Nigerian Deputy Senate President, Mr. Ike Ekweremadu, has said Nigeria and indeed Africa will be better off with a single term of five or six years for their presidents in other to deepen the continent’s democracy and enhance good governance.
Ekweremadu proposed this in a lecture entitled: ‘Constitutionalism and the Challenges of Leadership in Africa: an Evaluation of Tested Models’ on Tuesday.
The event organised by the Centre for Media and Peace Initiatives, a New York-based international NGO to mark its 10th year anniversary had the Senator as a guest speaker.
“A more modest proposal seeks not the abandonment of the presidential system per se but the re-designing of term limits for political chief executives.
“This is in order to reduce the acrimonious conflict, divisiveness and instability arising from partisan or factional competition for executive offices in the federation.
“I support the proposals to transform the current tenure of two four-year terms into a single term of five or six years.
“Among other advertised benefits, single terms would avoid the distractions, manipulations and divisiveness of re-election campaigns while facilitating a more rapid circulation or rotation of power among the various groups”, he said.
Ekweremadu making references to older democracies such as that of the Latin America called on Nigeria and other African nations to draw lessons from their failures and eventual successes.
He said: “It is for this reason that the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution which I chair, felt in 2014 that a single term would serve the ends of our current democracy.
“Unfortunately, the recommendation failed because ethnic suspicions and parochial interests prevented reasonable and good faith evaluation of our worthy proposal”.
With a single term and a rotational presidency, every part of the country will have assurance and faith in the nation knowing that their turn would come, he opined.
“Therefore, it may well be time to re-visit the idea of rotational presidency that was first muted in Nigeria by late military Head of State Sani Abacha.”
Senator Ekweremadu, a lawyer by profession, suggested a mergence of sort of both presidential and parliamentary systems of governance to cater for the peculiarity of African politics; features of which would include ‘Question Time’ to hold executive appointees accountable, vote of no-confidence against the current impeachment procedure and also check the excesses of African leaders.
“To this end, a hybrid of both the presidential and parliamentary systems will go a long way in keeping the presidency in check, while also reaping the benefits inherent in presidential system.”
The lawmaker also stated that separation may do the country no good as the benefits of maintaining our unity far outweighs any gains separation might offer. He however spoke in favour of restructuring to strengthen the regions as against the current over-concentration of power at the centre.
“Nigeria does not require to be fragmented at this time. There is joy in being together. There is benefit in being together.
“There is advantage that is conferred on us as a country by our large population. What we need is giving everybody a sense of belonging and ensuring good governance.
“The central government that once appeared necessary and beneficent has compromised even jeopardized its standing by perceived highhandedness, unfair treatment of some ethnic groups and abuse of power.
“The powerful central government has made citizens vulnerable to bureaucratic manipulation and control and left them powerless and reminded them at every turn that the promise of self-government has been eroded.
“Nigeria and indeed African constitutions should espouse federalism characterized by weak centres and strong federating units.
“Currently, Nigeria has a very powerful centre, hence the need for devolution of powers.
“If we start this process, it will assure the agitators that there is hope for a better Nigeria.
“We must continue to assure that the best way to go is restructuring, not dismemberment of the country”, he said.
Ekweremadu said all parts of Nigeria are richly blessed and would develop rapidly tapping from indigenous abundant natural resources if given power to harness such resources. This according to him would quell the rush to and over-dependence on the centre.
“For example, the North will be a net exporter of solar energy and agricultural products while the West will be the hub of banking and information technology.
“The East will be the hub of industrial manufacturing and scientific innovations while the Middle Belt will be the hub of solid minerals development and tourism.
“The South-South will be the oil and gas hub as well as shipping. When this happens, there will be less pressure on the federal government.
“The zones will be the centres of development, the rush to Abuja will cease and the country will be able to realise its potential’, he enthused.