After the American War of Independence was won and the Sovereign nation’s talks on the way forward for the new nation were held, Alexander Hamilton who was to later become the first Secretary of the Treasury offered to crown George Washington King – the General who led Uncle Sam to victory against then most powerful Empire in the globe – Great Britain. Washington responded that they had just defeated a monarchy and it won’t be good for the new nation to set a monarchical precedent. He said he would rather be called Mr. President with a term limit of maximum eight years in the event of a re-election. The wish of Washington set the limits of the American Presidency till date. The only exception to this rule was when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President and he used four terms as a result of the fact that America joined the allies in World War II and they couldn’t hold elections in the middle of a war. The precedent has stood the test of time as there has been no constitutional amendment by the Congress to change it.
When many African nations democratized, the adopted the American style Presidential system of government with term limits. In 2005, with two years left for the expiration of the tenure of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, he was said to be secretly nursing a third term bid. The rumours were very strong with the then President and his handlers denying it. In 2006, the then National Assembly threw out the constitutional amendment bill which some sources say had the tenure elongation clause. If true, it was amazing that a man who voluntarily handed over power to a civilian administration in 1979 could want to enjoy the perks of office beyond the stipulated exit time.
The rumours are out again that President Muhammadu Buhari plans to extend his tenure in office beyond 2023 when his terms would have expired.
The Daura born former General has strongly denied this opining that he was no longer a spring chicken and would love to return to his farm to rest as well as the fact that constitution forbade that agenda.
Popular Lagos lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana SAN recently cautioned Nigerians to be wary of the tenure elongation bid of Sai Baba. In his words: “But you heard his group demanding a third term for him and the president trying to distance himself in a very unconvincing manner. I have no doubt there is a third term agenda, because dictatorship of the kind we are witnessing now, in the past, was to one end; tenure elongation.
“He (President Buhari) is trying to cow Nigerians, but no one can successfully do that. All his recent actions are geared towards that; ruling from London, closing borders, arresting opposition and jailing journalists, are meant for him, to be the only voice in the country, it won’t be.”
Nigeria is fundamentally different from other African countries where you have a dictator ruling for well over ten years. The system doesn’t really permit that. Let’s cast our minds back to when General Yakubu Gowon was in power. After he failed to honour his promise to hand over power to civilians in 1975, Muritala Mohammed stepped in and got him overthrown. If Obasanjo’s bid was true, the same National Assembly which had a Peoples Democratic Party majority still prevented him from doing so.
The fact that the country has over 250 tribes which makes tribal loyalty stronger than national loyalty makes it impossible for a Robert Mugabe, Paul Biya etc to emerge as President. When you also take into critical consideration the fact that the country operates a joke of a ‘federal system’ of government with a high level of power concentrated in the centre, it will be chaos if a sit-tight leader emerges. Another civil war that will make the one of 1967 look like a child’s play will break out.
I have never personally met Buhari and certainly not holding brief for him but I don’t think his age and fragile health would allow for such an extension.
Falana talked about the social media regulations, closure of the borders, the disobedience of court orders with regards to his client Sowore as well as Dasuki and El-Zazzaky as reasons why Sai Baba is nursing a third term. I beg to differ here as Buhari by nature has never really been a fan of democracy going by his antecedents.
Let’s cast our minds back to 1984 when he promulgated the notorious Decree 4 which jailed Nduka Irabor and Tunde Thompson of the Guardian newspapers. Fast forward to 2015 when he dismissed the ministers as mere noise makers. The Daura born former General has always preferred autocracy. He is just being himself and I don’t think Falana should be alarmed.
Will 2023 see retention of power in the north? Will there be power shift to the south? Which part of the south will get the power? Will Sai Baba vindicate Falana’s view by getting a constitutional amendment to run for a third term?
Over to you time!
Tony Ademiluyi writes from Lagos and edits www.africanbard.com