Commentators had alleged that he was seeking to extend his tenure through the back door by proposing an amendment to the constitution which could keep him in power for more years after his four-year tenure ends in 2015.
While confirming that he was indeed proposing a single tenure, Jonathan specifically declared that he would not be a beneficiary because if passed by the legislature, the new dispensation would kick off from 2015.
A presidential source said on Tuesday night that the bill, which was still being prepared, would contain “transitional clauses” which would technically prevent the sitting president and governors from enjoying additional years in office.
A two-page statement issued by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, however did not specify how long the single-term tenure would be.
But it is widely reported that it would be six years. Jonathan explained that his pushing for a single-term tenure was out of his patriotic zeal as well as the fact that the two terms provided for in the constitution does not guarantee stabilising the polity and institutionalisation of democracy which was not good “for Nigeria’s level of development”.
He further explained that the acrimony, which follows the issue of election and re-election at federal and state levels, overheats the polity and added to inter and intra party squabbles which affect the growth of political parties in the country.
He came to the conclusion that a single tenure would help executives concentrate on governance and development.
The president further said the cost of conducting primaries every four years followed by general election was too unwieldy for the economy and distracts from service delivery as attention shifts too early to issues of election and re-election.
“President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is to send a Constitution Amendment Bill to the National Assembly that will provide a single tenure for the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Governors of the 36 states of the Federation. In the envisaged Bill, the tenure of members of the National and State Assemblies will also be a little more than four years, although lawmakers will still be eligible for re-election as their constituencies may determine.
“President Jonathan’s commitment to a single term for the President and Governors 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. A longer term for lawmakers would also help to stabilise the polity.
“President Jonathan is concerned about the acrimony which the issue of re-election, every four years, generates both at the Federal and State levels. The nation is still smarting from the unrest, the desperation for power and the overheating of the polity that has attended each general election, the fall-out of all this is the unending inter and intra-party squabbles which have affected the growth of party democracy in the country, and have further undermined the country’s developmental aspirations.
“In addition, the cost of conducting party primaries and the general elections have become too high for the economy to accommodate every four years. The proposed amendment Bill is necessary to consolidate our democracy and allow elected Executives to concentrate on governance and service delivery for their full term, instead of running governments with re-election as their primary focus,” Abati said.
On the news making the rounds that Jonathan wants to elongate his tenure, he stated: “Nothing can be more untrue. The energy that has been devoted to speculations on the content of the likely bill is akin to an attempt to force the abortion of a non-existent pregnancy. The details of the Bill will be clear in terms of its provisions when it is forwarded to the National Assembly for consideration. The President makes it clear that his push for a single tenure for the office of the President and that of the Governors is not borne out of any personal interest. The proposed amendment will not have anything to do with him as a person; what he owes Nigerians is good governance, and he is singularly committed to this. Besides, it is trite in law that the envisaged amendment cannot have a retroactive effect. This means that whatever single-term tenure that is enacted into law by the National Assembly will take effect from 2015.”
Abati said his principal fervently believes that adopting the single tenure would actualise his transformation agenda, adding that the interest and well-being of Nigeria was more than the ambition of an individual and that if the single tenure was adopted, it would change the face of politics in the country while he would not be a beneficiary.
“The President also states that the greater good of Nigeria is greater than the ambition of any one individual. The envisaged Bill is part of the Jonathan administration’s transformation agenda aimed at sanitizing the nation’s politics. The President believes that this single move, when actualized, will change the face of our politics and accelerate the overall development of our nation. If the proposed amendment is accepted by the National Assembly, the President assures that he will not in any way be a beneficiary,” he concluded.
YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE
On the one hand…
•Re-election acrimony will be reduced but not eradicated. The elimination of re-election bid may allow the incumbent to focus on governance instead of building up resources and fighting enemies for second term.
•Primaries will no longer be every four years, so electoral expenditure will be reduced
•Sit-tight syndrome will go; you only win once
•It makes power rotation faster in the spirit of turn-by-turn
•A bad governor/president will leave power quicker than spending eight whole years!
•A two-term, eight-year tenure can lead to diminishing returns.
On the other hand…
•Re-election or nor, acrimony could still creep in if a governor/president wants to install a successor by all means
•If primaries are held every six years, expenditure could actually rise as more money will be stored up
•Sit-tight syndrome will go, but a lame duck could come
•If power rotation is not in the constitution, a sitting governor/president can still flout the “gentleman’s agreement”
•A bad governor/president will be in power for a longer period; currently, he could be voted out after only four years
•Diminishing returns can set in at any time, even in a four-year tenure.