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President of the Senate, David Mark
President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election bid may be hanging in the balance, following the insistence of the Senate Committee on the Amendment of the 1999 Constitution that the single term proposal must begin in 2015.

Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, told Saturday Punch in an exclusive interview that the date would not be changed because there was no indication that Jonathan was intent on seeking a second term.

He was reacting to comments by the Political Adviser to the President, Ahmed Gulak, who was quoted as saying that the single tenure proposal was targeted at the President and first term governors.

Gulak had in an interview with Sunday Punch published on June 9, said, “You can’t short-change some people in the name of amending the constitution. I’m sure there will be some considerations and the proposal will fail.

“The President and some governors were elected under a constitution that allows them to contest two terms of four years each. You can’t change the rule midway.”

Also on Monday, Gulak said the Presidency would support the amendment, if it would take effect in 2019, thus allowing Jonathan to contest the 2015 presidential election.

Gulak, who spoke on a Channels Television programme, said, “The committee’s proposal is that those incumbent governors and the President who are supposed to enjoy a second term will not participate.

“What we are saying is that laws are not amended to target a particular group of people. It could have been okay, if all those first term governors are allowed to participate, and after 2019, anybody coming in will know that he is going to be elected under the amended constitution.”

But, Ekweremadu, who is the chairman of the committee, said the President had not told anybody he would contest the 2015 election.

He added that the proposed amendment could not, therefore, be targeted at him.

Ekweremadu spoke to one of our correspondents in an exclusive telephone interview from London on Tuesday.

But responding to Gulak on Tuesday, Ekweremadu said that it would be begging the question for the committee to target an individual, who had yet to tell anyone he was running in 2015.

He said, “President Jonathan has not told anybody that he wants to run in 2015, has he? He has not told anybody so, why are we speculating?

“If the President is running in 2015, at the appropriate time, he will make up his mind. Our proposal wouldn’t have been targeted at somebody who has not said he is running in 2015.

“Please let us leave Mr. President out of the present scenario. The issue is whether it is good for Nigeria or not. If it is good for Nigeria, the President, I know, will respect it.

“The argument should be: will it serve the best interest of Nigerians and help promote our democracy? Will it engender sustainability in the system?

“If the answer is yes, I think the President will not have any problem with it. But if the answer is no, every other person including the President will have a problem with it.

“Let us be objective and not subject it to people’s whims and caprices. It is the people’s assessment of the recommendation that I think will help us.

“Once we begin to have a subjective assessment of it, we are going to run into problems.”

Also speaking on the same subject, a member of the committee, Senator Adegbenga Kaka (Ogun East), wondered why there was so much fuss about the single tenure, whose idea was first broached by the President himself.

He said, “I don’t know what our problem is in this country. As early as 2011, it was President Goodluck Jonathan who first proposed a single term that would preclude him from the race.

“If it was proposed, and our committee included it in its proposals to the Senate, what is the issue?

“We, like most Nigerians, agree that the cost of running elections in this country is too high, what we have done is simply to say, instead of spending so much money, in fact wasting so much money on re-elections, let us do things differently.

“This money can put to better use by improving the lives of our people. We should look at the message and stop looking at the messenger.

“Some of us are even of the view that we should jettison the presidential system of government and go back to the parliamentary system.

“We have only made recommendations, we will go back to plenary where our colleagues will make their input.

“Even after this, it will still go to the states for further input. So, it is not something that is cast in stone.”

Meanwhile, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohaneze Ndigbo, has rejected the recommendation that Jonathan and first term governors should be excluded from seeking re-election in 2015, as a result of the proposal.

The Secretary General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Dr. Joe Nwaorgu, told one of our correspondents that it has always been the position of Ohaneze that chief executives should hold office for a single term of six years.

“But to exclude President Jonathan, we refuse. He as well as all those currently serving as governors should serve out their tenures and complete their second terms if they win re-election,” Nwarogu said.

Also speaking, the Arewa Consultative Forum has restated its opposition to the proposal.

ACF National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Anthony Sani, stated this in a text message to Saturday Punch in Abuja on Thursday.

According to the ACF chieftain, the decision to reject the proposal was born out of a principled conviction that it would be counterproductive.

Sani said, “ACF’s position against single tenure is based on principle that it lacks the incentives to motivate for excellence. It has nothing to do with the person of the President or dates of commencement.”

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