The move to elongate the tenure of the president and governors from the current four years to six but limited to one term as against the present two via a constitution amendment may be a titanic battle between Nigerians in favour and those against.
This is evident in the disposition of many senators who are bracing up for the battle ahead of the amendment to the constitution, the third attempt since 1999 when Nigeria returned to democratic governance.
The first effort was aborted in 2006, no thanks to the bid to extend the tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo from the two terms provided under the 1999 Constitution to three while the second, last year, succeeded and amended certain electoral provisions in the document.
Although the National Assembly is alleged to have issues with funding on the latest constitution amendment as there is no provision in the current budget for the exercise, the House of Representatives has already constituted a 37-member Constitution Review Committee (CRC) for the amendment, leaving the Senate to do same.
Other issues that may enjoy prominence under the constitution amendment include state creation and the emergence of a new revenue formula.
The South-East, which is the only geo-political zone out of the six that has five states as against six by the others, has been in the forefront of the creation of at least an additional state in the zone.
Revenue allocation formula has, of late, been a contentious issue amid the new minimum wage crisis which has seen the states hinging their ability to pay on the upward review of their allocation from the federation account.
Senators, who shared their perspectives on the constitution amendment that would give the president and governors a single term of six years, are divided on the move.
Senator Babayo Gamawa (PDP, Bauchi North) described the six-year single term as the road to corruption and under-performance by the president and governors.
To Senator Ifeanyi Okowa (PDP, Delta North), single term will kill the opportunity by the electorate to assess the office holders before renewing their mandate.
Senator Ita Solomon Enang (PDP, Akwa Ibom) said single term of six years is a wicked move.
Senator Smart Adeyemi (PDP, Kogi West) believes single tenure will remove frictions and promote national development.
Senator Uche Chukwumerije (PDP, Abia North) contended that single tenure for the president and governors will ease the operation of power shift.
To Senator Esther Nenadi Usman (PDP, Kaduna South), the issue should be left for the people to decide.
The senators spoke separately to Sunday Vanguard at the weekend.
Kicking against the six-year single tenure move, Gamawa said it will make the incumbent to under perform knowing fully well that he will not be eligible for re-election.
He said, “Everybody has his or her own ideas when it comes to politics. But in politics, there should be room for opposition and checks. If we allow single term of six years, somebody will forget to do something good for the electorate because they know that they are not coming back for election.
“But leaving the four year single tenure as we have now with an option of another four years, if you are lucky to be re-elected as an incumbent, you will want to do something good for the people. I think the two-term system is good for us. There will be more productivity and more accountability to the people.”
Okowa, who toed Gamawa’s line, noted that the current status of four-year single term with an option of another term should be maintained. “I support two terms of office because it gives the public the room to assess you midway before the election. If you as a governor or president performs or not, the electorate will assess you and decide whether to vote for you or not, but the single tenure does not give room for them to assess you. You can just come on and do whatever you like and then go because nobody will assess you knowing that you are not coming for election again”, the senator said.
The senator added that stakeholders must be brought on board to decide whether Nigeria needs six years single term or four years of two terms.
He said, “For now, there is constitutional provision for a four-year term of office for the president and the governors. Anything outside that has to come through amendment of the constitution. We just came out of election and the people of Nigeria voted for four years. We need to have a stakeholders view on this and any change should only come up through amendment of the constitution.”
Adeyemi said six-year single tenure will remove frictions and engender development in Nigeria.
“I think it is good if you take into consideration our development and our diversities as a people. It is not out of place because it will enable us stabilize the polity because every area knows that it will get to them. It will enable Nigerians to have a sense of belonging, because the fear of marginalisation will be gone, as every section of the country will not feel they are being marginalized”, he stated.
Chukwumerije said that four-year term is not enough, but a six year single term should be enough for any one who comes to office with a vision to settle down and carry out developmental work, adding that this would enable the government meet the expectations of the people.
According to him, with single six-year term, the people would be be sure of power shifting to all the geo-political zones of the country.
Senator Zainab Kure (PDP, Niger South), who noted that she only read it in the newspapers, said that nobody has presented the matter before her or the Senate and, on that score, she may not be able to comment on that.
Enang, who described the move as too early, said that anyone who is thinking of the single six-year term at this critical period of the nation’s democracy is wicked.
According to him, what should preoccupy the minds of Nigerians now must be how to support President Goodluck Jonathan in delivery to the people the dividends of democracy, adding that the president has just kick started his economic blueprint for the country and recently put in place his ministers to drive the economy in creating employment and developing the country.