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3rd Term: Kure, Akume Opt Out

Posted by By Bolaji Adebiyi, Samuel Famakinwa and Tokunbo Adedoja on 2005/12/28 | Views: 656 |

3rd Term: Kure, Akume Opt Out

The tribe of governors supporting speculated third term bid of President Olusegun Obasanjo has begun to dwindle as two more state chief executives from the North join forces with their colleagues who are opposed to a constitutional amendment that will permit the President and state governors to have three terms of four years each.

*Fawehinmi warns Obasanjo not to dare

The tribe of governors supporting speculated third term bid of President Olusegun Obasanjo has begun to dwindle as two more state chief executives from the North join forces with their colleagues who are opposed to a constitutional amendment that will permit the President and state governors to have three terms of four years each.

The two governors’ obection was boosted yesterday by Lagos lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, who war-ned Obasanjo not to accede to the pressure to extend his tenure beyond 2007 as that would amount to tempting God.

The new converts to the side of the opposition are Niger State Governor Abdulkadir Kure and his Benue State colleague, Chief George Akume, who yesterday denied any role in the plan to extend the President’s tenure, saying it would amount to a grave violation of the 1999 constitution.

Although the governors said they were opposed to the extra term plan on the ground that it was contrary to sections 137 (b) and 182(b) of the constitution, which stipulate a maximum tenure of two terms of four years each for the President and state governors, THISDAY gathered that, since Saturday’s publication which revealed that 30 governors had subscribed to the plan, most Northern governors had come under intense pressure from many quarters to review their support for it.

The pressure, according to information, has come mainly from Northern elders massed in the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF),, the Northern irredentist group, that believe the plan will truncate the geo-political zone’s quest for the shift of political power back to the region.

Besides, many National Assembly members, particularly senators from the zone are said to be opposed to the plan because it will jeopardise their ambition of replacing the incumbent governors in 2007.

Speaking through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Mahmud Abdullahi, at THISDAY Headquarters in Lagos, Kure said he was strongly opposed to any move to extend the tenure of the President and governors, adding that he would mobilise lawmakers from his state to kick against it.

He said as far as he was concerned, the tenure of the President and the governors would expire on May 29, 2007, and that by the provisions of sections 137(b) and 182 (b) of the 1999 constitution, none of the two categories of elected officers that had served two terms could seek a fresh mandate.

Kure, however, said he would support a constitutional amendment on the tenure of office of the executive if it would not affect the incumbent holders of power.

Said his aide:"My governor will be the last person to support third term agenda. In fact, he is not happy that he has been linked with the move to extend the tenure of the President and the governors. He believes that it will be morally wrong for any extension of tenure since they were elected under a constitution that prescribed two terms of four years."

The governor said further that he was contented with the two terms of four year-tenure stipulated by the 1999 constitution, which he swore to uphold, adding that he believed that all those that took their oath of office under the existing constitution should not be beneficiaries of any amendment that would extend the tenure of the President and the governors.

He added that although the 1999 constitution prescribes a maximum of two terms for governors and President, he was practically begged to seek re-election in 2003, an indication that he was not a sit-tight governor.

Dwelling further on the moral basis of his opposition to the third term agenda, he said he was one of the governors that went to court in the first phase of the present democratic dispensation to oppose extension of tenure for local government chairmen when their constitutionally stipulated tenure was ending.

He said the governor believed that it would be morally wrong for him to now turn around to support an amendment that would extend his own tenure and that of the President.

Also speaking in separate telephone interviews with THISDAY, Akume’s Commi-ssioner for Information, Mr. Cletus Akaya, and one of the governor’s close associates, Mr. Shima Ayati, denied his involvement in the third term plot, saying the governor was a firm believer in constitutionalism.

According to Akwaya, there was no time the governor either by his utterances or actions supported the extension of the tenure of the current administration, contending that any speculation about his governor’s involvement in a plot to add more years to the President’s 2003 mandate of four years was wholly misconceived.

Ayati told THISDAY that he had interacted with his friend, Akume, and that he had told him emphatically that he was not with the pro-third term choristers. “The governor has told me that he believes strongly that the provisions of the 1999 constitution on tenure of office should be strictly adhered to, and that he is not interested in a third term,” he said.
The governor’s associate added that it was immoral to tinker with the constitution for the purpose of extending the President’s tenure, saying that Akume could not support such immorality.

THISDAY reported exclusively Saturday that 30 governors had signed up to support the speculated third agenda of the President, promising to deliver their state Houses of Assembly, and their representatives in the National Assembly in the bid to amend the constitution.

To achieve the third term plan, sections 137 (b) and 182 (b), which stipulate a maximum of two terms for the President and state governors have been slated for amendment to allow for three terms of four years each.

However, six state governors, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu (Lagos), Alhaji Attahiru Bafawara (Sokoto), Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau (Kano), Chief Orji Kalu (Abia), Mr. Boni Haruna (Adamawa) and Dr. Chris Ngige (Anambra), have refused to subscribe to the plan. They have now been joined by Akume and Kure.

The opposition to tenure extension started early in the day with civil society groups warning that it could truncate the nation’s fragile democracy. They were joined by such geo-political groups as Afenifere, the ACF, the Movement for Defence of Democracy (MDD), and Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) who have kept the issue in the front burner of public debate.

Also opposed to the plan is the Northern Senators’ Forum, which met in Kaduna recently and warned about its danger, arguing that it would upset the rotation of power arrangement between the North and the South.

The vehemence of Northern political leaders and groups against the plan, particularly because it was based on the fear that it would frustrate their quest to retrieve political power from the South, attracted a gathering of Southern governors and top politicians in Enugu mid December, insisting that power must remain in the South.

The Southern politicians resolved that not only should power remain in their zone, they also asked for constitutional amendments that would restructure the country and make it a proper federation.

Meanwhile, in his open letter to Obasanjo yesterday, Fawehinmi warned the President: “Do not disturb the polity. Do not lay a dangerous precedent. Do not tempt God. Do not ignore the feelings of the people as they are against your bid”.

According to Fawehinmi, the 3rd term bid has already divided and polarised Nigerians along “ethnic and tribal cleavages which virtually now colour every governmental thought, policy, programme and nuances”.

While admonishing that it is not too late for the President to change course, Fawehinmi said: “It is incontrovertible that any 3rd term bid by you is psychologically, spiritually, physically, emotionally and in every respect a suicide mission driven by perverted ambition even when it is so glaring that it is unattaintable in Nigeria of today. Please do not hang yourself.”

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