The State House has denied that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) had a hand in the controversial six-year single term bill that failed at the National Assembly last week.
The bill, which sought a single term of six years for the President, state governors and other political office holders, was sponsored by a member of the House of Representatives, Mr John Dyegh.
However, it failed to scale the critical second reading stage amid speculation that the All Progressives Congress lawmaker from Gboko in Benue State might be flying a kite for Buhari as part of alleged underground moves to secure a third term for him.
Although Dyegh had emphasised that his proposal was meant to take effect from 2023 when Buhari would have exited office, it didn’t completely override the public suspicion that a bill could be amended at any point by the National Assembly before passage.
Absolving Buhari of any involvement in the bill, the Presidency claimed that he was not interested in a third term in office.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Babajide Omoworare, said Buhari’s speeches and actions so far did not portray him as someone who was interested in a third term, much less use the legislature to initiate the process for him.
He told Sunday PUNCH that the Buhari had repeatedly warned people against either using his name to canvass votes or expected him to back anyone as his candidate for an elective office in 2023.
Omoworare explained, “To the best of my knowledge, the President has said a number of times that he is not interested in a third term. He said so a few months ago during the National Executive Council meeting at the APC Secretariat. He said it candidly and vividly that he was not interested. I have not seen anything in his attitude to the contrary.”
The presidential liaison officer also recalled that during Buhari’s 77th birthday, which was held last week, he still repeated that nobody should associate his name with their 2023 ambitions.
He added, “In fact, on his recent 77th birthday, he repeated it that nobody should use his name to campaign ahead of the 2023 elections. He did this for everybody to see that not only that he is not interested in coming back, but also that he is not interested in supporting anybody.
“The body language I have seen so far is that the President is not interested in coming back for a third time. He has spent all his terms. God has been merciful to him. He has been a military Head of State and he has been President of Nigeria under a democratic setting and I have not seen anything indicating that he wants a third term.”
Omoworare described as “wild speculation” any mention of the President’s name or his intentions in connection with the six-year single term bill.
“I doubt if the President will now use a member of the House of Representatives or the House as a whole to sponsor a bill to ask for a single term of six years that he will be the first beneficiary,” he stated.
Dyegh’s bill was titled, “A bill for an act to alter the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to provide for a single term of six years for the President and governors and a six-year term for members of the National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly.”
He had argued while leading the debate on the bill that the current four-year term did not allow office holders to be focused on governance.
Dyegh explained that during the first term, the occupants would spend only two years on governance and devote the last two years to seek re-election for a second term.
The lawmaker also observed that on winning the second term, the first two years would be used on governance, while the last two would be spent preparing to leave office, an indication that out of the eight years, the office holder spent only four on governance.
He added that when given a straight single term of six years, an office holder would be more focused.
But the bill failed after the majority of lawmakers vehemently opposed it.
The current four-year term, which is renewable for a second term and total of eight years, has been in practice since the Second Republic in 1979 and retained in the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Previous attempts to amend it by the 7th and the 8th National Assembly, failed in 2013 and 2016 respectively.
The 2014 National Conference also recommended a Modified Presidential System that would have both presidential and parliamentary characteristics.