Lawmakers in Nigeria appear to be losing momentum in a bid to draft two-term incumbent Olusegun Obasanjo to run for an unprecedented third consecutive term as president. During debates in parliament last week, support for extending presidential term limits did not measure up to the two-thirds margin needed in both chambers to pass such a controversial amendment.
Former councilman and member of Nigeria’s Constituent and National Assemblies, Hilary Agim Ihenachor, tells English to Africa reporter, Howard Lesser, he would not be surprised to see President Obasanjo tell his allies the people will not support such a move. “I think that is a very laudable idea for him to reconsider not running, since it appears from all indications that the majority of Nigerians are not interested in supporting that initiative. President Obasanjo is a very experienced, and ex-military man, a former head of state. He understands Nigeria very, very well.”
If next year’s campaign continues as scheduled it could mark the first time in Nigerian history that presidential power is transferred through an election. Former assemblyman Ihenachor says President Obasanjo should be recognized for allowing the democratic process to unfold rather than hindering its progress. He adds that if the Nigerian people wish to extend the two-term limit, they can do so through a legislative process, which avoids dictatorship.
Mr. Ihenachor says, “I do think certainly that there were some reasons for him to actually create an opportunity to allow people to exercise their freedom of speech and demonstrate actually what they want to do, and from all indications, it doesn’t look like they want it. But if the whole exercise had been very encouraging, then I would personally support him to go ahead because he’s only responding to the wish of the people.”
Despite indications of public opposition to the lifting of a two-term presidential limit, Mr. Ihenachor says a drive to amend Nigeria’s constitution is still very active due to economic agitation brought on by the country’s youth. He says they are dissatisfied with the allocation of wealth derived from the country’s valuable resources of the oil-rich Niger Delta.
Ihenachor says, “It’s an issue of restiveness among youth in the oil-producing areas because of economic deprivation. Without adequately compensating them, the only way such a thing can be amended is through the Constitution that would try to draw a new revenue allocation formula. So this is actually one of the reasons why the Constitution needs to be amended.”
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