Robert Clarke’s toxic tenure elongation idea

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Yemi Adebowale

I find it difficult to comprehend that a senior lawyer like Robert Clarke will recommend tenure elongation for President Muhammadu Buhari so that he can “end insecurity before handing over.” He suggested that Buhari be given six months to do this. The senior lawyer stated that the constitution allows the President to extend his tenure for six months in the first instance, if conditions were not ripe for an election. So, the entire country is now in a state of anarchy and Buhari should benefit from this with tenure extension? This is what elder Clarke is saying. I’m still in shock. I hope we are not sliding into something similar to the Abacha era? Tenure elongation for Buhari cannot and will not be a solution to the huge number of problems Nigeria is battling with.

A Buhari, who created most of the insecurity, with his ineptitude, extreme clannishness and mismanagement of this country’s diversity, is being asked to stay an additional six months to clear the mess. How will he do this? How will he achieve what he could not do in almost seven years within six months? What will he do differently? The proposal is preposterous and disturbing. It is even more painful that it is coming from a senior lawyer and elder statesman. This suggestion can set the entire country on fire if actualised.

Clarke knows that what he is calling for is unacceptable to majority of Nigerians, yet, he is going about it with so much confidence. Is this a signal that he is flying a kite for some people in this government? Clarke wants to push Nigeria further down the drain with his proposal. Everybody is tired of this lethargic/destructive Buhari government and wants a change in 2023, not tenure elongation. Nigeria has never been this divided and insecure, yet, somebody is calling for tenure elongation for the man responsible for the problems. It can only happen in Nigeria!

The disunity in the country engendered by Buhari is one of the causes of insecurity in Nigeria. Bishop Matthew Kukah puts it aptly: “The Buhari administration, sadly, has divided our people on the basis of ethnicity, religion, and region, in a way that we have never witnessed in our history. This carefully choreographed agenda has made Nigerians vulnerable and ignited the most divisive form of identity consciousness among our people. Friendships, cultural exchange, and collaboration built over time have now come under serious pressure from stereotyping.” So, the President responsible for this should just go at the end of his tenure! We should not be talking about tenure extension for him.

I also find annoying the aspect where Clarke said it is Constitutional for the President to extend his tenure if the environment is not conducive for elections. This is not true. Extending the tenure of the President based on unending killings by terrorists is not constitutional. No section of the Nigerian constitution supports Clarke’s position on this. The Constitution only talked about a war situation and Nigeria is not at war with any country on facing a civil war. It is only in a war situation that an election could be shifted and it is provided for in Section 135 (3) of the 1999 Constitution. The current security challenge in the country cannot be equated with war envisaged under this section of the constitution.

The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, was right by enjoining Clarke to think of the type of legacies he wants to bequeath to generations unborn “instead of playing the role of a spoiler who is passionately scheming to destabilize democracy through his unrealistic and toxic proposals.”

HURIWA adds: “We think that when elders talk, they should show wisdom rather than make people begin to wonder what type of warped logic is being unleashed. Those who want the younger ones to call them elders and respect their old age, must not speak like little minds and make proposals that may imperil the entire nation.

“President Buhari in the last seven years has left the compromised internal security chiefs, who have looked on as Fulani terrorists amassed assorted military-grade weapons of mass destruction and have shot down military jets.”

The position of Chief Wole Olanipekun, Chairman of the Body of Benchers on this suggested tenure elongation for Buhari is equally instructive. Olanipekun described Clarke’s call as unconstitutional, immoral and a threat to the nation’s democracy.

He remarked: “I am afraid, I cannot agree with the postulations and prognosis of my learned friend of the Inner Bar (Clarke) as same, with much respect to him, are not constitutional, legal, legitimate, moral, democratic, acceptable, reasonable, or in the best interest of Nigeria and Nigerians.

“While it is glaring that Nigeria is bedeviled by a mountain of daunting challenges, including insecurity, this cannot be any justification for a call on PMB or any President, howsoever, to extend his tenure outside the constitutionally provided maximum period of eight years, as prescribed by the combined provisions of sections 135(2) and 137(1) (b) of the Constitution.

“With further respect, the suggestion is a direct call to breach of the Constitution, as well as its spirit, tenor and letter. There is no gainsaying the fact that the end result of such a proposition would further compound the conundrum that we have stepped into and plunge us to a latent state of anomie.”

Olanipekun rightly gave honest, friendly, professional and civic advice to Buhari, telling him to treat any invitation to extend his tenure by a millisecond beyond May 29 2023, with a pinch of salt, declaring, “It is in our collective interest if this proposition is nipped in the bud.”

I completely agree with Olanipekun. The President does not have the power to extend his tenure; no President has that power or vires to do so. “The tenure was given to him by Nigerians and, as at the time of donating that tenure to him, the covenant was that in the first instance, it was for a term certain of four years; and upon renewal in 2019, it was for an extended-term certain of four years; no more, no less!”

Well, Buhari has said Clarke’s suggestion will not get the slightest consideration from him. According to the President, he will step down on May 29th, 2023, after serving two terms in line with the 1999 Constitution, emphasising that being the first recipient of a democratic transfer of power from an incumbent administration to an opposition candidate in Nigerian history, he is committed to extending and entrenching democratic values across the country.

Buhari, according to the presidency, shall, in turn, hand the privilege of serving Nigerians to whomever Nigerians pick in 2023. He pledged to honour the Constitution and people’s right to decide, by leaving honourably in 2023.

We must all ensure that this is done. Buhari must resist every temptation to stay in power after the expiration of his tenure.

Few weeks back, another senior lawyer, Afe Babalola, canvassed for an interim government after May 29, 2023, so that a new constitution can be put in place before polls. This is balderdash. Clarke and Babalola should join the search for a truly detribalised, fit and competent President that will reunite this country, secure Nigerians and restore our glory. This is the way forward. There should be no room for tenure elongation in any form.

Terrorists take 96 lives in Bakura and Takum

Between May 5 and May 10, 96 people were killed by terrorist in Bakura, Zamfara State and Tati village in Takum LG of Taraba State. This happened within just six days. I’m talking about human lives here. The stories reeled out by affected communities are scary. I often wonder if there are surety agencies left in this country. Human lives have become so cheap. On the dates listed, Bakura, the epicenter of killings in Zamfara State was invaded by Fulani militias for three days and no help came from security agencies.

No fewer than 56 people were slaughtered by the terrorists in two villages of Sabon-garin Damri and Kalahe, women and children inclusive. Bakura has become a killing field in the last seven years. Here, terrorists roam freely, killing and maiming. Hundreds of lives have been destroyed in Bakura. Majority can no longer go to their farms for fear of being killed. Security agents know this and persistently fail the people. Governor Bello Matawalle is a big disappointment. The people of Bakura will never forgive him for looking away while lives are being destroyed. For almost a year, this governor was empowering Fulani militias with his so-called amnesty programme. What a shame.

In Tati village, Kutep and Fulani militias have been shedding blood. The battle is for the control of Kutep farmlands. A convoy with the Commanding Officer of 93 Battalion, Takun, heading to the village to restore order was ambushed by terrorists. Six soldiers were killed while the Commanding Officer, Lt. Col Eminike is still missing. A policeman and 33 other inhabitants were killed by the terrorists. Brothers killing brothers! This is what beloved Nigeria has turned into. The Buhari government has a lot of questions to answer in this regard. All those responsible for bloodletting in Nigeria will not escape the justice of Allah. I’m consoled by this fact.

Tears for Reverend Father Joseph Bako

The terrorists eventually killed him. I’m talking about Reverend Father Joseph Akete Bako, the Parish priest of the St. John Catholic Church, Kudenda, Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State. Bako died in his captors’ custody. The 48 years old priest was abducted on March 8 at his residence in the church, during which his security man was killed. Thereafter, the terrorists kept making impossible financial demands. At a point, they wanted N100 million.

The distraught Chancellor of the Catholic Archdiocese of Kaduna, Rev. Fr. Christian Okewu Emmanuel, who announced Bako’s death last Wednesday, said the late priest was ill before his abduction and the terrorists did not allow him go along with his drugs.

Father Emmanuel adds: “His own brother was killed there (in the terrorists’ cell) in his presence and after his brother was killed, his condition worsened and he died. We have not recovered his corpse but we have confirmed his death. People who were kidnapped together with him saw him die.”

The beasts are roaming unhindered. Father Bako is the latest cleric to fall in Kaduna. As usual, his killers will never be apprehended. This emboldens terrorists. When there are no consequences for killing innocent people, the killings become endless. This is the situation we have found ourselves in Nigeria. No thanks to the seven years of the Buhari government.

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