President Goodluck Jonathan is to send a Constitution amendment bill to the National Assembly that will provide a single tenure for the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the governors of the 36 states of the Federation, the Presidency said yesterday.
Presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati, said in the envisaged bill, the tenure of members of the National and State Assemblies will also be a little more than four years, although lawmakers will still be eligible for re-election, as their constituencies may determine. The specific number of years have not yet been disclosed, but this bill, if approved by NASS, will take effect from 2015.
Mr Abati said the president's commitment to a single term for the president and state governors is borne out of a patriotic zeal and "after a painstaking study and belief that the constitutionally guaranteed two terms for presidents and governors is not helping the focus of governance and institutionalisation of democracy at this stage of our development. A longer term for lawmakers would also help to stabilise the polity."
He said Mr Jonathan is concerned about the acrimony which the issue of re-election, every four years, generates both at the federal and state levels.
"The nation is still smarting from the unrest, the desperation for power, and the overheating of the polity that has attended each general election. The fall-out of all this is the unending inter and intra-party squabbles which have affected the growth of party democracy in the country, and have further undermined the country's developmental aspirations," he said.
The presidential spokesman pointed out that in addition to these, the cost of conducting party primaries and the general elections have become too high for the economy to accommodate every four years.
"The proposed amendment bill is necessary to consolidate our democracy and allow elected executives to concentrate on governance and service delivery for their full term, instead of running governments with re-election as their primary focus," he said.
He, however, noted that this clarification has become necessary in the light of certain reports in a section of the media that the proposed bill is meant to elongate Mr Jonathan's tenure. He said the details of the bill will be clear when it is forwarded to the National Assembly for consideration.
Not about Mr Jonathan
Mr Abati also said the president has made it clear that his push for a single tenure for the office of the president and that of the governors is not borne out of any personal interest and does not intend to benefit from it.
"Nothing can be more untrue. The energy that has been devoted to speculations on the content of the likely bill is akin to an attempt to force the abortion of a non-existent pregnancy.
The proposed amendment will not have anything to do with him as a person. What he owes Nigerians is good governance, and he is singularly committed to this. Besides, it is trite law that the envisaged amendment cannot have a retroactive effect. This means that whatever single-term tenure that is enacted into law by the National Assembly will take effect from 2015.
"The president also states that the good of Nigeria is greater than the ambition of any one individual. The envisaged bill is part of the Jonathan administration's transformation agenda aimed at sanitising the nation's politics," Mr Abati further said.
He said the president believes that the constitutional change, when actualised, will change the face of the nation's politics and accelerate the overall development of the nation.
"If the proposed amendment is accepted by the National Assembly, the president assures that he will not in any way be a beneficiary," he said.