By Halima Yahaya
African leaders must always respect the tenure of their office and other principles of democracy, the Director of the Abuja School of Social and Political Thought, Sam Amadi, has said.
Amadi was speaking at a discussion session on the topic: “Tenure Elongation and the Crisis of Democracy in West Africa: A reflection on Senator Ken Nnamani’s book, “Stand Strong. ’’
The session organized by the school on Friday was witnessed by a collection of scholars and intellectuals public as well as public policy experts and enthusiast, along with ideas men and women committed to the rediscovery of the reflective life in the classical mold of Socratic.
Amadi said the principles of democracy required leaders to keep to the rules of engagement at all times.
The Director said the policy dialogue was to reflect on Nnamani’s book, launched on Thursday in Abuja
The book looked at Nnamani’s tenure as the President of Senate, particularly issues borderino/around the third term agenda of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
“If you come to power with a limited tenure, do not try to change it because you feel that you knew well, you are patriotic, or you have the capacity to change the country. No country exists longer than individuals.
“So, once you are elected, after your first tenure, you can seek for re-election. At the end of the tenure, then leave power so that other people can also serve.
“You can still play a role in stabilizing, mobilizing and advising. There is no person who is indispensable.
“That is why we say we need strong institutions, not just strong men, who will dominate their political environment and cause their countries to descend into chaos and conflict, as we see in Mali, Guinea and some other African countries,’’ Amadi said.
He said the “constitutional limit on tenure was the best way to guarantee a smooth transition and sharing of power among diverse ethnic groups’’ in countries, such as West Africa.
Amadi said more often than not, the time tenure elongation was being driven by the sense that “a particular leader is indispensable’’ because they were strong men.
“Democracy is not about strong leaders, it is about strong institutions. Democracy does not mean a particular person is the only person that can achieve success. Democracy requires that we build strong institutions.
“If a tenure is four or five years, you should focus on allowing succession so that when a leader tries his best, other leaders will come and build on that foundation.
“We are a multi-ethnic society largely in West Africa, because we have fragile society, with high level of poverty and conflicts (resource conflicts, ethnic conflicts).
“Any attempt to elongate tenure, can lead to ethnic conflicts or warfare. That is what you have seen in Mali and Guinea,’’ Amadi said.
He said that Nnamani’s book encouraged political leaders occupying important positions in the judiciary, the Legislature and the executive to conduct themselves with courage and ethical behaviour to protect democracy.
One of the panelists at the event, a lecturer, Udenta O. Udenta, a Professor, urged leaders to respect democracy and its structures.
The Professor defined democracy as what worked for the people and what response to their inner most yearnings and aspirations.
He said that “the wellbeing of the people is the first criteria of democratic governance, which include jobs shelter and food before others.’’
Another panelist, Princess Hamman-Obels, said that democracy should not been seen as just as a type of government, but must be viewed holistically, including the factors that made up the system.
Ms Hamman-Obels , who is the Executive Director of the Electoral Hub, listed the factors to include freedom of speech, credible elections and others.
Also among the panelist, Dr Law Mefor, expressed support for single six years tenure for elected officers and rotation of presidency between the northern and southern parts of Nigeria
“If six years single tenure is done an incumbent elected officials will not be worried about re-election but working for the people,” Mefor said.
A participant at the discussion, Hon. Declan Emelumba, stressed the need for the legislative arm of government at all level to exercise the legal powers to checkmate the executive.
“This is what Nnamani did, and in his book is challenging his colleagues still serving to do,” Mr Emelumba said.
“I also want us to begin to look at how possible it is to change the general perception that politics is a deity game.