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Oko Enya: Man who wants third term for Buhari

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Charles Oko Enya, a businessman who hails from Ebonyi State may not have received mention anywhere until last week when he raised the political ante, as he approached a Federal High Court in Abakaliki, praying it to remove the constitutional clause barring President Muhammadu Buhari and State governors from contesting a third term

The All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain, who though has been in politics for sometime, is relatively unknown in the political circle of the state.  But he rose to limelight during the 2019 electioneering campaigns when he became the Organising Secretary of the President Buhari Campaign Organisation in Ebonyi State. Since the elections were concluded however, he returned to limbo.

Last week, he resurfaced with a controversial suit that is now generating reactions from several quarters. He had asked the court to expunge section 137 (1) and 182 (1) (b) in the 1999 constitution. He had argued that the current two terms was discriminatory to section 42 (1) (a) and article 2 and 3 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples rights.

Those who have read his submission have described him as an “attention seeker”. There are those who feel that he has cheaply sold himself to be used to create confusion that ordinarily should not be. Is this another hand of Essau and the voice of Jacob? Who exactly is behind the current posturing?

There are feelers that the exercise Enya has embarked upon is not new among certain Igbo politicians. Opinions are that those who led similar exercise in the past were more readily Nigerians from Southeast extraction, who willingly offered their services to the benefit of their paymasters.

In this regard, the one million-man march for late Military Head of State, Sanni Abacha to transform from a military head of state and become a democratically elected life president, led by Daniel Kanu, Youths Earnestly Ask for Abacha (YEAA) and the Association for Better Nigeria (ABN), led by Maverick Politician, Authur Nzeribe come readily to mind.

Nzeribe’s ABN in an attempt to perpetuate the military regime of Ibrahim Babangida went to court to prevent the holding of the June 1993 presidential election. Their only reason for demanding an injunction from the court was that leaders of the two political parties –NRC and SDP were corrupt politicians.

Late Justice Bassey Ikpeme of the Abuja High Court had in the midnight sat and granted an order in line with the request of the ABN.  ABN was known to be pro-Babangida. Despite that order, the elections went on. However, after the election, ABN returned to court to prevent the release of the election results and this provided alibi and fillip for the Babangida government to annul the election.

When the election was annulled and late Gen Sanni Abacha came on stream, Nzeribe’s ABN went underground, probably because the mission had been realised.

Is Enya toeing a similar line? Although he (Enya) had canvassed removal of clauses that prevent a third term for Presidents and governors in his suit in court, in a statement he issued on Friday however, which he made available to The Guardian, he was categorical that his interest really was to extend the tenure for President Buhari.

Hear him: “My desire for the removal of term limits for President Buhari is in the national interest based on his anti-corruption fight.”
He added: “I wish to state that having approached the court, it is left for the court to rule on the suit and restate my intention to abide by the court’s decision on the matter, although hopeful that it will be in line with the submission of my counsel.

“Let me also add that I will never be intimidated by any threat of expulsion, arrest or any other untoward action from any person or group of persons, as I sincerely believe that the President’s anti-corruption efforts should be allowed to consolidate, otherwise Nigeria will regress back to the locust years of the PDP.” His matter is slated for hearing on December 4.

Meanwhile, the National Leadership of his party, APC had denied him. In fact the party has vowed to expel him after their investigation to ascertain his true membership.

Lanre Issa- Onilu, the party’s spokesperson had said on Friday: “The All Progressives Congress (APC) read in the media about a purported legal action taken by a self-proclaimed member of the Party, Charles Enya, seeking an amendment of the Constitution to allow President Muhammadu Buhari run for a third term in office.

“The Party had initially chosen to ignore him. However, it has become important to send a clear message to him and such other agent provocateurs.

“At the last National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the Party, President Buhari didn’t mince words and he is not the type that talks tongue-in-cheek. He pointedly said he would abide by the Constitution and uphold the oath of office he took, swearing by the holy book he believes in. This he said was besides his advanced age, which made such an idea beyond his contemplation.

“The NEC meeting highlights released to the media by the party equally quoted the President admonishing APC members, leaders and elected officials to reposition themselves in their respective constituencies so as to sustain the administration’s landmark legacies beyond 2023 when the President’s constitutionally permitted terms end.

“The president said history would not be fair to members if the APC collapses after his second term. What better proof is required of the President’s resolve to abide by the constitution on term limit?
“The Party is, however, by this statement sending a strong signal to such other busybodies like Charles Enya who may be contemplating testing the resolve of our government on our mission to work for the best for our country to be ready to face the law.”

A Human Rights Lawyer and President, Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network (CRRAN), Olu Omotayo had described the moves by Enya as an ‘exercise in futility”, stressing that removal of constitutional clause goes beyond the pronouncement of the court.

Says Omotayo: “Section 135 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended) deals with tenure of the President. It states that the duration of tenure of president is four years. It is somehow curious that the limit of two terms for a president is not stated under this section that deals with the tenure of the president.
”

A careful and meticulous reading clearly shows that Section 137, of the Nigeria Constitution prescribed a two terms tenure for a president. Sections 137(1) (b) of the Constitution provides thus:  – A person shall not be qualified for election to the office of President if  “he has been elected to such office at any two previous elections; The implication of this section is that a person who has been elected to the office of the president in two separate times is disqualified 
from further contesting election to the office of the president. This section clearly forbids a person from becoming president more than two terms.

“It should be noted that section 182 (1)(b) of the Constitution has similar provision that forbids a person from occupying the office of governor for more than two terms. It is submitted that it is a mere academic exercise and abuse of judicial process for anybody to approach the court seeking tenure elongation for these two offices. The court only interprets the law as it is. There is no ambiguity in these provisions of the Constitution on this issue. Furthermore it is only through alteration or amendment of the Constitution by the legislature that the position of the law can
change. It should be noted that by virtue of Section 9, of the Constitution, an alteration of the Constitution can only be effected when by 2/3 majority of both the Senate and the House of
Representatives supported the proposal and Houses of Assembly of not less than 2/3 of all the states approved it by resolution. What this means is that 26 of state Houses of Assembly must pass a resolution approving the alteration. So it could be seen that to alter the Constitution to provide more terms for president and governors, the whole country must be involved.”

Emeritus President of Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike said: “It is a free world but every action must be subject to evaluation by ordinary people. The President and the judge swore to uphold the Constitution. The President cannot serve for more than two terms, unless the Constitution is amended by the members of the legislature. The litigant this time seeks to have the Constitution amended by going to court. I will restrain myself since it is subjudice to talk about a live issue. But since it is a matter of public interest, I will say that it is the hand of Essau but the voice of Jacob. In this country, we are used to office holders seeking to perpetuate themselves in power. The former governors will not let go after their tenure has ended. The hangers on in Aso Rock will do everything to hold on to power. The people surrounding the Presidency are generally referred to as the cabal. They are determined to hold on to power.”

A PDP stalwart in Enugu, Paul Chukwu said: “there is no harm in people wanting to be heard. But my worry is that, it is our people who used at all times to achieve this. How can any right thinking person want the president to continue in office even when age is no longer on his side? Are these people not part of the people calling for president of Nigeria from Igbo extraction in 2023? There is always room for our people to be used to derail every good thing coming to their people. He is being used to derail democracy and it is quite unfortunate”.


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