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Smelly talk of third term agenda

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President Buhari


President Muhammadu Buhari should be full of praise to God. He should be singing the AMAZING GRACE song by John Newton every morning, if he already has not been doing so. For there was a time when many thought he would not be able to complete his first term in office, that he would probably die because of serious ill-health. That he did not only complete that first term, but that he is also on his second term with sceptics now fearing he could exceed this constitutional limit, is cause to marvel at the workings of God. Among those peddling the rumour of tenure elongation are those who had actually thought Buhari was incapacitated and finished politically.

That a political leader could disrespect the mandates of a written constitution in pursuit of a selfish agenda cannot be underestimated. The political history of the African continent is replete with political leaders who have brushed aside the constitution to establish some kind of life presidency for themselves. Paul Biya, President of Cameroon since 1982, and Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda since 1986, are prominent among current examples, while Chief Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria was alleged to have actually attempted extra-constitutional third term agenda at the expiration of his second term in 2007.

The reasons why Obasanjo might not have succeeded in a pursuit that was relatively easy for some African leaders, explain why tenure elongation could be problematic in Nigeria. One of such reasons could be the intense intra-party competition in our multi-party democracy. The major political parties in Nigeria have in their ranks highly ambitious politicians, waiting rather impatiently to step into the most coveted office in the land. It is doubtful if this calibre of politicians would be drumming support for a political leader in the pursuit of greed.

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There is also this matter of severe ethnic divisions which provide some kind of checks and balances to whatever any extra-constitutional agenda a political leader might be harbouring. Nigeria is one country where the destination of the presidency assumes serious inter-ethnic competition and even confrontation. Even before the conclusion of the recent 2019 presidential election, the destination of the presidency in 2023 has been a subject of ongoing discussions and threats. It would not be an exaggeration to say it would not be an easy task for any over-ambitious political leader to negotiate the dangerous terrains of our ethnic and religious divisions.

Finally, the vibrancy of the Nigerian public opinion cannot be underestimated. Nigerians might not have been very active in compelling politicians to respond to the yawning of ordinary people with regards to development, their readiness to wrestle in the mud over any matter such as that of tenure allegation can be vouched for. Nigerians are known to have taken to the streets, even during the reigns of the military. A protestation against tenure elongation is bound to bring about a coalition of unlikely allies-ethnic, religious, and political, among others. It could be one hell of a messy protestation.

President Buhari, being the sensible person that he is, has himself attempted to douse possible tension over the suspicion or mischief of the few. These sceptics view or perceive any policy of government, even that of a temporary closure of borders, as motivated by a third term agenda. Buhari has replied them by talking of his fast advancing age as well as integrity to respect the dictates of our constitution with regards to presidential term limits. There should be no reason to doubt him. All we must do is to continue to remind him that he is on the last lap or final chapter of his presidential career. It is left to him to work on how he would want to be remembered in the history of Nigeria. He can be candidate for immortality, even if all he can do is make corruption unattractive to future generations
Akinola wrote from the United Kingdom.

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