Third Term: Obasanjo Is It!


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Third Term: Obasanjo Is It!




Greg Mbadiwe





culled from THISDAY, April 14, 2006



Recently, our dear country reached yet another milestone in her march to democratic fulfillment. I am referring to the adoption of five major recommendations by the National Assembly Joint Committee on the review of the 1999 constitution, JRCR, that sat in Port-Harcourt. The adopted recommendations are, three terms of four years each for the President; rotation of the Presidency among the six geopolitical zones but alternating between the North and South; elevation of derivation from 13 per cent to 18 percent and the removal of state independent electoral commissions.

Of these five, however, the adoption of a three-term (of four years each) tenure for the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is unarguably the most remarkable given the level of debate or, indeed, controversy it has generated. Without doubt, this particular issue of tenure will continue to be a subject of robust argument among knowledgeable Nigerians until the final ratification of the recommendations by the National Assembly.

In the time being, however, I think we should give the committee members a pat on the back for being able to harmonize the popular opinion of the Nigerians who asked for a three-year term for the president during the public hearings. It would have been tragic for our country had the committee succumbed to blackmail to thwart the wishes of Nigerians which they unequivocally and eloquently voiced during the hearings. Of course, Nigerians in general should also be congratulated for recognizing the need for the change and insisting on it.

Since the controversy over the need for this particular amendment began, I have always wondered where the few members of the political elite who have voiced opposition to it got their impetus from. With the recent developments, this handful of individuals must now realize that they are on the wrong side of history. Simply because they could afford to make their voices heard, more than those of the hapless majority, they lived under the illusion that they could speak for the people. They came up with phrases and expressions to corrupt an otherwise innocuous matter. They tried to sell to Nigerians the erroneous impression that an amendment of the constitution to allow for a three-year term of four years each was an automatic endorsement for President Obasanjo to continue in office ad infinitum. Yes, some of us had about a year ago began to canvass for a tenure extension for Mr. President. But we were doing so conscious of the fact that the present constitution has to be amended for that to be possible.

Nobody ever suggested that Mr. President should simply stay put in Aso Rock after the expiration of his current term. We realized that much as there is need to give him more time to reposition the country, a democratic process has to be followed. But alas, what did Nigerians see? Attempts were made by unprogressive elements to cajole and intimidate them into opposing a constitution amendment that is so glaringly necessary if the country must make progress both democratically and developmentally. Because of the antics of these few, Nigerians found themselves in a dilemma. They desire an amendment of the 1999 constitution yet they were being brainwashed into believing that as desirable as it, the amendment was nothing but a ploy to make Chief Olusegun Obasanjo a life President.

Hence, when Nigerians had the opportunity, via the public hearings, they never hesitated to go for what they believe would best suit their collective democratic aspiration. For shunning those who tried to dissuade them from participating in the public leanings, Nigerians should hold their heads high. How could they have recorded such a hallmark achievement of having rotational presidency enshrined in the constitution if they had succumbed to the antics of the so called anti third term propagandists. For, quite apart from the issue of tenure, the adoption of the recommendation for rotational presidency to be part and parcel of our constitution is a major victory for every Nigerian irrespective of tribe, creed or party affiliation.

By the time it is finally ratified by the National Assembly, as is expected, it would end the perennial restiveness, even rancor over which section of the country produces the president. It would mean that every section of the country could now go home rest assured that it would have its own turn when ever the time comes. It would mean that the presidency of Nigeria would no longer be the subject of mere speculation or something that would depend on the whims self appointed kingmakers. Indeed, it would mean that Nigeria's of presidency would no longer be couched in sectional parlance like "Igbo Presidency", "Yoruba Presidency", "Northern President" or what have you. The point being made here is that probably without knowing it, this present generation of Nigerians is collectively taking some revolutionary steps which will alter, for good, the nature of politics in our clime.

Therefore, we should encourage ourselves to shun every thing that would detract us from actualizing the dream of leaving for posterity a polity that would be democratically stable and an economy that would be robust and virile. Needles to say, the few members of the political elite who had a different idea about how we could go about our democratic project should now see reason and join the majority. As is usually said, they have had their opinion, which they are entitled to, expressed, but the majority has had its way. That was what we saw at the public hearings. And that in what we have seen at the sitting of the JCRC. They should, therefore, return to the fold so that together we can match forward. And as we carry the democratic wishes of the majority of Nigerians to the plenary of the National Assembly for a final endorsement, it is only proper that we remind the distinguished and honorable fellow compatriots in the two hallowed chambers that perhaps by sheer providence, they have an opportunity to both individually and collectively be part of an epoch-making exercise. Their colleagues in the JCRC have shown faith and steadfastness in upholding the democratic wishes of Nigerians. The generality of the good people of Nigeria expect them to be even more patriotic by ensuring that the will of people prevail. To the members of the Committee, they should go about the remainder of their assignment without let or hindrance, bearing in mind that they have this rare  opportunityof making it possible for Nigerians to have a constitution  to which they made inputs. 

It would be pretentious to conclude this article without factoring in the incumbent president vis-a-vis the adoption of the recommendation for a three-term arrangement. Agreed, the recommendation is yet to be ratified by the National Assembly but while we wait for that, I think we should be fair to ourselves by acknowledging that Mr. President is in the best position to kick start this new arrangement. As is well know, this is not the first time we are saying it but we believe that we should begin to address our minds more purposefully towards this. Better put still, I think President Obasanjo should begin to address his mind to it. He should begin to prepare to receive the mandate of Nigerians once more for an additional term. Come to think of it, it is not for nothing that Nigerians are asking for the three-term arrangement. It is because they have seen in President Obasanjo a performer who needs more time to lay a stronger foundation for future presidents who will be the major beneficiaries of the current political and economic reforms of his administration.

Greg Mbadiwe, former ambassador and son of late Dr. K.O. Mbadiwe wrote from Abuja



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