Controversy over Jonathan single-term concept: Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan's proposal for a single term of six years for future presidents and state governors is generating robust public debate. Political experts say this is healthy for the nation's evolving democracy, writes Frederick Mordi.

Author:Mordi, Frederick

In 2006, surreptitious moves were reportedly made to extend the tenure of Nigeria's former President Olusegun Obasanjo in what was then infamously tagged the 'Third Term Agenda'.

An amorphous body known as 'Corporate Nigeria,' which was composed of some respected bank chief executives and captains of industry--key players in the nation's economy--was allegedly the architect of Obasanjo's Third Term Agenda. Corporate Nigeria felt tenure elongation would give Obasanjo enough time to consolidate his successes on the economic front.


But civil society groups and his political opponents, particularly his Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, vehemently fought against Obasanjo's bid for tenure elongation on the ground that it would violate the nation's Constitution, which prescribes two terms of four years each as the maximum number. The matter was eventually resolved when Oba-sanjo endorsed the late Umaru Yar'Adua as his successor at the 2007 Presidential election, effectively signalling the end of the Third Term debate.

Incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, (who succeeded Yar'Adua), appears to have stirred a hornet's nest again, with his current proposal of a six-year single term for future presidents and governors of the country. Though Jonathan has insisted that he would not be a beneficiary of the proposed new tenure limit as he has repeatedly assured Nigerians that he would fulfil his promise of running for a single term of four years that would end in 2015, the opposition is not convinced. There is no smoke without fire, they say.

Healthy for democracy

Despite the condemnation that has followed Jonathan's decision to send a bill on the proposal to the National Assembly for debate and possible final assent, he has stuck to his guns, insisting that it is for the good of the country. The President's Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati, says the debate is healthy for the nation's budding democracy.

Abati said: "It is still at the level of ideas. If you check the debate out there you will see that there are a lot of people supporting the President, but with some of them say the time is not right. The debate is healthy for our polity."

But the major opposition parties in the country, particularly the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Labour Party, the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), have criticised the proposal, which they say is "distracting".

They want the President to address the security challenges in the country and other...

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