Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)
For struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria
Committee for a Workers' International
Newspaper of the DSM
THIRD TERM PROJECT: THE CAPITALISTS CARE NOT A HOOT FOR THE CONSTITUTION OR RULE OF LAW
By Demola Yaya
Initially, it was a rumour but now, the drum-beat is so loud for the deaf to hear and the hand writing on the wall is very clear for the blind to see General Obasanjo's regime desperation to remain in power beyond May 2007, his constitutionally allowed term in office. The extension of tenure, alias Third Term Agenda, is mooted under the guise of review of 1999 constitution. As against the existing two terms of four years, a clause of three terms of four years for the President, Vice President, Governors and their deputies has been undemocratically slotted into the report of National Assembly Joint Committee on the Review of the Constitution (JCRC) headed by the Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu. The committee report and submission at the end of a charade called public hearing in six geo-political zones has been presented to the National Assembly on April 11, 2006.
More than any other factor, this clearly shows that in the main, the capitalist class does not care a hoot about the constitution or the rule of law. A point to note is that the so-called Joint Committee was not formed by the two houses of the National Assembly but surreptitiously and unconventionally by the National Assembly leadership behind the scenes. The purported public hearing was done against the normal parliamentary rules. Normally, there ought to be a bill before the National Assembly under consideration before organizing public hearings. This time around, a Kangaroo committee organised a pre-tutored crowd to deliver a pre-conceived conclusion with the sole aim of railroading a kept assembly to rubber stamped a purported popular decision.
All opposition groups and individuals to the third term agenda at the so-called public hearing were prevented from gaining entrance to the venue, harassed, molested, detained by the state security agents for days and subsequently charged to court. Again, on April 5, 2006, anti-third term lawmakers were prevented by the Police and Security agencies from holding meeting at Sheraton Hotels, hiding under the Public Order Act while pro-third term legislatures and politicians have been having field day.
Before the third term agenda surfaced, there had been a genuine call for the review of the 1999 constitution, especially with regards to the controversy surrounding the creation of Local Councils and funding, immunity clause for elected executive, Resource control, independent candidature, etc.
To review the 1999 Constitution, its section 9(2) states, "An Act of the National Assembly for the alteration of this constitution, not being an Act to which Section 8 of this constitution applies, shall not be passed in either Houses of the National Assembly unless the proposal is supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of all the members of that house and approved by the resolution of the Houses of assembly of not less than two-thirds of all the states"
JCRC meeting on 5th April was deadlocked as the lawmakers could not agree over the inclusion of third term in the final report. Oppositions to the third term stated that the proposal does not reflect the true positions of Nigerians. They posited that the agenda sole aim is to impose President Obasanjo on Nigeria in 2007 election. This position was reinforced by the PDP National Chairman, Amadu Ali, when he read the riot act, stating that any member of the party who refuses to support the agenda should be prepared to quit the party. Again, when President Obasanjo was interviewed by CNN on third term in his recent trip to Washington, he replied, "Only God will determine it and my God does not abandon project".
However, the PDP pro-third term ranks have been waned by the proposed removal of immunity clause from the governors. Although, the PDP Chairman has promised that this would be revisited so as to carry the governors along on the third term plot.
A lot of drama is being staged by the Nigerian ruling class over the third term issue with Vice President Abubarka Atiku and General Babangida as the chief actors. Proclamations from these elements, especially, Vice President Atiku Abubarka, against the third term have been heating the polity. These elements, however, have no fundamental difference to the neo-liberal policies of the present regime. One, Atiku is part and parcel of the present regime and its anti-poor policies. He headed National Council on Privatisation throughout the first term of the regime and up till now, he has never raised any objection or alternative to hike in fuel price and other neo-liberal policies of the regime.
It is the same story for Babangida whose military regime between 1985 and 1993 was characterised by corruption and harsh neo-liberal economic policies of Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). It was Babangida's military junta that annulled the June 12, 1993 presidential elections won by late MKO Abiola. These are the elements leading and sponsoring PDP in the National Assembly against the third term so as to take over power from Obasanjo by either of the two evils. None of these elements has democratic credentials or capacity to carry out socio-economic agenda different from the present President Obasanjo ruling PDP government. In all numerous proposals for the review of the constitution, none is targeted to better the lot of the poor working masses. It is all about placing one section of the ruling class or the other on vantage political positions to loot. The masses should not therefore be carried away. Either Obasanjo or any of these elements replacing him is a third term for the masses in terms of implementation of neo-liberal policies. So, we can have third term without Obasanjo.
This position should not be misconstrued to mean indifference to the struggle against third term. To the poor working masses, Obasanjo's regime is an absolute disaster and they have demonstrated their hatred and desire to terminate the regime's life via several protests and general strikes. Therefore, for the regime to contemplate remaining in power for the next one day, let alone beyond 2007, is a reflection of political weakness of labour and other mass organisations leadership who are unwilling and or incapable to utilize these titanic struggles to chase out the regime from power and put in place a working peoples government that will be prepared to implement pro-masses policies and programmes of free and qualitative education and healthcare, good roads, portable pipe born water and constant electricity, provision of affordable housing, job for all able men and women, social security for the disabled and old people etc.
The only genuine opposition to the third term is the one that demands an immediate end to this anti-poor regime and not the gangs of rival looters who simply want to use the masses sweat and blood to step into Obasanjo's shoes.
NLC, TUC, CFTU, NCP, DSM, PRONACO, PRP, DA, etc. should use this crack within the ruling class to form a formidable political alternative, built on class struggles. Unless this is done, struggle against the third term will only translate to continuation of misery and poverty for the masses while super enjoyment will continue to come the way of the ruling class and their cronies only.