Africa, elections create social unrest and we need to manage this. In a situation where you elect a governor and that governor has not settled-down, another election is around the corner. Every four years you conduct elections, you create so much tension in the political environment. As we are talking, some people are busy holding meetings for the 2015 elections. It creates series of confusion in the political environment. I am not saying that single tenure, alone, will bring one hundred per cent stability. There is no political system that is one hundred per cent stable, you must have some tension. That was why I came up with that,” he said during the chat.
Besides the acrimony and tension that the President hinged his proposal, the amount of money expended on re-election by incumbent President and Governors is also worthy of consideration. The New York Times for instance reported that President of the United States of America, Mr. Barack Obama spent a whopping sum of $985.7million dollars, about N155, 740.6 billion on his re-election bid. This much, analysts argue was spent in a very sane environment where less emphasis is placed on money unlike what we have in Nigeria where money plays a major role an election.
Although in Nigeria, it is out of vogue for presidents and governors to disclose the amount of money they spend on re-election bid or any other election, there are however documented allegations that Governor Saidu Usman Dakingari of Kebbi State withdrew N718.5million from the state coffers between the months of December 2010 and April 2011 to finance everything pertaining to his re-election bid. If this allegation is true, all that is needed is to simply multiply N718.5 by the 36 states in the country for a workable figure and that brings you to N19.958 billion. This excludes the N122.9 billion that Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said it spent to prosecute the 2011 general elections.
For the sake of mathematics, we could adopt the conservative figures published for the re-election of President Obama which is N155, 740.6 as what could be spent by a Nigerian President to be re-elected into office and add N122.9 billion spent by INEC for the same election plus N19.958 billion as estimate for re-electing all the 36 state governors brings us to a grand total of N298.5986 billion as state funds that would be wasted on elections every four years.
For many, this total figure – which is more than a year’s budget for some states- as well as fears earlier on expressed by the Nigerian President are enough for those who have the interest of Nigeria at heart to queue in for the President’s single tenure proposal so as to conserve such funds for national development.
But it seems that Jonathan’s argument is not sailing through. In a statement by the Northern elders under the aegis of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), and signed by its Publicity Secretary, Mr. Anthony Sani, Arewa argued that the six-year tenure for both the President and governors which the Senate was said to have recommended in line with President’s line of thought lacks the basic elements of motivation and incentives needed in any management of human affairs for performance under any purposeful democratic dispensation.
“In the single tenure system, there are no incentives, motivation and reward that can inspire for excellent performance. And this has to do with the fact that the good, the not-so-good and the feckless leaders, are grouped together in the same hall without any distinction. Such a practice cannot deliver on good governance. That may explain why most countries in the world practise multiple tenure systems which enable leaders to aspire for excellence in the hope of reward by way of re-election. This is because election into first term is on the basis of hope while that for second term should be based on performance in the office. Leaders should be elected not only on the basis of hope but also on the basis of performance in the office”, the association noted. Beside Arewa, the Northern Governors are also not at home with the argument for single tenure for states and federal executives. In a communiqué read by Chairman of the Northern Nigerian Governors Forum, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, Governor of Niger State, the northern governors voiced strong opposition to the single tenure for affected political office holders.
Even the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) has also joined voices with those in opposition to the single tenure bid. In a statement signed by the National Publicity Secretary Emma Eneukwu said: “We wish to restate our earlier position on this matter, as a political party.
“We have no hand in the single term tenure limit as recommended by the Inter-Party Consultative Committee,” the statement said. Speaking for the Yoruba social cultural group, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin spokesperson for the group opposed it on the ground that it may benefit the incumbent President even as argument for second term as inducement for performance has long ago been punctuated by political experts.
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola once said during his first tenure in office, when Nigerians were pressuring him for second term ticket that only those who fail in an examination are called upon to repeat, meaning that the reward for performance can only be promotion, in this case, a higher office. Even the Esama of Benin, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion also alluded to this line of reason when he begged the people of Edo State that his son, Lucky Igbinedion, then governor of Edo State has failed and should therefore be allowed to repeat the class through an election for a second term. It therefore follows logically that those who argue for second term as reward for performance are merely admitting nothing but total failure in their first four years.
Speaking on thesame subject Hon. Uwem Udoma, a former Deputy Speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly argued that tenure is not sacrosanct in any constitution.
“We made it four years, renewable for another four years, and we can decide to make it single tenure of six years. I support the six year single tenure because the pressure that the President and Governors go through while administering the affairs of the nation will not be there if it is just a single tenure.
“A Governor or the President will have a road map and will have a plan that would end his government under six years. So many governors have been doing things under pressure and they give lots of what they are not supposed to give to the people because of the pressure for a second term. But if a governor knows that he has only a single term of six years, he would do his best because he knows that by the end of the six years he would leave the office, hence he would do his best. Even if a governor does eight years, he would be judged for the eight years, so six years single tenure to me is something that Nigerians should even clap (hands) for the President.
“I want the National Assembly to debate it round the six geo-political zones and ask the people, if Nigerians say they want a six year single tenure for the Presidency so be it. If we practice it and tomorrow we say we can no longer continue with the arrangement we can strike it out, or go back to what has been there before, or even make it any number of years that we want. What if the governor cannot even deliver in the eight years of double term? Is it not to support the one that can deliver in six years of a single term? Then if you have a governor that can deliver in six years but the time is not enough, that governor still has an opportunity to wait for another six years to lapse and can still comeback. The present governor of Kano State was there in 1999, exited in 2003, and by 2011 he was there, so if a governor is good and the people still want him back, only six years will be out and the person will come back to the seat”, the former lawmaker posited.
But as Nigerians continue to argue for or against, experts are of the view that national interest should be uppermost. To do otherwise can be counterproductive. But as it is, Nigerians are asking if it makes common sense to continue to waste our scarce resources on elections or conserve them for national development? Posterity will no doubt judge those who argue simply for ethnic or personal reason in lieu of national interest. As for those who are thinking about when it should take off, analysts are of the view that the year 2020 could be the best bet when the second tenure of all political office holders would have expired.