This Day (Lagos)

19 August 2002

Nigeria: Pius Anyim's Hypocrisy

Lagos — Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim was very much in the news last week. Not so much for the senate matters but for his view about second term in office. Anyim during a parley with media executives in Abuja said the quest for second term by various incumbents was responsible for the tension in the polity.

Anyim did not say anything new here. He only stated the obvious. But he was not done yet . He said the zoning of all political positions at the national level does not accommodate second term. He was therefore opposed to all the present office holders including himself going for a second term. According to him, if the second term syndrome was not checked, it could hinder the present democratic order.

Hear him: "I want you to know that I believe in zoning and zoning is a principle designed to make sure that every segment of this country had a shot at the plum positions and having held the position zoned to the South-East, I don't intend to hold it again.

"What I have said is my own personal perception of what it should be. And I am not applying it to every position. I am applying it to the plum positions that were zoned at the national level because the idea of zoning came because every zone in the country is aiming and aspiring to have access and have a shot at these plum positions.

"And if it is so, it is only fair that it goes round as quickly as possible and if it must go round as quickly as possible, it means that spirit does not accommodate second term."

That was the "second term gospel according to Saint Pius. For the senate president, sounding sanctimonious is legendary. No occasion gives him that opportunity than the occasional media round table. There Anyim is fond of sounding off like a statesman, the protector of our constitution and the guardian of our political processes who is only interested in ensuring a smooth working of the system. Listening to him you will think he is not a politician but an innocent political draft meant to fill in when stability is in jeopardy. At the media round table before the last held in the heat of the passing of the controversial Electoral Act, Anyim similarly acted like a "saint" who led a flock of "omniscience law makers" into passing an election and party affairs law that almost threw the whole polity into confusion. At the end of the day our Chief senator and his crowd were discovered to be lying. They had presided over one of the most legislative robberies in the nation's history by smuggling clauses in collusion with the executive, into an already passed bill in order to close the political space and gain political advantage over other aspiring Nigerians.

At the root of the controversial Electoral Act was the self-succession scheme of Anyim and his fellow travellers. They needed to frustrate the registration of new political parties as well as checkmate their state governors from frustrating their re-election. That was the root cause of that legislative disaster that Anyim defended so eloquently until the whole scam became finally exposed. The scandal also threatened Anyim's tenure as senate president as many called for his resignation but he however weathered the storm.

That is a picture of Anyim who does not love power, the picture of a young African in political office and who dislikes the power so much that he would not like to come back.

But we are not deceived. The truth is that our Chief Senator has now had his back against the wall. He is politically finished in his home state and he is finding it difficult to guarantee his re-election and that is why he came with the bogey of zoning and one term. Our chief lawmaker has suddenly discovered that zoning formula of political parties is so superior to the constitution and instead of showing respect for the latter as his oath of office demands, he prefers to obey the dictate of a political arrangement.

Anyim should be bold enough to say he has been beaten in a political chess game he engineered hence he needs to find a cover to hide. Not too long ago, Ebonyi State was embroiled in an orgy of violence between the Chief Senator and his state Governor, Sam Egwu over who is in control of the state party machinery. When the first congress was held, Anyim's candidates gained upper hands. At that time he was in the good books of the grand master in Abuja. The national party machinery was also on his side.

He even went with loads of policemen most of whom were suspected to have helped the Ebonyi foot soldiers sympathetic to the super senator to gain an upper hand. And the state Governor cried foul and Anyim felt so good that his big frame became synonymous with the sole proprietorship of Ebonyi politics. Then suddenly his big supporters had a change of mind. There was the need for a realignment of strategy. The state Governors were too strategic for the achievement of a higher goal than a senator who could only muster a senatorial district. And what is a senatorial district when a whole state can be captured. And as with the re-alignment of all political calculations, some heads have to be sacrificed, some forces have to be dumped if they prove too stubborn to join the new train.

That is how the Chief Senator came to be dumped. That is the reason behind his new found appeal to zoning principle. And that is the reason the young senator wants to act Nigeria's version of Nelson Mandela without the ideals, vision and the charisma. Our Mandella wanna-be is a disgruntled element and only a few weeks creation . Given the way he has enjoyed power since becoming the senate president, it is doubtful if he will want to leave given another opportunity on a platter of gold. But since he would to go mining before reaching the gold this time, it has become a risky business for Anyim.

Nevertheless, Senator Anyim's one term solution is a good idea when stripped of its self serving agenda. He is not the first to postulate it. Governor Mbadinuju of Anambra State has advocated it before and he seems more committed and sincere. But the trouble with that suggestion is that people like Anyim who ought to be in the vanguard of constitutional engineering but have done nothing. One term tenure will certainly eliminate the corrosive crisis of succession that has marred Nigeria's successive democratic experiments. But then the constitution would have to be reviewed. There is a constitutional review committee in place but nothing has come out of it in the last two years mainly because the executive and our legislators do not show any enthusiasm because they want to enjoy to the fullest the benefit conferred by the present constitution.

This is why we should not get carried away when our distinguished senators speak from both sides of the mouth.

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