Six Year Single Term for Nigerian President
By Naiwu Osahon
I have been preaching five year single term for our president and
governors since after the 1999 election. I raised the issue again
after our 2003 general elections, then during Chief Obasanjo attempt
to elongate his tenure and after the 2007 general elections, which was
adjudged by both local and international observers as the worst
elections ever held any where in the world. The elections were marred
by monumental rigging and glaring inadequacies:
(1) Voting did not start in time in many places as usual.
(2) Voting materials were inadequate in most stations.
(3) Security agents were absent at many of the polling stations.
(4) Election did not take place in over a third of the designated
places for elections.
(5) Election boxes were hijacked or stuffed illegally with election
papers in most places.
(6) Violence marred the election process at many polling stations.
(7) INEC officials and security agents colluded with some unknown
persons to disenfranchise voters at many polling stations.
(8) Many people voted more than once, including teenagers who
in most queues.
(9) Election results in many places were known and posted on the
Internet by INEC, days before the actual elections.
But these were not our worst problems; we had a dictator for
president, encouraging and sponsoring criminality in governance.
Obasaanjo was a Tin-God but all African leaders tend to be like that.
They think they are Emperors, conquerors, kings and kings are supposed
to rule for life. Daniel arap Moi was in power in Kenya from 1978 to
2003. His 1992 and 1997 re-elections were marred by massive
irregularities leading to civil unrest and agitation for military
intervention in Kenya. Moi could not be defeated while in office
until Kenya’s constitution was amended to bar him from contesting in
the 2003 general elections. The field was thus thrown open for fresh
ideas and Kenya’s ruling party, KANU presented a new torch-bearer in
the person of Uhuru Kenyatta, while the opposition parties teamed up
in the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC), to present Mwai Kibaki, who
Kenya’s 2003 general elections were adjudged some of the best ever
held in Africa. Like Moi who would not surrender power voluntarily
even when nobody wanted him to continue in office, the new Kibaki
started rigging too to perpetrate himself in power leading to serious
civil unrest in the last general elections that recorded hundreds of
fatal casualties. The story is the same in Zimbabwe, Cameroons,
Gambia, Code d’ Ivore and several other countries in Africa, including
all of Northern Africa. African leaders consider it a disgrace to
allow themselves to be voted out of office.
This is one of the strongest reasons why the single term tenure is
best for Africa, particular in countries like Nigeria with a multitude
of tribes, religions and interest, ready to destroy self and others to
take control of national affairs. The influence of incumbency
heightens do-or die politics in our clime. It began during Obasanjo’s
presidency with the attempt to doctor electoral laws. At first the
president and his cohorts in power, were against the registration of
new political parties. When the registration of new parties became
inevitable due to public pressure, the incumbents in power tried to
limit the number of the new parties to three and to restrict their
activities to the local government elections. Gani Fawehinmi, a civil
rights lawyer and other opposition parties went to court for succor,
and the courage and impartiality of the judiciary facilitated the
opening up of the political space to accommodate over 30 political
Obasanjo virtually controlled INEC. Although new parties such as the
Advance Peoples Congress (APC) and the Movement for the Restoration
and Development of Democracy (MRDD), were registered in
January/February 2006 to open up the democratic space, a chieftain of
the ruling party, the PDP, was quoted in the press at the time to have
said: “Anybody can decide to go and contest anywhere but let them go
and get their INEC.” This is the dilemma of our Independent National
Electoral Commission (INEC). It is not independent. The President
determines who works there and who leads it; when to release funds to
it and how much to release, thus making INEC staff feel that their
tenure and fortunes are tied to their loyalty to the President. Of
course, there is the Council-of State involvement in aspects of INEC’s
process, but the Council is merely a rubber stamp contraption.
Obasanjo’s presidency had access to INEC’s confidential information
such as the design and security features of voters cards and boxes,
the registered voters lists. Location of polling stations etc, which
it could use to the detriment of the opposition parties. The
presidency knew in advance, who was going to serve where and when
and had total control over the movement of voting materials and security
agents especially at a period when voters’ movements were seriously
curtailed nation-wide. There was strong evidence that some election
results were fed into computers before elections actually took place.
This was disgracefully demonstrated in the Lagos state governorship
results when INEC forgot to erase in time, their fake result awarding
the election to the candidate of the ruling party at the centre, PDP,
in Lagos state even after they had announced Bola Tinubu of the AD as
the actual winner.
At the party primary level too, the presidency’s rigging streak knew
no bounds. They numbered the voters cards state by state to
discourage voting against the president because anyone doing so could
be identified. The delegates’ list was expanded by nearly 50%,
against party constitution, with the names of Ministers, Ambassadors,
Advisers and other appointees of the President smuggled in. Most of
the President’s cronies were not even card carrying party members
until the eve of the party primary.
Only the president had prior access to the full list of delegates, and
he utilized it to write passionate, self-selling appeals to the
individual delegates before the party primary. He, rather than the
PDP, financed and sponsored the transportation to the venue, and the
hotel accommodation for most of the delegates not seriously identified
with the opposition candidates. Every ordinary delegate with one vote
at the primary, returned home with at least N100,000 bribe from the
President, while the Governors and leaders of delegations who could
influence block votes each, received N5 – N10 million naira, depending
on the size of the block vote. The overbearing influence of the
president and governors, in terms of limitless funds, intimidated the
voters, provided financial muscle for the president and governors, and
determined the date and venue of party primaries at the Federal and
After the primaries, came the general elections where the influence,
of incumbency was exemplified by the effrontery and arrogance of
security forces who hijacked election materials and or assisted INEC
personnel to doctor such materials at several polling stations around
the country, especially in areas of strong political opposition.
Opposition party leaders and their followers, particularly in remote
areas of the South-East, South-South and South-West, were threatened
not to come out of their homes to vote. Only in Lagos was Tinubu able
to counter the Federal security and financial might.
What helped Tinubu, was that he was already a pariah of his original
regional Afenifere politics and knew he was on his own. His principal
foe, turned out to be the presidency, which he marched thug for thug
and naira for naira. The other South-West governors were complacent.
One of them even boasted before the elections that he would not spend
more than N50,000 of his own money to campaign and win, he lost. The
presidency pumped millions of tax payers’ money to compromise INEC and
security agents from the level of state commissioners to look the
other way, down to the polling booth kids who each received no less
than N25,000 to thumb-print materials and or assist the President’s
party members to stuff up ballot boxes. Inspector General of police
at the time made some of his billions of naira loot from this project
only to be hounded out of office later and jailed for stealing by
Obasanjo who used him.
Incumbent presidents and governors surround themselves with ‘yes’ men.
In other words, with criminals like themselves who rig themselves
into office like their benefactors. There is no way we can move
forward as a people if criminals continue to rule us. Criminals and
greedy people do not owe loyalty or allegiance to any one but
themselves so incumbency factor becomes a life and death matter. The
National Assembly has a responsibility to remove this cancerous sore
from our polity by amending the Constitution to limit the term in
office of the President and Governors to a single term of six years
each as is being proposed by President Jonathan. It is an extremely
patriotic move that all well meaning Nigerians must support even if
Jonathan benefits from it or not. And why should he not if he
performs well? The best time to send the bill to the National
Assembly and settle the issue is now because later would arouse
suspicion of attempt to elongate self tenure and create serious
distraction in governance.
The single term of six years, apart from eliminating or minimizing the
damaging effect of incumbency factor in our elections, would improve
access of all Nigerian tribes and even religions to the coveted
leadership positions, and encourage stronger healthier feelings of
belonging and citizenship. For our zoning champions, it means
leadership would rotate more frequently between North and South and at
the governorship level, marginalized tribes can aspire to lead sooner
than later. I am not a strong advocate of zoning, I think merit
should be our watch word, but in a society like Nigeria where every
tribe is virtually a nation on its own, we need to let the presidency
and governorship positions move around as rapidly as possible for now,
and single term in office would facilitate that.
Single term tenure reduces acrimony in politics and creates level
playing ground for all candidates of elections. By and large, no
candidate would have undue access to the national purse or
overwhelming control of the media and INEC. Single term reduces cost
of conducting elections in our large society of over 70 million voters
and growing. There is a good chance that tribes and zones would
attempt to put their best candidates forward to prove something at the
centre, whether as presidents or governors. Six years is enough for
any President or Governor to make a great difference in the lives of
the people especially because of the lack of distraction by election
matters throughout the period, unlike with the eight year system, when
over half of the period is spent on trying to win and keep power.
The political parties have special responsibilities in single tenure
regimes in a multi-ethnic and religiously divided society like ours if
they want to win elections. Candidates must be picked according to
the candidates’ liberal antecedents across political, social, tribal
and religious nuances that divide us. A candidate must not offend any
of our sensibilities and must bring merit to the table. Nigeria is in
dire need of good leaders so, although we accept that zoning is
inevitable for now in our country, each zone party is expected to
endeavour to put their best candidates forward because if they don’t,
the lackluster performance of their candidates in office would reflect
negatively on their zone and tribe in the long run. If the party’s
candidates perform well in office, the party has a good chance of
wining the next election and so on. A good leader has no hiding
place. Take Governor Fashola of Lagos State currently, for instance.
His performance in Lagos is responsible for the feat achieved by the
ACN in the recently concluded national elections nation wide.
The cost of running our presidential system is scandalous, consuming
some 80% of our annual budgets at all levels of our governments. No
country can make any developmental impact on its citizens with only
20% of its annual budget going into capital projects. The bureaucracy
is too cumbersome at all levels of our governments with our leaders
parading battalions of advisers, hangers-on and an over-bloated civil
service system. The presidency, for instance, surrounds himself with
a myriad of advisers and deputy advisers duplicating the jobs of his
Ministers and deputy Ministers. The national Assembly leaders too
have their own complements of advisers, all of them with a retinue of
office staff, lavish pecks of office, including cars, housing,
estacodes and what have you. The solution could be a return to the
parliamentary system or a combination of that with the presidential
one. Whatever it is, we would not know without a parley of some sort
between all the ethnic stakeholders in the project called Nigeria.
There is a serious need and urgency to structure the nation to create
a level playing ground for all our ethnic nationalities through
dialogue. The PDP seems to shy away from what some have described
a Sovereign National Conference. But until the issues involved are
amicably settled, Nigerian unity would continue to be a mirage with
ethnic agitations continuing to grow to implacable and monstrous
NAIWU OSAHON Hon. Khu Mkuu (Leader) World Pan-African Movement);
Spiritual (Spiritual Prince) of the African race; MSc. (Salford);
Dip.M.S; G.I.P.M; Dip.I.A (Liv.); D. Inst. M; G. Inst. M; G.I.W.M;
A.M.N.I.M. Poet, Author of the magnum opus: ‘The end of knowledge’.
One of the world’s leading authors of children’s books; Awarded; key
to the city of Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Honourary Councilmanship,
Memphis City Council; Honourary Citizenship, County of Shelby;
Honourary Commissionership, County of Shelby, Tennessee; and a silver
shield trophy by Morehouse College, USA, for activities to unite and
uplift the African race.
Naiwu Osahon, renowned author, philosopher of science, mystique,
leader of the world Pan-African Movement.
|The New Gong Magazine
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