Six-year term touted as elixir for Nigeria’s political construct

Six-year term touted as elixir for Nigeria’s political construct

There is an urgent need to rescue Nigeria’s political and economic future. A single six-year term is now being touted as the cure-all magic wand that will solve Nigeria’s long-standing political and economic challenges. And the idea is spreading fast. From the presidency to governorship positions, and even to the economic management teams, extending the tenure of public office holders is being packaged and sold as the elixir for all the ills that have bedevilled our polity since we gained political independence.  

For sure, it is a good thing that Nigeria is still searching for an improved political structure. That means that the remedy for our system is not yet foreclosed. Therefore, we need to continue the search for a more efficient configuration in our political and economic structure that can guarantee better delivery of service.  Nigeria needs to get its political economy right so that everything else can fall in place. We need a political substructure on which a viable and sustainable economy can be built to thrive.

Unfortunately, it seems to me that this search may go on for too long and perhaps not yield good results, or yield the wrong results. That is because some people want us to focus on the wrong things and ask the wrong questions. As this happens, it is certain that the wrong choices will be made. Today, there is this penchant or preference for a six-year term for virtually all public offices and this is being transported into the political arena.

Just a few days after some senators proposed a single, six-year term for the office of the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, another set of federal lawmakers, this time members of the House of Representatives, have also raised this to the same proposition; they want Nigeria to adopt a six-year term for the presidency and the governorship posts in the states. Perhaps they are just flying kites to see whether the rest of society would fall for it, while they retain their insidious hold on the system.

Reducing the effectiveness of governance in Nigeria to being a function of the length of time an elected official stays in office is certainly a formula begging for explanations. We have since 1999 been experimenting with the four-year term with a second and final four-year term, yet we have not experienced such a dramatic turnaround in the fortunes of this nation. A few people have held the office of president within the period, and the same goes for the states.

Most of the governors who have been elected since the return of democracy have had two terms of four years each. Yet the states’ fortunes, as measured by the standards of living of the people, have not witnessed much change, if we must tell ourselves the truth. Yes, a few states have recorded significant changes in some areas, but on average, the people of Nigeria have been short-changed by those elected to direct their affairs.

The voters elect their leaders to take them out of poverty, but many of them turn around to deepen the poverty level or incidence. That has nothing to do with whether the leader spends four years, or six years, or eight years in office. Our constitution has given us four years that are guaranteed, and a possible addition of another four years, known as the second term. The eight years should be enough for whoever is genuinely interested in turning around the fortunes of the people. It is the failure of the political class that has led us to this low-level existence where poverty over the years has become our identity as a nation.

Those who say that fixing the terms for political office holders at six years non-renewable are simply playing to the gallery. They know that this is not the problem that Nigeria faces in its search for political and economic development. The problem is the individuals occupying the commanding heights of our political structure.

The length of time a governor or president stays in office has very little to do with the actions of the legislature, whether at the state or federal level. It has nothing to do with the preferences of the lawmakers in terms of the choices they make regarding their comfort versus the needs of the masses. We are in a country where federal lawmakers drive SUVs purchased at the cost of N140 million each, but some of their constituents sometimes cannot make it to the nearest health centre when they fall sick. The legislators justified the exotic cars by saying they needed the “high rise” vehicles to do their work because the roads in some places are impassable for ordinary cars. Yet those they claim to represent or speak on behalf of are residents in those communities without good roads.

Limiting the term of officeholders as is being propounded might be a solution to political inefficiency in some places, but it is not likely to be so in Nigeria. The term limit is already provided for in our constitution. And even if we must apply it as a possible solution, five years is sufficient for an individual to make a noticeable impact while in office. Our problems are different but are well known to the political gladiators.


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