This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: Ekweremadu - Tenure May Be Extended for President, Govs

Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu has said the National Assembly might consider extending the tenure of the president and governors whose present tenure would expire in 2015, for another two years, as part of the initiatives aimed at resolving the threat that the 2015 elections already bode.

Ekweremadu, who spoke in Lagos at a dinner with select reporters, however said an end to the present security challenge in the country was not in sight except the nation adopted a multi-level policing system as practised in civilised economies.

Expressing concern at the turn of events in the body polity, especially pertaining to the 2015 elections, Ekweremadu said the idea, coming at a time the president had initiated the process for national conference, could only come up through a new motion since the idea of a single term tenure had earlier been shot down by the review committee.

The initiative, if it sails through, Ekweremadu said, would be a precursor to the single term tenure earlier proposed in the constitution review process, adding that the additional two years would simply allow the present actors to be eased out of office and allow for a fresh start on a clean slate, almost without tension.

"If you look at what is going on now, all the core problems we are having in all the parties are about the issue of succession. So we believe strongly that the matter can still be revisited. But I think some of the mistakes we made in our recommendation when we said the incumbent would not benefit from it were responsible for shooting it down. Then there was a kind of coalition of forces to defeat it. "So I believe that if the players in the politics or stakeholders are able to come together one way to deal with the situation, it could be a win-win situation for everybody.

"I believe that the way it could work now is that people have been elected for four years, so let everybody complete the four years tenure for which they were elected.

"And then, through the doctrine of necessity and some sort of jurisprudential approach, do some kind of transition of two years in which case those present occupiers like the president and state governors who are finishing their tenures, will do another two years that would end in 2017.

"You can see that those fighting the president have hinged their complaints on the fact that if the president gets his second term by the time they are gone, he would start to chase them. So if we all agree, that is a way to solve the problem, after two years, both the president and other governors will exit. "I believe that the fear would not be there and there would not be much pressure on the polity," he said.

On the fate of the legislature, the chairman of the constitution review process in the National Assembly noted: "Of course, we don't have much problem with the legislative positions. We can go ahead and hold legislative elections in 2015.

"The advantage there is when we do the legislative elections in 2015, then we do the executive elections in 2017, so we have a two-year gap for the INEC to have breathing space to prepare well.

"You can see what is happening in Anambra now. I believe INEC needs sufficient time to prepare for one election before the other."

Making reference to what obtains in the United States, Ekweremadu said: "In America for instance, there is this two-year separation. In fact, in most countries, even in Senegal, and some places in Africa have adopted the separation of legislative elections from the executive elections.

"If we create a two-year gap, it creates a situation where the country would not be engulfed in a crisis in the process of conducting all the elections in one period.

"I think it is something we have to reflect on and see if it is something that can help resolve some of the challenges that we are having and I do hope that if we are able to do that and we all agree to it, it would solve even the executive situation, because it is believed that most of the challenges we have are as a result of the charged atmosphere arising from jammed elections.

"Somehow, everybody will benefit. All we need to do is to exercise patience and give them two more years. After that we move to one-term tenure that can be five years, six years or seven years depending on what we all agree upon.

"Besides, the cost of all these elections and all the problems that come with it would all have been resolved. So it would help to reduce cost of elections and also reduce the crisis that may come up due to the desire to run for another term in office."

But for the matter to come up again for deliberation, he stressed that it would have to come in the form of a formal motion "because we are serving the people and we would be more than willing to do that if that is what the people of Nigeria desire.

"We will be willing to discuss it provided that is exactly what Nigerians want. But for now, the matter was defeated in the Senate. If we are going to bring it up again, there must be another motion to resuscitate it.

"If there is a debate on it and Nigerians believe that is the way we are going, we need to think along those lines and be able to use it to resolve the existing political tensions in this country, just as we did during the ill health of our late president (Umaru Yar'Adua).

"We would be more than willing as a national service to have a look at it and be able to reach a level of understanding at the National Assembly."

Addressing the issue of multi-level policing as the way out of the present security quagmire, Ekweremadu said: "As an individual, I believe we can never resolve our security challenges in Nigeria as long as we are doing what we are doing now. Never!

"If you like, continue to do what we are doing and the fact will repeat itself. We'll be having what we are having and the reason is clear.

"No other country is doing what we are doing in terms of policing. Most countries have adopted what I call decentralised policing. If you like, call it multi-level policing. As for the issue of state police, nobody does state police any longer.

"What we now have is multi-level policing and if you like, call it decentralised policing. If the security challenges become complicated, you have to bring in complicated processes to address them. We cannot have a federal type of government that adopts a unitary system of policing and expects to succeed," he warned.

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