When the erstwhile president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria - General Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd.) aligned with Professor Iwu of the National Electoral Commission to defraud Nigerians of their political say during the 2008 general election; little did the nation knew that the duo’s action is a spectacle of comma. The selection ushered-in late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Jonathan Goodluck as the president and vice president of Nigeria respectively. The team came up with “7 Points Political Agenda” which in fairness was planned to tackle the socio-economic and political problems confronting the nation. Regrettably, President Yar’Adua did not live to actualize this political goal.His demise provided the opportunity of a good luck to the Vice President- Dr. Jonathan, who after series of schemes, intra party political clashes and compromise became the 14th President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. On assumption of office, President Jonathan abandoned the 7 points political agenda of his late boss and substituted it with his own 3 points manifesto that focused on electrical power, Niger Delta issues, and electoral reforms. This action suggest that there was no complete agreement of understanding between Yar’Adua and his vice (Jonathan) on the administration’s preference political programs. Two years in the presidency, the extent to which President Jonathan Goodluck was able to fulfill his 3 points political agenda is debatable.
Towards the completion of his boss’s tenure, President Jonathan argued that two years in office is not enough to make meaningful political impact in the nation, hence he sought the peoples mandate for another four years, and he got it. The people voted to retain him in office so as to make “meaningful impact” as intended. He was given the mandate to continue to address the nation’s problems which he had targeted to resolve.
Unfortunately, barely four months into his four years term, Dr. Jonathan sang a new tune that implies a lost in focus. The President who promised to tackle the nation’s problem appears adrift. He has shifted his concern from the core value of his transformational 3 points agenda to tenure elongation. Rather than strategizing on the mechanism to make Nigeria a better and peaceful country devoid of political harassment and religious genocide; Mr. President has shifted emphasis to the issues of least importance.
It is therefore necessary to inform Mr. President that Nigerians might have been battered by bad polity and inured to political recklessness but they have not lost their minds. They are mindful of the President’s promise during the election campaign. The people trusted his statement of commitment during his inauguration ceremony; and he will be hold accountable on those terms of pertinence. Why the president will depart from his promise so soon and compromise sound judgment is not clear, but he needs to be reminded that he cannot play mind game with his mandate. He has a conditioned mandate; and it is in his best interest to live up to the voters expectations.
The voters expectation in this four year tenure includes: rebuilding infrastructures, improve the quality of and increase accessibility to education and healthcare delivery system, improve agriculture sector, improve security of life and property, creation of jobs to reduce unemployment, consolidate democratic gains by fighting corruption and promoting good governance, support human rights and develop resources to tackle poverty and underdevelopment among others. Anything short of these is an aberration.
President Jonathan should focus on policies that will ameliorate the problem of the electorates. He should be proactive and productive. He must deliver with this four years mandate. His concept of “meaningful impact” must necessarily transform to improvement in quality of lives of the people. The president should stop dissipating energy on counter progressive agenda and stop insinuating re- election. Tenure elongation can stay aside for now. The welfare of the masses should be prioritized over the greed of the politicians. Stable electricity, food, good and accessible health care, quality and affordable education system, employment opportunity, security of life and property, good roads, etc. are the immediate needs of the masses and they must not be ignored.
Duration or tenure in office has nothing to do with the avarice of the office holders. A thief will always steal regardless of the length of time accorded him/her. Statistics revealed that most politicians or public office holder perpetrate their atrocities within the first eighteen months in office. Mr. President, a living witness to this misdemeanor will confirm that the first allegation of corruption leveled against him while he was the governor in his home state of Bayesa took place within his first 24 months in office. The evil genius, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) excessive wealth accumulation took place within his first three years in office, late General Sanni Abacha (rtd) looted the treasury within his first two years in office, The “born again” General Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd), who came to Aso Rock “broke” had his “financial break through” within the first four years in office. The pretentious General Abdulsalami (rtd) who ruled Nigeria for less than one year (354 days to be precise) now lives in massive wealth in his home town of Minna, Niger State. Similar instances exist with other office holders at the states and local government level. This implies that corruption cannot be fought with single term tenure elongation. In fact it could breed anarchy and authoritarianism.
Mexico and France are example of countries where the president term in office is six-years (single term). This has not made the countries corruption free. For instance, Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988 – 1994) and Vicente Fox (2000 – 2006) are ex-presidents in Mexico. Their regimes were riddled with corruption and other forms of scandals. French government is equally not immune from corruption. Jacques Barrot – a front line right wing French politician and European Commissioner for Justice was convicted of embezzlement in 2000, former French President Jacques Chirac was accused of scheming to overcharge the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia of more than two million pounds for French military equipment to benefit himself and his party. Therefore it is obvious that tenure elongation is not a panacea for a corruption free polity.
There is nothing wrong if the president decides to fight political corruption in his administration. Fighting same with the recommendation of an elongated term of 6 years is evidently counter intuitive. Giving the reality of the situation in Nigeria, it can’t work, not at this time. Suffice is to say that it will not have any soothing effect on the people. There is no prima facie evidence that suggest that an elected public office holder will remain focus and spend more time on the business of the state when subjected to one term in office for six years. In fact, it will propel desperation and rat race to endless looting of the nation, state or the local government treasury. Therefore the president should readdress his priority and direct the focus of his administration on agenda that will decrease the mental and emotional pains with which the masses has been subjected.
However, if the president thinks that he has the power and that he can make a dangerous use of it, then he need to be provided with some historical lessons. He required to be reminded that in the 80s when IBB began to scheme to prolong his regime with incessant conduction, cancellations, appointments and annulment of elections, Nigerians confronted his regime and forced him to “step aside”. When Sanni Abacha became head swollen with the opulence of office and decided to transition himself from khaki boy to a civilian president, it was apple that redressed the situation. When Obasanjo planned to introduce his third term agenda, Nigerians “dosed” him out of his delusion and fought him to surrender.
In conclusion, Mr. President is encouraged to tread the part of honor by working on programs and policy that will touch and improve the quality of human life, promote security of life and property, make Nigeria habitable for present and future generations. If on the other hand, President Jonathan decides to wrap-up himself in the tradition of the evil generals, Nigerians will stand to the task. We will fight and we will prevail.
* Tunde Ali is the President of Citizens for Good Government & Accountability – CIGGAC.