by Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba
The Sun Newspaper recently reported as follows: The Deputy Senate President and Chairman, Senate Committee on Constitution Review, Ike Ekweremadu, recently proffered a controversial panacea to the country’s seemingly intractable political succession crisis. He suggested that instead of allowing President Goodluck Jonathan to contest the 2015 presidential
election to seek a second term in office, the National Assembly could extend his current tenure by two years as a transition period for the amendment of the constitution to provide for a single term of six years for the offices of president and state governors, beginning from 2017. Jonathan and the present governors would not be beneficiaries of the new arrangement.
The idea of a single 6-year term has been mooted many times both in Nigeria and other countries. Several United States presidents had made similar suggestions and many other politicians have held comparable views. But no matter who makes the suggestion it comes down to the same thing: politicians want to remove the people from the act of governing. Politicians want to be freed from going back to the people for fresh mandates. Campaigning is arduous. Campaigning costs money which means raising money which means begging for money. Campaigning involves time with constituencies. Campaigning means answering unsavory questions. And a myriad of unpalatable things. If we remove campaigning or reduce it to just one time politicians would be free. We cannot set politicians free. They need to be caged or at least put tethered at all times
What Mr. Ekweremadu was trying to do is to provide a mathematical answer to a sociological or psychological issue. Here is how his brain is working: If President/Governor did X things in 4 years how much more would he do in 6 years:
4 years =X
1 year =X/4
6 years =X/4*6
It is mathematically correct. The president/governor would do X/4*6 which is greater than X. It of course raises the question why not make it 8 years or 12 years as Mr. Obasanjo wanted to do?
The problem with this mathematical reasoning is that it fails to address the “why” part of the equation. Why do presidents/governors accomplish all the things they accomplish? Here is the answer. Presidents during their initial campaigns promise that they would do better than the incumbent they are trying to replace. They present position papers woo the electorate and work really hard. When elected they spend the first half of the term trying to demonstrate that they were doers of their promise and trying to excel their predecessors accomplishments. People like what they see. They then spend the second half trying to prove that they deserve a second chance. So they promise and do more. So in the 4 years of his first term he is trying to impress the electorate. Politicians are afraid of the electorate. It is this fear that makes them do so well. And it is this point that the likes of the Deputy Senate President, Mr. Ekweremadu did not understand.
During the second term most presidencies go down hill. Scandals, disloyalty, and what the Americans call lame duck status sets in. The president no longer has the need for the electorate. If he is feels like it he may worry about his place in history, but only a few do. In Nigeria no one has ever cared about history. If we really want our presidents and governor’s to perform what we need is 4 two year terms for governors and presidents for a total of 8 years. They would have the fear of God and electorate in their minds all the time. The only draw back on this is cost to be incurred by INEC. But we will have better governments and presidents and governors. The US House of Representatives that live by 2 year terms are the most sensitive to constituency feelings.
I have purposely ignored the constitutional implications of the Senator’s proposal because I am sure he knows the constitution better than most people and fully understands the difficulty involved in implementing it. I have merely focused on the thought process and the implications if the proposal is accepted and legislated. It will be bad for the country.
The Deputy Senate President should revisit his position paper and withdraw it.
Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba