Senator Ike Ekweremadu
Omololu Ogunmade in Abujaâ€¨
Deputy Senate President and Chairman of Senate Committee on the Review of 1999 Constitution, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Thursday cleared the air on the single tenure of six years recommended for the president and governors.
He said the decision was taken to avoid a situation where the National Assembly would be accused of conniving with President Goodluck Jonathan to elongate his tenure.
Ekweremadu who made the clarification while answering questions from reporters, said if the recommendation received the support of the required two-thirds of both the national and state legislatures, the proposal would take effect as soon as the amended process was concluded.
He recalled that when Jonathan mooted the idea, he was accused of plotting to elongate his tenure by proposing a six-year single term.
Therefore, he said the committee felt it was better for incumbent heads of the executive to make a sacrifice by leaving the office after a single term of four years than to contest for another tenure of six years and end up spending 10 years in office instead of eight years.
“You will recall that the president was the first person to call for a single tenure of six-years. When he did so, he was accused of originating the idea because he wanted to elongate his stay in office. So, we don’t want Nigerians to say that we colluded with the president to elongate his stay in office because somebody who ought to spend eight years in office will now spend 10 years. We thought it was better for somebody to make a sacrifice instead of staying in office for 10 years,” Ekweremadu added.
On the reason a vice-president or deputy governor who succeeds his dead principal should be barred from standing for election after serving out the tenure of the latter, Ekweremadu said if the former was allowed to do so, the whole essence of a single tenure would have been defeated.
He said instead of such persons to be seeking another election, they should rather have cause to be grateful that they had served at the top echelon of governments and by so doing, posterity would remember them to be among those who had been privileged to occupy such offices.
He also explained that if such persons were not barred from contesting elections, the polity would be heated, noting that even if they were not interested in standing for elections, external forces within and outside the government could also pressure them to do so.
“Therefore, institutional system would have been damaged. So, there is no need for you to scheme for a comeback to avoid overheating the polity,” he said.
According to him, the move would enable such a person to concentrate on governance, adding that the number of years a person spends in office does not necessarily translate to performance.
He recalled that the late General Murtala Muhammed spent a brief period in office and yet left indelible footprints which he said had remained reference points till date.
He also explained that state houses of assembly, the judiciary and state independent electoral commissions were given autonomy because they are critical institutions of democracy that the committee felt needed to be strengthened.
On the reason the committee rejected state police, Ekweremadu who said he personally believed that the option of state police was the best way to enhance effective security in different parts of the country, added that the committee retained the federal policing system because it found from the public hearings held in different parts of the country that Nigerians wanted improvement on the present police structure as against altering it.
He also explained that it did not recommend a special status for Lagos because the committee found that places such as Lokoja, Calabar and Kaduna had also at different times served as the capital of Nigeria and if a special status was recommended for only Lagos, protest would arise from such places.
On the reason the president is overruled from signing the amended constitution before it takes effect, Ekweremadu explained that since the Nigerian constitution is patterned after that of the United States, there would be no need for the president to do so, as his US counterpart does not.