The proposed bill from President Goodluck Jonathan for a Six Year term for Governors and the President (whether motivated by selfish reasons or not) is a totally unnecessary distraction and a disingenuous misplacement of priorities.

A new macabre dance of death has commenced in the Nigerian nation as nationals of one ethnic group rise up against another and sometimes against themselves, as Muslim clerics issue threats of war against Christians and Christian clergy respond that no one has a monopoly of violence. This appears to be a replay of the events that preceded the Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970), a war that was long in duration, murderous in intensity, cruel in its execution, disastrous in its consequences and long lasting in its humiliating effects on the Igbos who were vanquished and continue to suffer infrastructural neglect and political relegation nearly fifty years after. No nation survives a civil war two times. The times call for reason and for the leaders and the people to rise above selfishness and bigotry.

Yes, the call for a six-year term for the President and the State Governors is an unnecessary distraction in Nigeria where most of those in government came to power through election rigging, multiple thumb-printing of ballots by individuals, killing and maiming of political opponents, mayhem by private armies under the control of political war lords, disenfranchisement of voters through doctored electoral registers, late arrival of voting materials, multiple copies (sometimes nineteen) of originals of Form EC8A that records the votes cast at the booth, a Form EC8A  that never ceases to metamorphose from the voting booth in its journey to various levels of collation centers [Form EC8B, EC8C, etc.] where the votes for parties and individuals change as money changes hand from riggers to Presiding officers, to Electoral Officers and Returning officers, where presiding officers and polling agents sell and buy unused ballot papers, where the number of votes cast exceed the number in the voters’ register and armed irate youths surround a polling booth or a collation center until they extract the result they want, where those who kill and maim in the name of politics are freed immediately to walk the streets and continue their mayhem during the next round of elections a week later. Most of those who were elected are intelligent beings and they know how they came to be winners.

There are several cases challenging the results of the various elections [Presidential, Senatorial, House of Representatives, Gubernatorial and State Houses of Assembly] in various Election Tribunals. Very few of them have been adjudicated. What is the urgency to introduce a bill to change the tenure of the President and State Governors from two terms of four years to a single term of six years barely three months after a heavily disputed and seriously flawed election. The Independent National Election Commission should be busy prosecuting those who contravened electoral laws with a view to banning them from future elections if found guilty and should stop talking about preparations for the next election. The President should wait and rather introduce a bill to correct the short-comings in the last elections instead of promoting term elongation. What a misplaced sense of priorities in a nation (one of the richest in the world in human and natural resources) where there are no roads, no electricity, no water to drink, no good hospitals for the sick, no security of life and property, no reliable means of transportation – a nation with a decaying educational system, little or no respect for human life, a nation with the highest rate of youth unemployment in the world, where graduates line the streets in their thousands hawking handkerchiefs made in Thailand and impure “pure” water encased in sachets that sicken the thirsty and pollute the environment.

What is the urgency for term elongation for the President and State Governors who find it difficult to pay the poor, lean and hungry looking civil servant a paltry proposed minimum wage of N18,000 (Naira about $120 US Dollars) a month. Some State Governors in addition to their salaries and allowances and harem of sometimes two hundred Assistants and Special Assistants (of little known specialty) each on salaries of over N500,000 a month plus allowances and fringe benefits. The Governors themselves are entitled to extra budgetal yearly security votes that hover around N5 billion (Naira) for most Governors and as much as N18.9 billion (Naira) for one State Governor. These they use as they please and at their sole discretion. Some utilize these votes rationally for security, while many others use them to buy multi-million dollar mansions in America, Britain and France, Five Star Hotels in Dubai in the Middle East and Durban in South Africa. Members of the National Assembly earn a self-allocated mouth-watering sum of over N100,000,000.00 (Naira) a month and arrogate to themselves the function of the Executive improperly awarding contracts to themselves and executing (when attempted) the projects through their cronies.

Elections will never be free and fair in Nigeria as long as these anomalies subsist as many of the unemployed will do anything – rig elections, kill opponents, maim non-supporters, blackmail other candidates, kidnap their relations – to be able to earn the salary of a local government chairman, a member of the State House of Assembly, or National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives).  The interest of some of these vampires is not good government or governance but the looting of the National Treasury. Part-time or full-time Legislators on a salary of around N500,000.00 to N1 million Naira a month would make the post unattractive to carpetbaggers and opportunists and attractive only to those who really want to serve the state and the nation.

Rather than sending immediately to the National Assembly a bill for term elongation, President Goodluck Jonathan should patiently wait for the Election Tribunals to complete their work, then summon a Sovereign National Conference of the various nationalities, zones and/or ethnic groups in Nigeria with a view to their deliberating on the problems of the nation, the terms of continued union (which is eminently desirable) and proffer solutions, social and constitutional, for submission to the National Assembly as imperfect as it is [since the members do not really represent the wishes of the common people of Nigeria] for promulgation into Law as the Amended Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria! Long Live Black Africa.

Dr. S. Okechukwu Mezu,
Congress for Progressive Change (CPC)
Deputy Gubernatorial Candidate (Imo State) 2011 Elections