Monday, May 08, 2006

Constitutional Amendment Proceedings – The Senators’ Biggest Job Interview Yet.

The constitutional amendment finally tabled before the senate last week is sure to spark an interesting debate. Among the issues for deliberation are a proposal to create more states, derivation formula, rotational presidency and term limit change amongst others. Of the one hundred and sixteen proposals for deliberation, the matter of term limit amendment is anticipated to generate the most controversy and tension in the proceedings. Thus far, about twenty nine senators have lent their voices to deliberations on the matter and while some have made clear statements on their stand on the matter, others are tongue-in-check and equivocal.

It is no surprise that this is so since senators are politicians, whose stock in trade is double speak, and prevarication. Added to this is the allegation that some persons representing incumbent chiefs executive of the states and the powers that be in Aso Rock are lobbying these senators and making offers of gifts of millions of Naira, some of which have been purportedly paid into the bank accounts of these senators in Abuja. If this is true, then what we have is a situation where these tongue-in-cheek senators are either dancing to the tune of the piper, or signaling to the agents of the chiefs executive their availability for sale by dithering on the issue.

The proceeding is being televised live by the African Independent Television Network, giving the Nigerian populace instantaneous updates. Some people have requested that this be disallowed as it might hamper some senators from taking their true positions. How can this be? The amendment of the constitution is an epoch making event in the life of democracy in Nigeria, and as such, it is only proper to capture it live and on audio-visual record for posterity. It is suspected that those who advocate for a media-blackout want this for ulterior motives. Without live update and public scrutiny enabled by the live television coverage, proponents of the third term think they might be able to engineer the outcome of the proceedings in their favour.

As Abraham Lincoln remarked in his November 19, 1863 Gettysburg address, democracy is the “government of the people, by the people for the people.” The Nigerian people, for whom the Nigerian government is constituted, and whose representatives make up the Nigerian senate, have every right to be updated in real time what their representatives are deliberating on, and how properly they are being represented. In fact, there should be more television stations covering the proceedings to increase the reach and improve the openness and “transparency” of the process. It is the biggest job interview yet for the senators, so it would serve them well to be on their best behaviour.

How they comport themselves and vote will determine what path their political careers will take. The sellouts will most likely lose their seats in the next elections, if the electorate is discerning enough, having failed to do the bid of their constituencies and therefore botching the job interview that the constitutional amendment is. Let us hope that the senators keep this in perspective as they deliberate on the term limit and the one hundred and fifteen other proposals before them.

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