Thursday, July 28, 2011

Jonathan’s Six Year Tenure Constitutional Amendment Bid: Bad Time, Wrong Priority

President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan received a lot of goodwill from many people home and abroad for his humility and the way and manner he assumed the leadership of Nigeria without any “grandstanding,” massive rigging and “vote buying” common with many of his predecessors. My fears today is that much of that goodwill will be fritter away on the altar of self perpetuation in office. Yes, I know his press minders like the newly minted, former gadfly; Reuben Abati, denied that his boss is planning to elongate his tenure through an amendment to the constitution. This is definitely beside the point, Nigerians no thanks to former president Olusegun Obasanjo, has heard this tale before and clearly knows where this is heading.
Former President Obama’s commerce secretary and the new US ambassador to China once defined priority of government as follows: “focusing on results that people want and need, prioritizing those results, and funding those results with the money we have.” When one measures President Jonathan’s new policy roll out on constitutional amendment vis a vis the turmoil and economic precipice Nigeria currently finds itself, one would find that no matter how laudable the idea of constitutional amendment to provide six year tenure may be, it is a wrong priority for this government at this time in the history of our nation.

As many have argued, there are many problems facing our body polity greater than politician six year term tenure issues. We have civil wars going on in the northern part of the country, no thanks to Islamic militants under the guise of Boko Haram. The Niger Delta militancy problem with its attendant frequent kidnapping and bombing yet unresolved. The Nigeria market sector is at its all time low. The prices of goods and services defied inflationary or any economic metrics or trends in its downward spiral. Our manufacturing sector that used to be the leader in Africa has all but succumbed to death in the hands of our comatose power sector. And now coming out of its inaugural cabinet meeting, the issue of six year term for political office holder is all that the federal government could think about? What is wrong with the leadership of our country? Don’t they get it? Nigerians want functional government and not political jobbers!

Every commentator on constitutional amendment readily agrees that we do need to constantly examines and reexamines our constitution with a view to make it better, but not at the expense of addressing bigger and more pressing issues affecting the generality of Nigerian masses. What should be the priority of our government in Nigeria? Our federal legislature spent the last four years giving billions of Naira to corporations and governmental agencies saddled with power generation without any oversight whatsoever. The refrain we often get from them is that they are busy amending the constitutions to enable federal legislators have more control over political party executive committees. And now we are going to embark on the same fruitless exercise. Are these folks tone deaf? Maybe what we need is a constitutional amendment asking our elected leaders to simply do their job!

The ludicrous argument advanced by the presidency in support of this mindless exercise is that elected officials are often consumed by electioneering and campaign during the four years that the time between elections is barely enough to get things done. The logic is that if we gave them six years they will be able to use four years for electoral campaigns and two years for governance. Do these people even listen to the logic of their argument? In other words they seem to be arguing that they need more time because the time they have now is barely enough to carry out any of the public task as they are consumed by their own ambitions during the four years. Here in the United States, members of the House of Representatives are elected every two years, and you hardly find them pleading for more time. Most congressmen travel back to their district sometimes every weekend or during the holiday to feel the pulse of the people and find out what is going on in their district. Nigeria federal legislatures received funding for constituency offices but rarely open any in their district. Some who for the fear of EFCC have offices, barely staff such offices, as a result their contact with their constituencies are nonexistent.

I believe it is high time for all Nigerians to demand from our president and his party what are the priorities of his government. You can do that today by sending an email to him or posting a message on his Facebook page. Is he the president Nigerians toil and struggle to elect or is he another Olusegun Obasanjo? He needs to come out and tell us as we are sick of Peoples Democratic Party shenanigans!