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Nigerian Senator Speaks Out Against Third Term

A Nigerian senator instrumental in derailing efforts to amend the constitution with a third term provision is visiting here in Washington. Senator Sule Yari Gandi helped defeat a bill that would have allowed President Olusegun Obasanjo to run for re-election to a third term of office. Senator Gandi -- who’s a member of the opposition All Nigeria People’s Party -- stopped by our Voice of America studios, (5/31/06.) He explained to Voice of America English to Africa reporter Cole Mallard why he’s vocal about opposing the third term.

“The move was [strangling] democracy and subverting the rule of law, and I [highly respect] the constitution of my country, and I don’t feel the move was a healthy one.”

He says the defeat of the third term amendment was not made by the Assembly alone; “The entire country in unison rejected the idea, so bringing it back would be an affront to Nigerians and Nigerians will resist it.”

As to whether he intends to run for governor in his native Sokoto State he says he’s not discussed it with his party caucus “or my party ladies” and that he’s concentrating now on serving as senator. He said “Let’s get to the bridge before we cross it.”

He adds that Nigeria has “two separate geo-political divides: the north and the south.” He says the north in 1999 and 2003 conceded the presidency to the south and that historically candidates are elected without regard to race, region, religion or ethnicity. But he adds, “Having done that for eight years we now expect our southern counterpart to reciprocate by conceding the same position to the north.”

The Nigerian Senator says having a military background as a candidate for the presidency “is not a bad idea. Military is a service to the country” and should form part of one’s credentials. However, he says that doesn’t mean civilians should be excluded.

Senator Gandi says there are so many political parties in Nigeria because it’s a very pluralistic society. He says the more political parties there are, the more interests are addressed, and if one isn’t satisfied with one party they can move to another. He adds that this provides opportunities for variety, competition, and good governance. “The tendency for every sitting government to abuse the power of political parties is when it has majority in Nigeria.”

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