Single term tenure is enough for president, governors
A suggestion lately from the Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde that governors can do with one term in office as against the current two terms is interesting and a reenactment of age-old debate about the desirability of one term for elected public officers. The suggestion is worth revisiting for a country in a hurry to develop, save governing costs and avoid political acrimony.
The idea is not novel to Makinde as it was broached before by former President Goodluck Jonathan and former Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu. Jonathan at the time advocated a single term of six years for president, governors, and their deputies, as similarly advocated by Ekweremadu, who noted that most leaders do everything possible to remain in power, a situation he believed should come to an end, especially considering the nation’s political climate which is usually charged particularly during elections. Makinde also canvassed the adoption of a five-year single tenure for the president, governors, National Assembly, and state legislators to check the problems usually associated with the quest for a second term in office.
The prevailing prebendal politics in Nigeria makes public office unduly attractive; eliciting inordinate struggle for power and the resultant crisis of governance, which is a recipe for endemic corruption and impunity. Following the restoration of civil rule in 1999, the tempo of elitist politics has been dictated by incumbent heads of the executive arm of government, who raised the stake of monetisation in their bid to secure a second term.
Regrettably, the crave for a second term in office by the incumbents has not only proven detrimental to the sustenance of healthy democracy, it has also served as impediments to governance for which the electorate invest much expectation. Notwithstanding, that quest for a review of the tenure of elected public officials has, over the years, featured as part of political reform agenda, emerging reality however tends to lend credence to the proposal as panacea to the rancorous politicking around the second term ambition of incumbent president and governors.
Recently, Makinde, while addressing the leadership of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) in Ibadan, reiterated the desirability of a single term of office for elected public officials. The call, which the governor premised on the need to make elected public officials concentrate on the primary responsibility of governance without the usual distractions of a second term ambition is logical, well-thought-out and pertinent in the light of emerging realities. Even if the recent call by the governor is coming from unlikely quarters considering that the governor recently secured a second term mandate, the essence and import of the proposal should not be lost.
Making single term in office mandatory for president and governors has become apposite as it would help stabilise the polity by assuaging deep-seated sentiments around quest for power shift. A single term of office for president and governors would readily facilitate power shift amongst contending interests and thereby foster a sense of belonging across sections of the country and as well as within the states.
Considering the distractions often triggered by unrestrained desire by the incumbent for second term, which often come at huge cost to the polity, a single term would serve as motivation for responsibility and accountability in governance as no elected officials would appreciate the limited time available if they are genuinely desirous of making impact. Indeed, the proposal for a single term of office for president and governors is valid, justifiable, and relevant to the reality of Nigeria’s situation. A single term solution to the leadership and governance conundrum is not only underscored by the prevailing reality but also validated by factual experiences with leadership and governance under past political dispensations in Nigeria.
It is incontrovertible that political actors who demonstrated exemplary leadership with landmark achievements while serving as heads of the executive arm of government did so within the timeframe of a single term of office. The First Republic featured first rate performances by nationalists like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Ahmadu Bello, and Dr Michael Okpara, who within a short space of time made indelible marks with leadership in their respective spheres of administration. It is not difficult to recall that the Second Republic governors like Alhaji Lateef Jakande, Chief Adekunle Ajasin, Chief Sam Mbakwe, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi and a host of others who were in office within the space of four-year tenure left their respective states with signatures of accomplishments that have remained reference points and yet unsurpassed, four decades after. We are therefore compelled to submit that a single term of five years would be sufficient for elected president or governor to make valuable contributions to governance if the ultimate ambition is to genuinely serve and make a difference in leadership and governance.
While ambition for public office has become a do-or-die affair and often laced with absence of visceral or visible commitment to genuinely advance the cause of good governance, it is disturbing that the incumbents are routinely encouraged by entrenched political buccaneers and sycophants to commence reelection bid barely a year oath of office. As evident across the country, the political space is corroded by bitter politicking with a penchant for abuse of power and tendencies for corrupt enrichment mostly attributable to second term ambition which divert attention of the incumbent from the mandate of governance.
Unfortunately, realisation of second term ambition by incumbents, who are positioned as primus inter pares with unrestricted access to paraphernalia of office, has seldom translated to overall performance in office. Experience has shown that rather than perform better during the second term, the beneficiaries tend to become a liability to the system as manifested by overbearing posturing that often creates friction within their political parties.
It should be worrisome that the pursuit of a second term in office as entitlement has fueled the perception of politics as a vehicle for dispensing patronage to circles of connected individuals rather than rendering service to the generality of the citizenry. While motivations for second term appear irresistible by the incumbents including those that have clearly underperformed, it is unacceptable that the hope the citizens invested in democracy and governance would continually be sacrificed on the altar of ambition of reelection often serviced with considerable time as well as public resources. Rather than being distracted by ambition of tenure renewal, the enormous power and privileges attached to the offices of president and governors should serve as enough motivation for legacy of performance within a five-year term of office.
Get the latest news delivered straight to your inbox every day of the week. Stay informed with the Guardian’s leading coverage of Nigerian and world news, business, technology and sports.