Analysis: A fresh look at Belgore Committee and Jonathan’s tenure elongation plot

By Danlami Nmodu

When President Goodluck Jonathan set up a committee to review issues about the Constitution, little did anyone know that the task would turn into a melodrama .In fact, during the president’s inauguration of the committee headed by retired justice Alfa Belgore some had hoped that perhaps the president truly meant well.

Afterwards Jonathan said at function that “in recognition of the demands by Nigerians for a constitutional amendment, we set up the Justice Belgore Committee to bring up all those issues which have been agreed upon at previous national conferences, for presentation as bills to the National Assembly, and subsequent passage into law, while a larger body will meet on issues that are still controversial for a national consensus.”

Well, events of there cent past have convinced even some members of the committee that there is more to their task than meet the eye. Newsdiaryonline sources said just like a bolt from the blue, the committee has become an avenue for champions of the single term project presidency to embark on the campaign. Suddenly debates began to focus on the need for 6-year single term presidency to the shock of most members.

Insiders told Newsdiaryonline that Professor Oladapo Afolabi, the former head of the civil service of the federation became a champion of the 6 year single term campaign within the committee. The campaigners apparently succeeded in recruiting some members but they failed to win the majority of the committee members over.  ‘Look everything reported by Daily trust about a rift in the committee over the tenure elongation plot is true.  Afolabi was neck deep in it. I cannot say Belgore led the campaign but he  seems  compromised,’ said a source. ‘Some of us were really amazed. It was unbelievable. Sadly even their arguments could not convince us. They said 6-year single term would be cost effective and make people focus on the job, but we debunked this claim,’ Newsdiaryonline was told.

It is a turn of events that led to a sharp division and possibly mutual suspicion among the members of the committee. Earlier reports indicate that the opponents of tenure elongation plot were in the majority. This was confirmed by a source who said, the division was so deep, a consensus could not be found on the issue. That was why an attempt was made to get the committee members vote on the matter.

Voting was expected on a Tuesday. But the leaders did not show up. It was later delayed till the following day. “On this said Wednesday, we were shocked to hear the announcement that voting had been cancelled and the issue of single term would be table before a larger committee. But none has told us who are the members of the bigger committee.’’

One of those who kicked against the tenure elongation plot within the committee told Newsdiaryonline that ‘’our joy is that we resisted the plot and we let them know it was not possible. Now there is every feeling among the members that this plot is the reason the committee was set up, to do the groundwork for the 6-year single term. Even more, there is the feeling that contrary to the impression that Jonathan will not benefit, some Nigerians  feel that the president possibly  wants to elongate his tenure. Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports say a secret committee to mobilize Nigerians for the single term presidency has been set up. A politician from the middle belt is believed to be working assiduously on this matter.

One source said if single term project was Jonathan’s real agenda, then there was no need to waste people’s time constituting Belgore Committee.”I think they should be bold enough to announce what they want. We know they may have their way if it gets to election time because votes truly don’t count, so why are they wasting our time. Let them have the courage to tell us what they want. I am just happy that we stopped this plot at this committee level” the insider said.

Yet the entire nature of the elongation plot seems unclear. A highly placed politician told Newsdiaryonline that the whole idea behind the tenure elongation plot may be to extend Jonathan’s tenure beyond 2015 without conducting a fresh election. If he gets the idea through, then he will have more years, perhaps two more years. There are, however, those who believe that the plot is get the president run for another fresh term in 2015.No one appears sure of what lies ahead. It is amazing these speculations abound despite the official statement earlier that Jonathan will not benefit from the single-term agenda.

Still, there are those who believe that there may indeed be no way the president will benefit from the plot. Again the underlying issue is that yet another period of political uncertainly may have sadly begun. And the unfolding intrigues call for another round of vigilance and courageous defence of constitutional order as Nigerians did against former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s third term plot.

Though insiders say the issue of tenure elongation has been rested (?), at Belgore’s committee level, it was learnt their job is not over yet. Some outstanding issues outside the elongation plot remain to be deliberated upon. And that is why they are continuing with their deliberations. Nigerians however know the real agenda now!

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