17 February 2006

Nigeria: 29 Govs Support Constitutional Changes, Says Buhari

The All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), presidential flagbearer in the 2003 general elections, retired General Muhammad Buhari, yesterday said that 29 of the 36 state governors have signed a document supporting constitutional changes to elongate the tenure of political office holders.

In a signed statement distributed to newsmen in Kaduna yesterday titled: "Respect Term Limits," General Buhari said only the four South-west governors have been honest enough to go public.

"I have it on good authority that 29 governors have signed a document supporting constitutional changes."

"Many governors are now armtwisting their state legislators to sign apparently blank acceptance of the changes even before the matter has reached them officially," he declared in the statement.

He appealed to state and federal legislators to reject any such proposal and called on the people to be present at the constitutional hearings scheduled for next week to express in no uncertain terms, their opposition to the proposed violation of the constitution.

"The move towards despotism and dictatorship must be stopped. It is bottling up future unrest and anarchy as happened in Algeria, Liberia, Ivory Coast and D.R. Congo.

"It is no longer rumour that the driving force (for the amendments) is that government wants the changes to extend the tenure of public office holders who must leave by 2007 if the provisions of the present constitution are respected both in letter and spirit.

"There are enough corroborated moves to suggest that Mantu and his collaborators' efforts have little to do with routine constitutional changes. Many Nigerians would have been happy if the amendments are clear, unambiguous, demonstrably desirable and serve the public good.

"In the present case, however, the real aim is to violate the spirit of the constitution by changing the rules to enable the president and some governors to continue in office beyond 2007.

"This should not be allowed to happen. We must maintain the sanctity of tenure limits. Changing term limits does not add any value to society or its governance. It only appeases individual's thirst for office and power. It only brings close despotism, life presidency and life governorship.

"It is the spectre of despotism that has to be resisted. The people must make their voices heard. Nigerians must use legal and democratic methods to oppose tenure extension.

Buhari warned Nigeria's friends and trading partners in Europe and America not to take the current situation in Nigeria lightly saying this may appear to be primarily Nigeria's problem.

"But if the situation deteriorates, as it surely would as the present incumbents continue with the fight to extend their tenure, our partners might be engaging Nigeria on internal peace-keeping rather than democratic dialogue or multilateral economic and political issues," General Buhari declared.

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