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Kill this single-term agenda

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to bring it back and get it adopted through the back door. Thank God that they failed again. It is, however, this week that the Committee will be facing its biggest test yet as it tackles the even more controversial issue of single term. And Nigerians will be watching with keen interest to see whether the members will prove themselves to be men of honour working for Nigeria or lackeys chosen to do a dirty job.

The single term proposition is not new. It has a long history and many adherents, especially among those who are in power or those in a hurry to get into it. It may be recalled that Jonathan himself, as Vice- President to the deceased President Umaru Yar'adua, headed a committee set up by the latter that recommended a single tenure for elected executives and passed it on to the Justice Uwais-led committee on electoral reforms. The proposition has, however, always been unpopular among, and unacceptable to most Nigerians who are always quick to see it as ploy for tenure elongation, opposition to which is one of the very few, if any, settled issues in the country.

There are basically five main arguments being advanced for the single tenure proposition. One is that by removing the urge among office holders for a second term, and among those from the outside to stop incumbents from securing second term, the provision will help to reduce or even completely diffuse tension and acrimony, and thereby ensure stability in the polity. Two is that it will help to remove the distractions that usually attend the struggle among office holders for second term and make them focus on service delivery. Three is that it will help to reduce corruption in that incumbent office holders will have less urge to steal and use public resources to secure second term. Four is that it will help to reduce crisis and tension in the polity by making it possible for more people to have a shot at the offices than would otherwise be the case if two terms are allowed. And five is that it will save the nation the cost of having to conduct elections every four years.

On their face value alone, these arguments are seductive. But a closer examination shows them to be wrongheaded, self-serving and bunkum. They are, in fact, a product of naiveté, a refusal to think and of a faulty diagnosis of our social and political problems on the part of those who canvass them. Firstly, the arguments lay undue emphasis on individual incumbency, ignoring completely the important factor of party incumbency and the fact that there is no leader anywhere who does not care about, or try to influence the choice of who succeeds him in office. Thus, even if the candidate is barred from seeking a second term, he is sure to have a preferred candidate to succeed him, and his party is no less sure to want to retain its incumbency, and the two will steal resources, cajole, coerce and just do whatever is necessary to ensure victory.

Secondly, there is no guarantee that simply because an incumbent is barred from seeking a second term, he will settle down to do his job and do it well. All depends on the individual: his disposition, his principles and commitments, his history and how serious he is as a leader. This means, in fact, that the opposite is just as likely, that the incumbent, knowing that he does not have to face the electorate again, may choose not to bother about the people's plight, or even to be out rightly irresponsible.

Thirdly, the two-term arrangement is not the cause of the tension, acrimony and instability in our polity. The causes, rather, are the low level of political awareness and extreme poverty and powerlessness among the people, illiteracy, ignorance and disaffection with the system among our people, high level of corruption at the top, and the fact that most of our political institutions have yet to mature and take firm roots.

Fourthly, the single term proposition is, in its essence, anti- people, anti-democracy anti-merit. The proposition is, by its implications and practical application, the surest way to rob the Nigerian electorate and people of the little hold and power they have over their elected leaders and to deny the prudent and efficient leader the reward of his labours. In a democracy, the two-term provision is, in a way, a system of reward and punishment - reward of a second term for good performance, and punishment with denial of a second term for bad or poor performance. The provision for, and the possibility of an incumbent coming back to the people to seek their mandate and votes a second time is the only hold that the people have on their leaders. Take this away from the people, and you render them naked and much more powerless and disorganised vis-a-vis the leaders. And what you have will be something else not democracy. For, what is democracy without a system of reward and punishment firmly in the hands and under the control of the people?

Those who canvass the single term proposition would do well to look around the world and study the global trend which, for long now, has been in favour of a two-term arrangement. Countries like Brazil, Argentina and Chile, that immediately after emerging from long years of military dictatorship, chose the single term arrangement have now all changed to the two-term arrangement. What do the single term proponents want to prove by their insistence that we go against the global trend?

We recall that President Jonathan himself, in justifying his single term proposal, did admit that the two-term arrangement, viewed in the context of political evolution, is the ultimate. Since evolution, whether of natural or political phenomena, involves a movement from a lower to a higher order, why does the President want the country that he governs to move backward, or retrogress on the political evolutionary ladder?

In our view, this whole single term proposal does not make any sense, except as a self-serving agenda by the president and his men to give themselves more years in power in order to fully execute the agendas, most of which are sectional, which they came to power with and have been fine-tuning ever since.

This is why we call on the more reasonable and patriotic members of the Committee to put heads and votes together to defeat the proposal, as they did the equally senseless one about rotation of the presidency.

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