Chinwoke Mbadiniju, former governor of Anambra State, spoke to some journalists recently on the controversial six-year tenure proposal, the face-off between two former heads of state, and the de-registration of parties by INEC, among other issues. Excerpts:
On government’s proposed single term for president and governors
It is necessary that all right thinking Nigerians, home and abroad, should rally round the government of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan not only to support his transformation agenda but in particular, to support his proposal for constitutional amendment, particularly the 6-year one tenure plan.
I read in some newspapers the suggestion being made to allow 1st term governors stay in office for 10 years; that is, to have their normal four years plus the newly proposed years years, one term. This arrangement does not sound right as it raises the question of why some governors should stay in office for 10 years when the president voluntarily chose to stay for four years.
This 10-year thing, if not properly managed, may defeat the whole constitutional amendment as the third term one led to the defeat of the whole exercise a few years back. When a situation like this develops, everyone affected must act in the nation’s interest.
It is the national interest that made President Jonathan decide not to benefit from the 6-year arrangement, even when the constitution guarantees him second term in office. That is the type of sacrifice Nigerians should learn to make in the interest of national unity.
On the Obasanjo/babangida face-off
I feel it was very entertaining, and something good for Nigeria. I wouldn’t have advised Mr President to try to stop them. It has been long since the two generals have been sizing up each other in a way of cold war, of no war and no peace. So it is good that there is this opportunity for them to talk to themselves and to the people of Nigeria.
We have been thoroughly educated, as each general outlined his achievements in office as in the case of the period when Babangida was the Head of State, or the periods when Obasanjo was either the military Head of State or the civilian president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We were told of how IBB and former Head of State, General A.A. Abubakar, and General Gusau, former National Security Adviser, how three of them worked and plotted the freedom of Obasanjo who was jailed for life. They didn’t stop at helping to free him, they also plotted to make him Nigeria’s president.
We were told there was a “gentleman’s agreement”, whereby after Obasanjo’s four years as president, he would step down for former Head of State, Mr Babangida. Obasanjo, according to Babangida, breached the accord twice in 2003 and 2004. This is the background of IBB’s grouse against his friend and colleague general.
With this, the public may still be waiting to hear from OBJ his reasons for deciding to renege on his agreement with IBB, and for fighting his benefactor for this number of years. As for developmental strides while in office and from what we hear them say, OBJ must have scored ‘A’ and IBB ‘A’, with plus for his new states creation, which solved many political problems in Nigeria.
In any case, what has a beginning must have an end, so I expect that with the present trouble-shooting of Mr President, it shall be well with the two generals, and with us the spectators.
On the Sovereign Wealth Fund issue
I must say that majority of our people do not know what it means. It sounds like an insurance, to save money for future. It is important that we save for our children to benefit from after many have gone.
It is like a man and his wife when the children were complaining of hunger. The man told his wife to go to the ban and bring all the yams, cook them all the same day so that the children can eat and be full, at least for that day.
But the wife countered and told the man it was better to go slowly and cook few yam tubers and save the rest for another day. If the children are well fed in one day but nothing else for the other days, it would be like penny wise pound foolish.
I must say that both in concept and policy it falls within the president’s transformation programme in terms of new ideas and the need to turn around from going in the wrong direction. It won’t be a good practice for a nation to consume all it has without thinking of the future.
Unfortunately, the governors in their wisdom decided a few days ago to delay the implementation of the SNW in order to first sort out constitutional issues that had arisen.
The president, on his part, warned about the danger of delay, as they say “delay is dangerous”. Both the president and the governors are correct, like the man and his wife.
We hope that at the end of the day the governors will see the need to move fast on this major economic transformation policy, not only to feed well today but to have some left-over for tomorrow. Nobody can fault this new approach, except when it comes to implementation.
On INEC’S de-registration of parties
The question agitating the minds of people is whether INEC has breached the constitution or the law/Act of the National Assembly (NASS).
To me, the presumption should be that ordinarily, INEC will act within the laws and the constitution that established it so that the onus will rest on those who say that it acted outside the law.
So far, all we have heard and seen are mere emotion from groups and individuals insisting that INEC has no powers to de-register an already existing political party. INEC itself justified its action based on the fact that the seven de-registered parties won no seat in the last April elections and that there is no justification for funding such parties and allow them to be a drain on the public purse. To me this makes sense, but what is the position of law?
Those opposing the action of INEC insist that when once a party is registered it remains registered and because it wins no seat in any election should not be reason for de-registration. The argument of the chairman of the ANPP, Ogbonnia Onu, seems to make sense that if a party does not win now it might win next time. But not every argument that makes sense is legal or lawful; it has to be lawful before it can make sense in the context of the issue on hand.
However, many will like to see INEC satisfy the public demand for proof of its legal basis in taking the action to de-register. Indeed, because of our constitutional provision for freedom of association, to belong or not belong to one group or the other, nothing done outside the law and the constitution can stand, no matter how compelling the need may be. The ball, therefore, is on the court of INEC to explain the legal basis for the action it took.
On the Salami controversy
Again, we must have recourse to the law and whether his removal was grounded in the law of the constitution or that of the National Assembly. Now, it is public knowledge that the National Judicial Council has the constitutional role to recommend a person to Mr President for appointment into categories of judicial offices or posts subject to two-thirds confirmation vote in the Senate.
This was the process through which Justice Salami got into that post in the first place. The controversy now is not whether he could be removed, but rather whether the process of his removal followed due process and rule of law.
The point has been made that while Justice Salami’s matter was already in court the NJC, recommended the Court of Appeal president for discharge from his office.
Meanwhile, following the NJC recommendation to the president to dismiss him, the president, in exercise of his discretion, did not dismiss Justice Salami from office.
Rather, the president played safe and merely appointed an acting president of the court. If the president had dismissed Justice Salami without going through the Senate, the action would have come in for debate. But the president said he wanted the judicial process to be running while the issues surrounding the NJC and Justice Salami are sorted out. This is the president’s job to do in his absolute discretion.
The problem is that our people often behave like someone in a hurry but chose a longer route. We elected the president to lead the nation, therefore equity and fairness demand that he be given chance and support to carry out his programmes as best as he can.
I know that our democracy must do with opposition but are we just opposing in this country or are we being a stumbling block against moving the nation forward? The Salami episode is just in its infancy but the opposition has started behaving in such a way as to suggest that this will mark the end of the world.
It is important that as lawyers we must fight for justice but it must be for all. Unfortunately, many in my category have suffered such injustice that cries to high heavens but heaven didn’t come down.
Otherwise, was I not to die in Onitsha surrounded by about five thousand armed rioters paid by my opponents to abduct and drag me through the streets of Onitsha main market before setting me on fire? God saved me. Were they not lawyers that insisted I committed an offence with death penalty without their producing a single witness in court?
Is it not high time we moved away from this high level of hypocrisy and double standard in our national life?