From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Former Senate President, Senator Ken Nnamani, on Thursday revealed how he aborted former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s hatched third term agenda.
Speaking during the official launch of his book, “Standing strong: Legislative reforms, third term and other issues of the 5th Senate”, the chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) claimed that his model of legislation was shaped by the debate about whether the legislator is an agent or a trustee.
The former Senate President recalled that he authored the book with the mindset not to sensationalize; but to present a factual account of that defining moment without malice to anyone.
While recounting the circumstances that shaped the third term agenda, Nnamani noted that: “during the debate on the Third Term Bid of President Obasanjo, I weighed these two competing concepts of the role of a legislator. I decided to marry the two concepts. I wanted Senators to vote their mind on the question of whether to amend the constitution to allow President Obasanjo a Third Term.
“I also wanted them to effectively represent the views of their constituents. To be an informed trustee, the Senators needed to understand the views of their constituents before casting their votes. On this basis, the Senate adjourned to allow Senators to consult with their constituents about the constitutional amendment.
“With this intervention, some Senators returned to the plenary with enlightened views. Many who were previously overwhelmed with exigencies of politics returned with stories of the vehemence of their constituents. This
“Damascus experience’ changed the game on the Third Term vote. It was obvious that majority of Nigerians wanted the National Assembly to keep faith with the constitutional limitation on tenure.
“To ensure that Nigerians saw how their representatives were responding to the most important question of democracy, the Senate decided to televise its proceedings. Publicizing the proceedings was faulted by those who wanted to smuggle into the constitution the extension of tenure through undefined and darkly proceedings.
“They knew that if we isolate Nigerians from the proceedings and therefore reduce public pressure on the legislators it could be possible to ram through with their agenda. But I stood strong. The principal officers of the National Assembly stood strong. We overcame this intense pressure even from the highest level of government.
“We continued to broadcast the proceedings. The result of the publicity and openness was that we ultimately secured our democracy.
“The degree of public interest the debate generated owed largely to the decision to televise our deliberations. This was about the origin of the now institutionalized use of television to publicize the proceedings of the National Assembly. The publicity of the proceedings made legislators to sit up and take seriously the art of law-making. No one wanted to be caught on camera either sleeping or making disjointed statements.
“No one wanted to be seen by members of his community taking a disgraceful position on such important issue. Publicly televised proceedings became a new incentive structure to improve the quality of proceedings in the Senate. Suddenly, we gained a new insight into the legislative craft, we were then ready to subject our decisions to public scrutiny,” he said.
Senator Nnamani, however advocated for the need to focus on building the strongest and most resilient institutions of democracy and development.
“We need to have the best-in-class institutions since economic and social development turns mostly on the quality of institutions. However, recent political experience teaches us that crafty autocrats can rob these institutions of meaning and use them against democracy and development.
“The Third Term Bid was almost a disaster, but for the vigilance and courage of the National Assembly leaders who supported the due process and opposed an invasion of self-serving politicians.”
In his goodwill message during the event, President Muhammadu Buhari commended Nnamani’s contributions to nation building, assuring that the country will continue to fight against insecurity and ensure development of all part of the country.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo equally commended Nnamani for documenting his experience as a leader for the upcoming leaders to learn from.
Osinbajo also acknowledged that Nnamani has never showed desperation for anything, noting: “He (Nnamani) want to serve but not at all cost.”
Chairman of the occasion and former Chief Army Staff, General Theophilus Y. Danjuma, in his opening remarks recommended the book for all upcoming leaders.
His words: “In my own personal opinion this is a text book for all young men and women who want to run a difficult country like Nigeria. I recommend the book as a must buy for every aspiring leader.”
Former Senate President, Adolphus Wabara, was however very ferocious in his goodwill message, faulting the current security apparatus which he claimed favoured only one section of the country to the detriment of other part of the country.
Charging Nnamani who once chaired Senate Committee on Federal Character to prevail on the APC to correct the anomaly.
“You have to make sure that the country remain democratic and we must thank Buhari for not nursing ambition for a third term. I duff my hat for him. If he wanted an amendment of the constitution to extend his tenure, I am sure this current National Assembly will grant it, keep standing strong,” he charged.