Parties to mobilize against the Senate committee’s recommendation.
Major opposition political parties in the country have kicked against the six year single tenure proposed by the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution for the offices of the president, vice president, state governors and their deputies; and vowed to mobilize against the proposal.
Leaders of the parties who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES in separate interviews said the proposal is diversionary, saying they will push for the retention of the four year renewable tenure for the categories of elected officials, which the current constitution recognizes.
The Senate Committee chaired by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, recommended a six year non-renewable tenure for the four executive offices though its take off date was not stated in the report.
The report of the committee, which also recommended financial autonomy for 774 local government areas in the country, has not been debated.
The Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, said it is totally opposed to the proposal and has asked its members in the National Assembly to vote against it when the report of the committee is tabled for consideration.
The National Publicity Secretary of ACN, Lai Mohammed said the party wants the National Assembly to retain the four year tenure, adding that it has communicated its decision to its members in the federal legislature.
“ACN says four years, two terms is more than adequate, that is the decision of ACN,” Mr. Mohammed told PREMIUM TIMES. “The party has made this known to our members in the National Assembly.”
The Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, said the proposal is totally unreasonable, adding it vitiates the sovereignty of the people.
“We’ve said that this is totally unreasonable,” the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Rotimi Fashakin said.
Quoting the parts of the constitution which points out the duties of the government as security and welfare and emphasises the participation of the people, Mr. Fashakin said, “So, any particular law or proposal or bill that seeks to vitiate that sovereignty of the people is anti-people and should be jettisoned wholesale.”
The CPC spokesman noted that a nation like Nigeria which had a problem with military dictatorship should make laws that should make the leaders to be more submissive to the dictates of the people.
The National Chairman of a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Maxi Okwu, said it is absolutely unnecessary to discard the four year renewable tenure because of its few shortcomings, saying, “Let’s not throw away the baby with the bath water.”
Likening the proposed six year single tenure to dictatorship, Mr. Okwu said that in more developed democracies, mid-term elections are conducted with a view to assessing those in office, adding that Nigeria should aspire to do same.
“Six year single tenure is like six years of dictatorship; we’re not comfortable with the proposal. We want the four year renewable tenure retained because the midterms elections afford the people opportunity to assess their leaders,” the APGA chairman stressed.
The National Conscience Party, NCP, said the Senate Committee’s recommendation is diversionary, adding that it would continue to support the status quo.
“Our position is that it is diversionary,” Tanko Yusuf, the party’s national chairman told PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone chat.
Mr. Yusuf suggested that to allay the fears posed by the four years renewable tenure, the presidency should be institutionalized so that it will not matter who is occupying the position at any point in time, adding that it is enough period for any administration to deliver its promises to the electorate.
He said, “If you institutionalize the presidency, the current four years tenure which is renewable is enough for any president to perform or to do what he can do. If you give a person a six year tenure he will steal and steal because he knows that nobody will question him after the six years. But if it is four years, the person will be cautious.”
The NCP’s National Director of Research, Creste Effodu, said the Senate Committee’s proposal is not the solution to the rot that pervades the Nigerian society.
According to him, the proposal was hurriedly recommended by people who wanted to take advantage of the country’s disorganised political terrain to achieve undisclosed objectives.
“It (recommendation) is based on fire-brigade; it was not a well-thought out programme for the betterment of Nigeria. The political terrain is disorganised and so people come out with all sort of ideas,” he said.
Mr. Effodu said what Nigeria needs now is a president who has the courage of the late President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela to turn it around and not a six-year single tenure.
The National Publicity Secretary of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, Emma Eneukwu told PREMIUM TIMES that the party is still studying the proposal and will make its position know soon. He, however, said that the party is in consultations with its members in the National Assembly on the issue.