Tazarce is Undemocratic
Dahiru Rabe Kofar Sauri
Initially, this paper is composed to be presented to the recently concluded Constitutional Amendment Public Hearing, organized by the National Assembly Committee for Constitution Amendment. But due to unforeseen circumstances, it failed to find its way through. Thus, I decided to mesmerize it and bring it out for public consumption. Precisely, this paper is calling the attention of our youths to wake up and resist the undemocratic “tazarcefication” of Nigerian politics by Gen. OBJ’s regime, as well as the retrogressive reforms under the “Obasanjonomics” charade, which have been ‘earthquaking’ the very foundation of Nigerian nation since May 1999. I hope this simple presentation will serve as a motivating recipe for our future political undertaking.
DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA
It is possible to accept the fact that the best form of government with universal recognition is democracy even though scholars and democrats are not in any consensus on the definition, content and form of democracy. Whatever might be the case, democracy requires a legitimate constitutional framework which guarantees basic necessities for national integration and the unity of the citizenry. These include security of lives and property; fundamental human right; equal opportunity etc. Unfortunately, since the attainment of Nigerian independence in 1960, there has never been an inclusive process leading to formation of legitimate constitution.
It is therefore not surprising that since the beginning of this civilian rule in May 1999, constitutional reform has been one of the priorities of various segments of the society. As a result, several efforts have been made to bring about constitutional reform. Despite these attempts, a legitimate constitution with wider acceptance has not been produced for the country. However, the National Assembly recently brought out a report for a possible amendment of the 1999 constitution. One of the suggestions is amendment of the constitution to extend the duration of tenure to maximum of three consecutive terms of four years each instead of the present situation of a maximum of two terms.
The political history of Nigeria indicates that the British started ruling Nigerian areas as far back as 1861, and their rule ended when Nigeria was given political independence in1960. From 1960 to 2006, the military ruled for about 30 years in the 46 years of post independent Nigeria. As a result, apart from 1963 constitution, all other constitutions are either products of colonial rule or that of military. The 1999 constitution was passed into law as a decree by the then Gen. Abdussalami Abubakar’s regime. The constitution was approved by the Armed Forces Ruling Council following a report submitted by the justice Niki Tobi Constitution Debate Coordinating Committee. The committee had two months to consult Nigerians before presenting a draft to the military for approval. This is why the 1999 constitution remains under incessant attacks in Nigeria as a military imposition. Hence, the executive arm of government, the legislature and their collaborators have been making serious attempts to amend the 1999 constitution, and more than 100 sections of the constitution are proposed to be amended. To this end, there are some levels of agreement in areas that need reform in the constitution, although there are some contentious issues in the areas of religion, resource control, immunity clause etc. However, one issue that has changed the pattern of the reform process is the issue of tenure regarding the agitation by some people for extension of the tenure of President Olusegun Obasanjo beyond the two terms that the constitution permits.
Section 135 of the 1999 constitution clearly provides tenure of four years for any person elected under the constitution as president and section 137 disqualifies any person who “has been elected to such office at any two previous elections.” There are similar provision for the office of the Governor in section 180 and 182 of the 1999 constitutions. The supreme court of Nigeria has settled the matter of two previous elections clearly stating that it has to be two elections under the 1999 constitution. The 1999 elections and 2003 elections were held under the 1999 constitution and anyone elected as President and Governor in 1999 and 2003 are clearly disqualified by the 1999 constitution from contesting the 2007 elections. Therefore, President Obasanjo and Governors elected in 1999 and re-elected in 2003 are disqualified from contesting the 2007 elections.
The procedure for amending the constitution is provided for in section 9 of the 1999 constitution which states that the proposal for amendment must be “supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of all members of that House (i.e National Assembly) and approved by resolution of the Houses of Assembly of not less than two-thirds of all the states.” Under this clause, every member of the National and the State Assemblies must go back to his constituency and make due consultations with the electorates. In this respect, Nigerians are expected to accept or reject any proposal for amendment, and peoples’ wishes and aspirations must be respected. Consequently, the results of the proposed amendment must be subjected to popular opinions through referendum. But this so called democratic government of Gen. OBJ, in a hurry to satisfy some vested interests, Mantu’s committee was given only two days to hear the views of Nigerian people from six geopolitical zones. That’s why many Nigerians view the whole scenario with suspicion because due process is jeopardized. Why at this critical time when the future of this country is at stake, with Niger Delta in serious crises, Katsina, Borno and Onitsha are burning with religious bigotry and ethnic xenophobia, but the law makers are busy wasting their precious time as well as our scarce resources on this baseless self-serving mission?
THE CONTENDING ISSUE
In the current move to amend the 1999 constitution to allow President Obasanjo and some Governors to contest the 2007 elections, several issues need to be borne in mind. First is that we, the progressive youth in Katsina State are against any move that is capable of distorting our nascent democracy with a novice caricature of “tazarceism”. This is why we came out openly on Saturday February 18, 2006, and exhibited our resentment of this tazarcefication of Nigerian politics; through peaceful procession without demonstrations or violence. This also shows that Katsina youths are true democratic agents who are capable of sacrificing their lives to salvage their fatherland. Therefore, we are surely going to continue resisting this immoral hullabaloo to its dead end, for better tomorrow.
Secondly, it is likely President OBJ may decide to remain in power beyond 2007. Perhaps, he can overstay his welcome and push his country into crisis, chaos and anarchy, or he will be ultimately pushed out of power back to where he comes from or even beyond. My humble advice to him (OBJ) is that; after 2007 elections, he should retire to his magnificent empire (Otta Farm), and spend the rest of his life there, as democratic hero for the second time, and he will surely enjoy popular respect. But if he decides to stick to power beyond 2007, history will judge him according to his deed. Because the basic problem with history is that it always teaches human being useful lessons, but human beings seldom refuse to learn from history. We will see whether history will repeat itself in the case of President OBJ of Nigeria, as it happened to some African rulers such as: Idi Amin Dada of Uganda, Gen. Yakubu Gowon of Nigeria, Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, F. Chiluba of Zambia, Arap Moi of Kenya etc.
The third issue is that even if all the political forces, arsenal, ballistics, katrinas and Tsunamis of the third term agenda succeed in amending the constitution to allow President OBJ to contest the 2007 elections, it will not make the process or the amended constitution legitimate. It may be legal in the same sense that when a people are conquered by military forces and they issue decrees, the decrees are legal. But certainly, they are not legitimate. As results of various opinion polls and recommendations from interest groups across Nigeria and abroad have shown that, such an amendment will be unpopular and will be resisted.
Fourthly, if this monstrous tazarce syndrome continues wagging its atrocious tentacles into the nooks and crannies of this country, the fundamental question that must be answered by tazarce crowd is that: What are the spiritual and moral justifications for this aggressive imbroglio? Let’s me remind my fellow youths, If we ever make the mistake of allowing this obnoxious adventure to succeed, certainly we are going to pay the price with our tears and sweat, and the coming generation will never forgive us. If I may remind you; the trick of third term is that; when the constitution is successfully changed (God forbid) in favour of President OBJ, then he will start afresh for three consecutive terms. Going by the experience of what happened in 2003 elections, I am apt to say that Gen. OBJ is capable of winning the next three terms by whatever means. Thus, he will start in 2007 and finish in 2019. Who on earth in his right sense is ready to spend another twelve years under Gen. OBJ?
Haba! Tazarce to where? I think it will be more impressive to the Nigerians to see their law makers at both federal and state levels working relentlessly to address such critical issues like: provision of good drinking water, adequate power supply, unemployment, standard of education, healthcare services, poverty, bribery and corruption, good road network, armed robbery, communal clashes, rural ghetto and ethnic xenophobia etc, which make life in many parts of Nigeria so solitary, nasty, brutish and short.
Finally and perhaps more importantly, the way that third term issue is resolved will have a long lasting implication for the political stability, social cohesion and economic prosperity of Nigeria. It is discomforting that barely one year to the 2007 elections, there are no credible, popular and progressive candidates. Almost all the ones that have indicated interests are either guests or possible guests of Nuhu Ribadu’s corrugated Web. This is the tragedy of the political class in Nigeria. Recent political groupings under different platforms that have been organized to challenge the third term agenda are mostly clique of renegades who fell out of favour with the regime. They do no offer any fresh ideas or inspiration to move the country forward. Meanwhile, there are honest, dedicated, committed, patriotic and progressive Nigerians in every sphere of life from all parts of the country and scattered abroad. The challenge is to organize and mobilize all progressive forces to rescue our nation from these parasitic rapacious and unfocused ruling elite. We have to appreciate the fact that they are the real obstacle to our progress.
The youths must understand that they are precious and important, it is only through them the transformation of this country is guaranteed. However, in Nigeria the prime movers of our present free-market economy do not recognize this basic fact, in contrast the nation’s wealth is continuously being cornered and personalized by few unproductive individuals, at the expense of millions productive youths. Billions of Naira are being wasted in meaningless ceremonies and jamborees such as COJA and ABUJA CARNIVAL ,on daily basis, while the ratio of beggars in our streets and motor packs is growing geometrically and indeed very alarming. Virtually the middle class stratum is fast vanishing. The society is heading towards two class society i.e. upper and lower class strata. That’s why most people in Nigeria remain poor, and will continue to remain poorer so far the existing arrangement remains unchanged. Higher percentages of Nigerians are living below poverty line, at a time when the country is earning billions of Naira crude oil proceeds like ever before. The only way out of this mess is for us to face these challenges gallantly. Because most of those we have been regarding as our benefactors, messiahs or community elders are more or less borne criminals, who suppose to have permanent cells in kiri-kiri.
With 2007 elections past approaching, it is of paramount importance for us to identify the problematic parts of our politics. The road is rough and indeed tough, but our destination is unmistakable prosperous and stable society if we remain steadfast. We must not allow this imaginary PDP- ANPP dichotomy to divide us; it is only a ‘divide and rule’ tactics. Our unity is the most important because ‘united we stand, divided we fall’. We must also come together and choose credible candidates to represent us at various political offices. We must reject imposition of candidates, as past experiences have taught us a lot. Let’s avoid political thuggery, shun political violence and work for prosperity and stability of our people; victory is surely on our side.
In the end, I will like to assure our youths that; History is always on the side of progressive forces. If we stand on our feet against the conservative forces of “democrisis”, we have nothing to loose but the chains that have been truncating our freedom. In politics there is no neutral position, you either participate, and assist in developing your society or you stay aside helplessly watching political thugs vandalizing your future and the future of children. ‘For evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing’. And remember ‘every on-looker is either a traitor or a coward’. There is no doubt democratic governance has come to stay in Nigeria, therefore, we must uphold its honour, and passion it according to the needs and aspirations of the majority of our people.
DAHIRU RABE K/SAURI