Under normal circumstances, the rumour concerning President Muhammadu Buhari eyeing a third term should be disregarded. However, the fact that the president alluded to it in his New Year message; makes it important to talk about it.
“I will be standing down in 2023 and will not be available in any future elections,” Buhari had said in his New Year message.
Some could say that why take his words for it, after all he is a politician. The issue is, it’s currently beyond his power to do so. There are two ways the incumbent can extend his tenure: via a Constitutional amendment or by suspending the constitution.
The latter will be impossible as it involves a coup against the constitution. The fate of people like Yahya Jammeh of Gambia will be a good lesson to anyone contemplating it.
The second alternative is the option of amending the constitution; to either remove the term limit or extend the tenure to four years of three terms. Indeed, Olusegun Obasanjo tainted his legacy with the attempt to toe this option; by altering the Constitution to extend his tenure.
Considering the political configuration of the country, it is next to impossible to achieve this. Most times, our diversity is viewed as a weakness, However, it is actually the strength that sustains our democracy. Nigeria is too diverse for anyone to dominate.
This statement has continuously been proven right. As a matter of fact; the emergence of Buhari himself is a good example of the power of alliance in Nigerian politics. Buhari with his mass following in the North could not emerge as president without a coalition from the South. Consequently, a third term agenda is against the interest of the coalition that brought him to power.
Alliances propelled Buhari to power. Will he burn those alliances in search of a 3rd term?
Indeed, for him to attempt to amend the constitution, he needs the coalition to achieve it.
In 2003, Muhammadu Buhari contested for the Presidency. However, his 12 million votes proved insufficient. In 2007, he polled 6.5 million. Equally important, his 11 million votes against Goodluck Jonathan was inadequate in 2011. The electoral feat above is huge for anyone to achieve, considering the weak structure of his parties. Still, it was not enough for him to assume the top job of the country.
Mr. Buhari was only able to win in 2015 because a political lynchpin, Bola Ahmed Tinubu; as well as his southwest machinery supported him. Now with reports of Tinubu himself eyeing the Presidency; will the former Governor of Lagos State jettison his ambition for Buhari’s third term agenda?
As a matter of fact, Tinubu is not a follower of Buhari. He is not a Buharist. He is a man of his own agenda and the marriage between himself and the President is a marriage of convenience; one that could be broken any time interest does not align.
The point is, even if Buhari intends to amend the constitution, he needs Tinubu to ensure that.
Here is a short crash course of the process of amending the constitution.
ny constitutional amendment bill must pass through the Senate and the House separately in the following steps; first reading, second reading, public hearing, committee of the whole consideration.
Here is the challenge. At the committee of the whole, the bill must get 2/3 support from members of each chamber. This means 240 members of the House of Representatives must support the bill. Also, 73 senators must also support such a bill.
Thorny process of constitution amendment for tenure elongation
Constitution amendment bills are not passed by voice vote; those in support say – aye, those against say – nay. Rather, the bill is passed by counted votes of yes and no.
Within the context of political situation, this would be a tall order. Furthermore, the bill has to be passed by 2/3 of the States Houses of Assembly; which means 24 states out of the 36 states Assemblies must also pass the bill.
Section 9 subsection 1, 2 of the Constitution states; “The National Assembly may, subject to the provision of this section, alter any of the provisions of this Constitution.
(2) An Act of the National Assembly for the alteration of this Constitution, not being an Act to which section 8 of this Constitution applies, shall not be passed in either House of the National Assembly unless the proposal is supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of all Assembly members of that House and approved by resolution of the Houses of Assembly of not less than two-thirds of all the States.”
For simple political arithmetic, the North has 19 states, of which five (Bauchi, Sokoto, Adamawa, Benue and Taraba states); are in firm control of the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Aside from these five, the PDP also controls nine states in the south; with the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) controlling one.
This puts the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in control of 21 states.
Hence, this means even the coalition of Buhari and Tinubu may probably not get enough states Houses of Assembly to support the alteration.
Nigeria’s diversity represents biggest obstacle to any would-be dictator/maximum ruler
As stated earlier, the coalition is against the third term in the first place. The marriage of convenience in 2015 was simply to end the era of the PDP. Therefore, the sustainability of the alliance is based on the understanding of power transfer in 2023. Why would Tinubu support Buhari to attempt a tenure elongation?
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila is a godson of Mr. Tinubu. Therefore, the bill will find it extremely hard to scale the Green Chamber.
It would be useful to share the additional information that a House of Representatives member; John Deigh sponsored a bill on tenure-change from the existing four years of two terms to a six-year single term. Most members of the APC rejected the bill; despite Deigh making it clear that it will not affect the incumbent. Indeed, the political atmosphere suggested hostility to any discussion around such a debate.
It is important to make a strong case that this piece is not in any way vouching for any politician.
Of course, politicians are known to have scant regard for laid-down processes. Nevertheless, all things being equal; the Nigerian fault line of ethnicity would prevent any such move to turn Nigeria to a Burundi or Rwanda.