I am yet to see a man so blessed by fate, yet so adept at frittering away the popular goodwill with which he has been blessed like our own President Jonathan. Compare this Mr. Lucky to the other President miles away in Washington DC, who has to fight for every inch of progress and you wonder why our man in Abuja is not delivering cheesecake!
Much have been written or said about the latest missive from the President’s spokesman on his proposal single elongated term for executives on the state and federal level. Putting aside the well rehearsed argument against the proposal, one have to say the President simply lacks political sensibility to actually bring this issue up when other such pressing issues should be on his plate.
For one, why would a man whose victory was largely interpreted as a poke in the eye of the “power that used to be”, and against his party principles of “rotational presidency” suddenly determine to impose his idea of political egalitarianism on Nigeria at the wee hours of his administration? Why will President Jonathan, with every of his action being more or less treated as suspect by the powerful elements whose toes he stepped suddenly embark on this foolhardy without at least bulking up his natural constituency?
Here is a reality check for Mr. President. You just won, but you won largely in regions whose grassroots politics you barely control. More than 9 states of the 26 states the President carried are controlled by the opposition. The political sensible thing to win support for this kind of legislation is to ensure those governors were on your side before you released such proposal of grand flatulence into the political arena! In fact, I still question the wisdom of using a confused ex-journalist like Reuben Abati to clarify policy positions especially one that can easily become political hot potatoes like this one.
It is true that a close study of the geopolitical configuration of Nigeria will reveal the President can pass his proposal given the right friends, and selecting the right enemies. Heck, he won in 26 states and need 24 state assemblies to make this law. Give or take, legislators from 26 states should also more than guarantee two-thirds of the Senate or House of Rep. But even then, he will be cutting it close assuming he will be winning every single vote on the line after garnering popular support. But then, he did not even try!
What would the President give the Action Congress in return for backing his proposal? Perhaps he could call Asiwaju Tinubu to propose devolution of powers via creating state police in return for bloc support of Action Congress Members? Will he increase the allocation formula to satisfy the other state governors? Will there be an amendment on the table deleting LGAs from the constitution, thereby making it more federal and less unitary?
Why didn’t the President’s amendment appeal to the good governance base that wants to see immunity for criminals in his political party and reduced recurrent expenditure by way of fat bureaucracy and political officers? Perhaps an amendment that replaces the full time House of Representatives with a body that sits on part-time basis and is organized more along the parliamentary line than the Presidential one? How about an amendment that fixes the anomaly of having gazillion irrelevant ministers and ministries, but rather mandates a lean civil service that actually makes sense?
In all, the President asked for a lot and gave nothing in return. He is naïve to think in the give and take world of politics people will actually take his word and believe he was acting in self interest. His proposal is dead on arrival, unless he immediately goes back to shore his base. To shore his base now does not mean giving a trite explanation to the PDP Executive Committee.
The PDE NEC ironically is the most unrepresentative of the President’s base. They command no real support base amongst the people that voted for the President. In any case, half of the members of this body actually oppose the President or can do nothing about the ordained opposition he will get from their own narrow and selfish base.
Speaking specifically to the proposal, it is only a first step. It makes sense on one hand, but it is largely incomplete and so hollow it does not befit a doctorate degree holder. What breaks does the President have in place for a scenario when a bad incompetent leader is elected? Or is he prepared to live with the consequences of bad executive with no dire consequences awaiting him in office for six to seven straight years?
How about a mandated referendum in the third year (or recall) when certain threshold of signatures can be collected against a sitting executive within the first 24 months of governance? Furthermore, perhaps a proposal that will recommend three year terms for House of Reps members, with Senators sitting for four years will make sense to check the excesses of executives? These coupled with the recall option, will ensure the nation’s leaders are checked knowing they will face the electorate in the third, fourth and sixth year respectively!
If the President is really serious about governing, what Nigeria needs is a series of good governance amendments chief of which will be amending the section that disallows us from sitting down to talk about the future of the constitution, and producing a true people’s constitution.
Amending Section of the constitution to allow a wholesale replacement of the current document by a popularly elected constituent assembly mandated by the National Assembly with its resolution subject to an up or down referendum (popular) vote is the smart way to transform Nigeria. Over to you, Mr. President!