Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Return Of Tenure Debates

THERE may be debates about who Senator Saminu Turaki, former Governor of Jigawa State, speaks for, but the fact is that he has spoken. His most distinguished contribution is the suggestion that President Umaru Yar’Adua’s tenure be extended to seven years.

He was not through –– Yar’Adua should have two terms. Turaki wants 14 years of Yar’Adua. Whether as an individual or as a senator, Turaki cannot be denied his right to air his view on the proposed constitutional amendments. However, the bases for his proposals could be important if we are to avoid the mistakesof the previous attempt to amend the Constitution.

The past effort ended ignominiously for proponents of tenure extension. Theirs was not anything as ambitious as 14 years for the President. The cost of that exercise remains unknown. The larger cost was the other 116 proposed amendments to the Constitution that died with it.

Why were the other amendments not discussed? The basic truth is that those constitutional amendments were the necessary platforms to get in the only important item, an extra tenure for the President. Once that item was thrown out, the emergency patriots considered the other provisions irrelevant.

Since the 2006 tenure extension debacle, hints of constitutional amendments have been laced with suspicion of the Executive’s unwholesome interest in the matter.

The interest would be denied to the point of throwing the country into confuted tension to the joy of leeches, who raise delegations to convince the President.

The tactics vary. The delegations could be from different professional groups, then geo-political zones before each of the 774 local government areas have a go at impressing the President to acquiesce.

Whatever the tactic, the message is usually to convince the President, who pretends he is a victim, that without him the country is doomed.

For a President like Yar’Adua, a believer in the rule of law –– which includes freedom of expression, freedom of speech, rights to hold ideas and convert others to them –– he is unlikely to deny these groups access to him. He could in fact be accused of discrimination if he refuses to receive groups that want him to do all in his powers to be President until 2021.

A tenure that zeroes into 2021 would ensure the President superintends Nigeria’s ambition of being among the world’s top 20 economies by 2020.

This sort of noxious reasoning will soon make the rounds to convince us of the patriotic content of tenure extension.

Turaki, an enthusiastic recent convert to the PDP, may be fishing for relevance, yet his proposal could provide another round of distractions for a nation that its operators consistently invent ways of taking off course. If tenure extension returns to the fore, the proposed constitutional amendments would suffer worse fate than the 2006 attempt.

For the quality of service we received in the past eight years, most Nigerians would be waryof having anyone around for 14 years, even if he is the meek and mild Yar’Adua.