Posted by Emmanuel Aziken, Abuja on
The mystery of the purported third term tenure for the President and Governors was at weekend becoming as mysterious as its inventors.
The mystery of the purported third term tenure for the President and Governors was at weekend becoming as mysterious as its inventors. Senator Omar Hambagda, chairman of the sub-Committee of the National Assembly Joint Constitution Review Committee whose panel submitted the idea told Sunday Vanguard at the weekend that he did not even believe in the proposal.
Few legislators are themselves claiming to have worked the idea of the third term option which hit the nation like a storm at the beginning of the week.
Hambagda’s sub-Committee on the executive had recommended three options as concerning the tenure of executive office holders at the federal and state level. The three options were the status quo, a two term tenure of five years each and three terms of four years each. Incidentally, of the three options a majority of six members according to sources out of the 11 members, voted for the three terms of four years each.
As at press time, the identity of those could not be unveiled, but it is remarkable that the Committee chose to do away with the much speculated single term tenure that had caught the frenzy of the nation.
In disagreeing with the three term option offered by his sub-Committee, Senator Hambagda, a former university professor equally asserted his readiness to swear by the Koran that he had not been manipulated by either his Governor, Ali Modu Sheriff or Senator Ibrahim Mantu, the chairman of the National Assembly Committee on the review of the Constitution.
Governor Sheriff, a long time political mobiliser and a recent associate of President Olusegun Obasanjo according to tales around Abuja, was alongside a victim of the ill-fated Bellview Flight 210 that crashed last October principal architects of the third term option.
A relatively successful political kingpin whose exploits included outwitting his predecessor, Alhaji Mala Kachalla out of the Borno Government House, Sheriff has a reputation of political adventurism dating back to the Sani Abacha era.
The Obasanjo third term project was as such said by several around Abuja to be a fancy project of his.
Governor Sheriff however, denied the assertion. Speaking through his director of press, Usman Chiroma, the Governor repudiated the suggestion of him ever influencing Senator Hambagda on the submission.
“The Governor is not involved, the Senator has his own constituency, he is an independent man and he thinks independently,”” Chiroma told Sunday Vanguard on telephone last Friday.
The mystery concerning the third term project is even compounded by the fact that few politicians and those concerned would attest to any visible role of the President in the whole process.
Senator Mantu who nearly everyone believes to be a principal facilitator of the third term project according to very reliable associates of him has confessed not to have had any instruction from the President on the issue.
““Baba has not discussed this issue with me,’’’’ a close associate of the deputy President of the Senate quoted him as saying. That mystery is also compounded by the alleged remoteness of Chief Tony Anenih, the chairman of the PDP board of trustees to the project.
Chief Anenih according to separate accounts has distanced himself from it believing the project to be immoral and distasteful.
Anenih’’s distance from the project is further confirmed by his alleged profession of non-involvement to Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, himself, potentially the greatest loser from the project.
So if Chief Anenih, the operational leader and commander of Obasanjo’’s political army is distant from the project, then who is involved?
In the past at least several persons closely associated with the President have been reported to have been involved in moves to alter the Constitution to the purpose of extending the tenure of the President.
Three advisers of the President, notably Prof. Jerry Gana, Dr. Kanu Agabi and the late Alhaji Waziri Mohammed were variously alleged to have been delegated to the concluded national political reform conference for such a purpose. All three in the course of the conference were involved in group meetings which were alleged to be directed at tinkering the Constitution to allow an extension of the tenure of office of present office holders.
The conference, however, ended in a confusion following the resource control debacle.
Mohammed who died in the fatal crash of Bellview Flight 210 last October was among the three reputed to be neck deep in the project. A former activist in the Abacha must reign campaign, the likeable Mohammed had a reputation as a smooth political operator. His influence by several accounts extended deep into the operations of the National Assembly where several members are said to be deep in political debt to him for his assistance in the murky terrains of PDP politics.
His death according to some has opened an open struggle by political jobbers to take over his role.
It was gaining currency that associates of the President now believe that delivering the third term project could be a veritable way of consolidating their relationships with the President.
Following the disclosure of the contents of the sub-Committee’s report, the political temperature in the National Assembly was raised as accusation and counter accusations of involvement in the project rose. Senator Mukhtar Ahmed Aruwa (ANPP, Kaduna Central) became the first casualty when he was sacked from the National Assembly Joint Committee on the Review of the Constitution. He was sacked following a letter written by his two colleagues from Kaduna State accusing him of truancy.
The letter written by Senators Isaiah Balat (PDP, Kaduna South) and Dalhatu Tafida (PDP, Kaduna North) had accused Aruwa of dereliction of duty in representing their interest in the Committee.
The letter read thus:
“You will recall that during the last National Assembly, Distinguished Senator Dalhatu S. Tafida represented Kaduna State in the Joint Committee for Constitutional Review (JCCR).
In the recently constituted Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, Senator Dalhatu Tafida was also nominated to represent Kaduna State. But due to his busy schedule, that Senator Tafida , however, came close
to acknowledging the willingness of some in the political class to extend Obasanjo’’s stay in office, a struggle he described as noble and of worthy cause.
“All that I am saying is that, even if I was one of those fighting for Obasanjo to continue I would have no regret. I believe the man is doing well. I believe he is doing well, I have no grudge whatsoever,’’’’ he said last Thursday as he applauded the economic and accountability reforms of the administration.
Despite the protestations of sincerity by Senator Hambagda, his colleague and fellow ANPP Senator, Kanti Bello (ANPP, Katsina North) expresses disappointment in the output of the Committee. Bello who told Sunday Vanguard that he would not as mind mobilising his constituency to harass the legislators should they try to canvass the option of three terms in his constituency said: “Let me be frank with you, nobody can go to Katsina State or Kano State or the entire Northwest and tell them that I came with a recommendation for the executive to have three terms of four years each or two terms of five years each. Nobody can have the guts. I can assure you that if they do that, I will appeal to the Nigerian masses to beat the hell out of whoever takes the recommendation to them, because it is not part of what Nigerians are expecting.’’
Castigating the Committee for importing suggestions not canvassed at the public hearing, Senator Bello said: “You had a public hearing and during the public hearing, nobody mooted the idea of three terms of four years each or two terms of five years each. In the Constitutional Conference report, the idea is not there? In the dailies and all the discussions by Nigerians nobody mooted that idea, so from where did they get that idea?’’
Condemnation of the National Assembly sub-Committee proposal was almost universal.
Barrister Zik Obi, a member of the defunct political reform Conference that ended last July was categorical in his condemnation saying it was a prescription to destroy this country.
“All those and particularly members of the National Assembly canvassing, proposing or scheming for third term or an extension of the tenure of President Obasanjo or Governors are all misguided persons who do not wish this country any good. Most of them are sycophants and parasites of this regime who are acting purely out of very selfish motives. Any grant of a third term or an extension may destroy this country, therefore all well meaning Nigerians ought to oppose it and all of us should and must resist it.”
Indeed at the public hearing organised by the Hambagda sub-Committee the only suggestions were for a single term of five years or the retention of the present two terms.
Governor Boni Haruna of Adamawa State, at that hearing on March 15, 2004 had suggested that speculations of a single tenure of five years could be a way to allow President Obasanjo continue in office.
“The timing of these proposed amendments and when they take effect, leaves some untasteful political undercurrents. There are suspicions that these propositions are designed ostensibly to reduce the presidential tenure of other geo-polities after the South-West has had its full measure at the presidency. It tantamount to shifting the goal post,”” Haruna, the only Governor who graced the public hearing in Abuja had declared before the Hambagda Committee.
Following the submission of the sub-Committee’’s controversial report to the main Committee headed by Senator Mantu penultimate week, the onus has now been firmly laid on the main Committee to take or refuse the suggestion.
The Committee has scheduled to commence another round of public hearing on the proposals before the Committee turns in its report to the two houses of the National Assembly.
At the last meeting of the Committee, Senator Mantu according to one source had wanted the public hearing to begin in earnest at the end of this month. He was, however, allegedly opposed by other Committee members who wondered at the haste. Majority of Committee members had their way and it was resolved to start the public hearings on all the proposals brought before the Committee next January.
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