The presidency, yesterday, said that President Goodluck Jonathan's proposal for a single term for the President and Governors was misunderstand, and maintained that it was twisted to mean the president was seeking tenure elongation through the backdoor.
Speaking at a media dialogue with Editors on Constitution Amendment Process at Sheraton Hotel in Lagos, organised by Democratic
Governance for Development Project in collaboration with the Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati urged the media to assist in the sensitisation and debate on the ongoing constitution amendment at the National Assembly.
He noted that the president's intention on the constitution was twisted, and said, "Now it is not new. In the last 30 years there have been attempts to amend the constitution so many times.
Last year, Abati said, we had issued a statement from the presidency in which we said that President Goodluck Jonathan was proposing the idea of a single tenure. We didn't even state the number of years, but it became a debate and that subject was twisted in the media.
"Commentators, concerned parties, the opposition, if I may say so, insisted that this was an attempt at tenure elongation. Some even said that this was third term through the back door. I must have issued another statement and granted interviews. Nobody wanted to listen; even when it was made very clear that a law cannot have retroactive effect and that when you have a new constitution, you cannot come and benefit from it under a new law which was not in existence at a time that you assumed power.
Even up till now, you still find educated people insisting that this constitution amendment process is not a Nigerian project but a Jonathan project.
"But we have had this constitution amendment process since 1999 and people have even produced draft constitutions. People have churned out constitutions which they consider gender friendly, changing the entire language of a constitution to reflect gender balance.
What President Jonathan proposed was just an idea to be debated. It is not the executive that amends the constitution. It is the responsibility of the National Assembly and the Nigerian people".
The presidential spokesman also recalled how a few days ago, he read in the papers that the constitution was going to be amended because it is part of a plan to make sure that President Jonathan got nomination for another term in office from the party.
Abati said, "Party primaries are the responsibilities of political parties. The administration is committed to one thing which is ensuring that Nigerian citizens are the ones who determine the constitution that will come out of this entire process. The entire process is participatory.
Urging the media to assist in the on-going constitutional amendment by creating healthy awareness, Abati said, "Whatever may be the challenges that affect the media as an institution, people believe what they read. They believe what they hear. They depend on the media. They look forward for direction and in Nigeria in particular, the media had always played this role because the Nigerian media has been in the forefront of the making of the Nigerian nation. And that is why as journalists, we owe it a duty to set the agenda correctly and in a manner that provides great achievement.
"There are issues that touch every Nigerian; state creation, structure of the police, whether it is revenue distribution and whether the issue of chapter two is justifiable or not. All these are very serious and people are going to be emotional about them but the thing that is important to us as Journalists is to ensure that leadership is not to be drawn from the emotional side of the argument.
"I don't want to go into the temptation of commenting on the subject. Let me say that we are asking for partnership; we are asking the media to provide the leadership, to set up the agenda in ensuring that the issues are not just well articulated but also that those who are seeking to do mischief out of this process are not allowed to achieve their objective".