By Austine Uche-Ejeke
The politics surrounding the return of the incumbent to a second term did not start today.
Going by historical incursion one could say that it started even in the military era. Though military regimes are not democratic in nature that has term stipulations but one of the problems of Gowon was his attempt to stretch his regime to another term after ruling for nine years. Of course, this was truncated by Murtala Mohammed.
Shehu Shagari’s achievement of a second term through a highly contested and controversial 1983 election was aborted by Buhari in December 1983.
Also, an attempt by Ibrahim Babangida to extend his rule after eight years of reign through various guises was stopped by the people through the instrumentality of June 12 annulment protests. Even the dreaded Sani Abacha could not succeed in appropriating another term as even mother nature did not approve of that hence his quick dispatch to great beyond via questionable circumstances.
Down to the Third Republic and emergence of Olusegun Obasanjo many people thought that Obasanjo will follow the footsteps of African icon, Nelson Mandela, who did only one term and handed over to another person. In fact, many pundits believe that one of the problems and dislocations of this country was caused by Obasanjo.
Their thinking is predicated on the fact that if Obasanjo had done just one term and allowed now deceased Alex Ekwueme to do one term too perhaps this bitterness of the people of South-East extraction of not having a shot at the Presidency would have been sorted out since 2003. But Obasanjo not only gunned for second term but also plotted for a third term.
One of the intricacies of this evil politics of second term is that all the presidents that plotted for it never at any time gave the impression that they were interested.
They normally hold the country spell bound in guess work while their foot soldiers transverse the political landscape doing their dirty jobs for them.
Obasanjo never indicated interest in second term until very late. By this time a lot of national resources had been used in oiling the machinery that eventually achieved his second term ambition. Same thing with Goodluck Jonathan. In fact, Jonathan’s case was worse as he kept Nigerians guessing until late 2014 for an election that will take place in 2015!
Same scenario is playing out now with President Buhari. With the change mantra and fairy tale of no-nonsense of Buhari, Nigerians thought that things will be different. They were of the view that Buhari would have by now declared his interest for a second term or given a stern presidential order stopping any campaign in his name for a second term. But no, nothing of such has happened.
Another bad aspect of this second tern brouhaha is that once it’s starts it directly or indirectly affects the pace of governance. Or how do we expect a serving minister in the all-important transport ministry to concentrate on his assignments having been conferred with the responsibility of Director-General of 2019 Buhari re-election bid. Or even the communications minister Shittu who has left the exigencies of his ministerial portfolio to be sharing caps and campaign materials at the Federal Executive Council meeting!
No sane Nigeria will argue the fact that business of the government has nosedived in recent times as a result of this second term fever that is engulfing the whole polity now! Nobody is talking about the welfare of Nigerians, the inflationary trend, poverty, unemployment, insecurity, killing of Nigerians here and there!
All attention is focused on the re-election of president Buhari. It got so bad that about five governors, some of them owing many months of unpaid salary arrears, and led by Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, trooped to Abuja early this year to drum into the hard skulls of hard hearing Nigerians that whether they like it or not president Buhari must be reelected for the second term! This was happening same day and almost same hour that 73 hapless Nigerians of Benue State origin were being buried in mass grass as result of the activities of herdsmen!
Down to the states, activities are almost coming to ground zero as the momentum of second term ambition of some governors has taken over everything. Going by hindsight, most of the governors that return on second term ticket never achieve much as they use the remaining four years to line up their pockets as complacency sets in. They know they don’t owe anybody any explanations since they are not coming back to seek for their support and votes again!
This has brought us to the persistent call for institutionalization of a five-year single term for all elected officers in the country. This will save the country the huge cost of organising election every four years for second term. In majority of these elections for second organised so far, the incumbent using the all-powerful power of incumbency normally return to power by hook or crook. A lot of bad blood is normally incurred through intra party wrangling and jostling for ticket with the incumbent and time and money wasted in an election that is usually predicted in favour of the incumbent.
The country can save a lot of money if this politics of second term is down played and all major stakeholders stick to the rules of engagement. Alternatively, the country can try out the option of single term of five years. This will save the country a lot of wastages and institute sanity in the polity.
Austine UCHE-EJEKE, publisher and editor-in-chief AGENDA community newspaper, and a public affairs Analyst, wrote vide email@example.com
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