OPINION: WILL MR. PRESIDENT TAKE THE 3RD TERM BAIT?

Muhammadu Buhari, President of Nigeria

According to newspaper reports, the President of Nigeria has announced that he is not interested in running Nigeria for a 3rd term. He was reported to have made his stand known at the National Economic Council, NEC, meeting of the APC which held about a fortnight ago in Abuja. For Mr. President to be talking about not running for a third tenure, and this early on in his second tenure only indicates that the poor chap has been losing sleep with mounting pressure coming from his immediate constituency – that would be the army of hangers-on. Without this President, many will lose their relevance, their ‘juicy’ positions and slide into political oblivion. They have seen in Mr President’s much-vaunted Spartan personality a mantle they want to gird their loins with to appear relevant.

In this matter of tenure elongation, we are mindful that apart from that army of hangers-on, that there are centrifugal and centripetal pendulums that swing around most African leaders. These forces coalesce around and back up spent political figures, as long as they satisfy the bidding of these undulating forces. Even though this book has been lampooned and pooh-poohed as a conspiracy theory, I would encourage readers to go get John Perkin’s Confessions of An Economic Hitman, to get an idea how many African leaders are foisted on Africans and in perpetuity maybe until they die. There are many examples – Mobutu Sese-Sekou of the Congo, Blaise Campaore of Burkina Faso, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and the Cameroonian strongman, Paul Biya. With support of their masters, they rule as long as they satisfy their patrons from Europe and the Americas. They appear to be civilians but are/were some of the most dreaded dictators history ever recorded.

Already, and apart from the voices whispering to Mr. President to consider toeing the path of his spent African brothers, we read in the news as well the call by a certain lawyer. In a suit, he has called on the National Assembly to instruct the Attorney General of Nigeria to begin proceedings to expunge Section 37 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), which highlights issues of tenure for presidents. That Section says, and clearly as well, that presidents and governors have only two terms. But those Nigerians egging Mr President on really believe he deserves a third term as president. After all, let’s face it: our economy is picking up. Recently, the Bureau of statistics said that in the 3rd Quarter of our economy, the GDP actually giddied up like some young stallion and sped right past that of all African countries. Those who live in Abuja can confirm that even though the rest of us in other parts of Nigeria struggle with three hours of rationed electricity daily, there is 24-hour power supply there. They have argued that to make us self-reliant, Mr President recently gave us a lecture on the importance of patronizing our own hospitals, schools and food. They say those who challenge him that nearly all his children were educated overseas, or that he regularly treats his ears in the UK every six months, or that shutting our borders indefinitely casts him in the mold of the border-shutting US president, are just mischievous and silly. They say we will have to ignore those insinuating that corruption increases in leaps and bounds under Mr President the way sin grows even with the abundance of religious institutions in Nigeria. What makes Nigerian think that a forward-looking government as we have today shouldn’t pick and choose which court orders to obey? What responsible government ignores troublemakers, so-called journalists and human rights activists and allows a free press and freedom of speech?

With these very noble achievements, most Nigerians say they know that Mr. President wants a 3rd term to do more. They say they know that he is just being modest with his feeble quip not to seek a tenure elongation, but know he has already swallowed the bait hook line and stinker (sorry, sinker) to launch a third term bid. Most say they are not fooled by his seeming disinterestedness at giving the third term something a shot.

But we worry for our dear Mr President in spite of ‘strong support’ from his constituency to continue in power. One, we know what fate befell the one other chap who made the attempt at a third term in office as president or the other who tried to arrange a constitution that would support his transmuting from a military dictator to a civilian one. The one is irrelevant today. Nobody even reads his many letters. Even though he denied being the ventriloquist pulling the strings that made his marionette strut here and there, most Nigerians have met his agent provocateur. His story is no different from what is currently going on now. The second chap, author of the present amended Nigerian constitution is now no more. He mobilized a one-million man march using a certain contraption, YERA – Youths Earnestly Ask for Abacha – to give the impression that Nigerians were earnestly asking for him to lead them for life.

History recognizes only one man who legitimately led his country for four terms as president. His name was President Franklin Roosevelt, FDR. He won a fourth term as president, not because he had a very high IQ like Bill Clinton or was a billionaire like Mr Trump, but because he had a knack for getting the job done, (and this was irrespective of the fact that he was running government from a wheelchair). He helped his country get back on her feet after Pearl Harbour, dealt with the great depression and laid most of the strong foundation upon which the US is built today as a political and economic power house.

We cannot tell if indeed the current Nigerian president is cast in the mold of FDR. Roosevelt won a fourth term when there were no limits to tenure for American presidents in the 40s and 50s. The idea to jettison limitless tenure of governance in the US was based on the assumption that no matter who you are, no matter your achievements, and no matter how well-intentioned you may be, no matter what your physical and spiritual antecedents, two-terms should just be enough to make an impact and establish a legacy. History always punishes those who have tried to force their way in, under whatever apology or guise.

*** Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku, deputy executive director CERLSI, is author of Pathways for Development Communicators.

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