The search for a durable political system and good leadership is still an ongoing Nigerian project. No system seems to work for us even though it has worked for other people. Although the practice of democracy as a form of government has almost become universal, it differs from one country to the other. The way it was practiced in Greece is quite different from the way it is practised today.
In some countries, it has lost its essence. This can possibly explain why we are at it again on the issue of tenure for president and governors and even legislators. It is a road we have travelled before. It is also a road we will continue to travel until we perfect our own model of democracy that will suit our peculiarities. For our democracy to endure, it must of necessity assume local colourations and characters.
Like others before it, it started with the rumoured third term agenda which President Muhammadu Buhari promptly dismissed because it breached the extant tenure system as prescribed in the 1999 Nigerian Constitution. Moreover, age is no longer on the president’s side to contemplate any tenure elongation agenda. This is not the first time tenure elongation will feature in our political lexicon. It featured prominently during the tenure of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
Some Nigerians actually wanted Obasanjo to go beyond the two terms of four years each which the constitution allowed so as to sustain the gains of democracy. Despite the envisaged gains of such moves by a few Nigerians, it did not see the light of the day.
Therefore, it can hardly be surprising the recent bill sponsored by John Dyegh from Benue State entitled, “A Bill for an Act to Alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to Provide for a Single Term of Six years for the President and Governors and a Six-year Term for Members of the National Assembly and States Houses of Assembly.” It will be recalled that earlier attempts by the 7th and 8th National Assembly to institutionalize a single-term for the president and governors did not succeed in 2013 and 2016.
Dyegh had argued while presenting the bill that “lives are lost as a result of desperate struggle to remain in power for a second tenure.” He believed that “limiting the term of office of a president or governor to a single, elongated tenure, therefore offers a promising and long-term solution to the avoidable loss of lives and conflicts arising from re-election processes.”
Just like Dyegh reasoned in his proposal, many Nigerians still believe that the struggle for second term by president and governors and even lawmakers has made nonsense of governance in the country. It has also made mockery of our democracy and what it stands for. It has made us a laughing stock before the international community and all defenders of democracy.
The recent gubernatorial elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states made nonsense of our electoral system as well as our democracy. While Kogi illustrates the second term desperation, the Bayelsa episode underscores the bid to have a successor, all of which are inimical to our democracy. It is too bad that the lawmakers dismissed the bill without much interrogation. It is believed in some quarters that the lawmakers killed the bill for selfish reasons. It should not be so.
The bill is worth representing to the house for a thorough job to be done. Nigeria is ripe for a single term of six years. Second term has proved more problematic than being valuable. Conducting elections every four years is a sheer waste of resources and man-hours. It wearies the electoral umpire and its staff. While a single-term of six years may not be a cure-all remedy to our democratic ills, it will largely stamp out the desperation for a second term bid.
It will stop the waste of resources and loss of human lives associated with the second term bid of politicians, especially the executives. It will enable our elected officers behave and do something within the six years given to them. I believe that if six years is not enough for a president, governor and lawmaker to perform, eight years will never do the magic.
The quest for a second term in office has bastardized our politics. Once a president or governor is elected into office and sworn-in, he starts to think of how to win a second term. It does not matter whether he performs well or not. What matters to him most is not the welfare of the people but how to win the next election. The same applies to our lawmakers. All of them plot how to win the next election and make money and not the welfare of the people in his constituency.
Because of the second term bid of our politicians, governance can be put aside and money meant for development deployed to win election by fire and by force. Although the 1999 Constitution prescribes a four-year term for president and governors, it also prescribes a second term of four years. But it is not compulsory on the incumbent to do a second term. I believe that the second term for president and governors should be based on track-record of achievement in office.
It ought to be a reward for hard work and doing well in the first term. It is never a reward for incompetence and poor performance as we have seen in our country recently. Going for second or more terms as prescribed for lawmakers in the constitution should be based on adequate representation of their constituencies. Their second term or third term will be based on their constituencies and their willingness to bring them back.
But now, the president, governors and even lawmakers have taken second term as a must and a battle that must be won by all means possible. It is this “do or die” attitude for a second term that is pushing some Nigerians to come up with the idea of a single term of six years whether the occupant performs or not. They have argued that it is better to endure a bad leader for six years than eight years.
That is why the single tenure bill must be revisited. It will sanitize our democracy and lessen the burden of INEC to conduct elections too frequently. In fact, one year is even enough to endure a bad leader. That is why the framers of the constitution inserted in it the impeachment clause for president and governors and recall clause for lawmakers.
Although the constitution allows for impeachment of president and governors it is hardly used in Nigeria. No Nigerian president has been impeached for abuse of office. And it is not likely that any would be going by the ethnic nature of our politics. At state level, impeachment has been seen as a tool of vendetta. It was overtly abused during the Obasanjo era.
Despite its criticisms, the six-year single term can reduce the acrimony associated with the quest for a second term. But will it remove the quest to install godsons by political godfathers? Will a single term of six years ensure good leadership? It is sad that 59 years after independence and 20 years of unbroken democracy, we are still searching for the right political model.
This definitely shows that something is still lacking in our journey to nationhood. That is why many Nigerian patriots are voting for the restructuring of the country before 2023 tears us apart.