It started as a rumour, but now we have the official confirmation that the Goodluck Jonathan's administration is in fact embarking on a tenure elongation agenda which they are selling as a single term project. In a statement released by Ruben Abati, the president's special assistant on media and communication, the presidency stated, among others, that "the cost of conducting party primaries and the general elections have become too high for the economy to accommodate every four years.

The proposed amendment Bill is necessary to consolidate our democracy and allow elected Executives to concentrate on governance and service delivery for their full term, instead of running governments with re-election as their primary focus."

This would appear only to be slightly noble on the most superficial of inspection. On closer scrutiny, the idea is nothing more a campaign for civilian dictatorship, and it is telling that what have been presented as its strong selling points are also the very point son which all lovers of representative democracy must register their most passionate objections.

It is common knowledge that the defining features of liberal democracy consist in the power of citizens to choose their representatives, demand accountability, and reject those who have misused or abused their opportunities to serve, or those whose service do not meet the expectations of the electorate. The rights and opportunities for citizens to review their previous choices, and make alternate choices following from experience with previous choices, is often taken for granted, but constitute a very important feature in the democratic process, and it this important feature that is now under attack, and facing outright obliteration, at the hands of fascists in democratic garbs.

The opportunity for periodic review and possible electoral removal of office holders is very important and highly valuable on several specific grounds: one, and in direct contradiction of the suggestions from the president quoted above, periodic review and judgement of incumbents is one of the best way to consolidate the democratic process, because it provides a constant reminder that real power resides in the will of the electorate, and not just with respect to choosing the next representative, but to assess the incumbent, and possibly reward with further opportunities to serve. The consciousness and recognition of this keeps the incumbents continually on their toes, with focused determination and sustained dedication to fulfil promises and meet the aspirations of the electorate, whose mandate they hold. In this regard the focused representative, if he is truly desirous of positive reviews and reward of further opportunities, does not spend half his term campaigning for second term. He lets his performance speak for him, and it is only when he his performance is not up to scratch that he resorts to spending lots of money to bribe his way through.

In addition to the foregoing, the actual consciousness of the opportunity to review incumbents' performance is a primary basis for continuing engagement of citizens with the democratic process. Public reasoning and debates are enhanced in no small measure with the realization that citizens can actually improve or change the leadership of incumbents within a relatively short term, in this case 4 years. Otherwise the prevailing refrain will be: "why bother to discuss what this government is getting wrong? We are stuck with them for the next seven years anyway, and they won’t even listen to our criticisms and suggestions because the mandate is one-off and they won’t come back to ask us to renew their mandate"

Now think about that again. What better way to hinder and  kill the democratic culture by removing a fundamental premise for citizens' public reasoning? And yet this cultural vandals says their term elongation agenda will 'consolidate' democracy. And why not? After all, as George Orwell says 'war is peace, and freedom is slavery'. The merchants of double-speak will have us believe that the best way to reduce corruption and waste is to give less and less opportunity for citizens to demand accountability and review the performance of incumbents. Such nonsense!

Do we all not know, for example, that arguably the greatest and most appalling waste of public funds came with another term elongation project few years ago, the so-called 3rd term agenda under General Olusegun Obasanjo, and now the spin-masters are trying desperately to tun logic on its head? Now, if there's a problem of intra-party wrangling and excessive spending during electioneering campaigns, can the legislators not do the more straight-forward and more effective thing by passing a bill that limit the amount of money spent in campaigns? No, they want to limit citizens electoral powers instead. And we all know, to be sure, that the reasons why there is so much excess in campaign spending and wrangling and conflicts within and among parties all boil down to one simple fact: that some politicians are always desperate to subvert the will of the people by means of bribery, rigging and rogue violence, among other unscrupulous means. And now, the government has chosen, in effect, to aggravate rather than mitigate the problem, by ignoring the real cause and doing nothing about the perpetrators, and taking more rights and powers from the real victims: the hapless citizens of the federal republic of Nigeria.

Now, will the citizens all rise up as one man against these philistines and vandals of democratic culture, or take it with the usual docile acquiescence?

You may also like

Read Next