From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Former Senate Speaker Senator Ken Nnamani revealed on Thursday how he derailed former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s third-term program.
Speaking at the official launch of his book, “Standing Strong: Legislative Reforms, Third Term and Other 5th Senate Matters,” the leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) said his model of legislation was shaped by debate on whether the legislature is an agent or a trustee.
The former president of the Senate recalled that he had written the book with the spirit not to sensationalize; but to present a factual account of that defining moment without malice to anyone.
While recounting the circumstances that shaped the third-term agenda, Nnamani noted that: “During the debate on President Obasanjo’s candidacy for the third term, I weighed these two competing concepts of the role of a legislator. I decided to marry the two concepts. I wanted senators to vote on whether to amend the constitution to allow President Obasanjo a third term.
“I also wanted them to effectively represent the views of their constituents. To be an informed administrator, senators had to understand the point of view of their constituents before voting. On this basis, the Senate adjourned to allow senators to consult with their constituents on the constitutional amendment.
“With this intervention, some senators returned to plenary with enlightened points of view. Many who were previously overwhelmed by the demands of politics have come back with stories of the vehemence of their constituents. This
“The Damascus experience” was a game-changer during the vote for the third term. It was evident that the majority of Nigerians wanted the National Assembly to stay true to the constitutional term limit.
“To ensure that Nigerians see how their representatives answer the most important question of democracy, the Senate has decided to televise its proceedings. The publication of the procedure was mistaken by those who wanted to smuggle into the constitution the extension of the mandate through indefinite and dark procedures.
“They knew that if we isolated Nigerians from the proceedings and therefore reduced public pressure on lawmakers, it would be possible to move their agenda forward. But I held on. The principal officers of the National Assembly were holding on. We overcame this intense pressure, even at the highest level of government.
“We continued to broadcast the debates. The result of the publicity and the openness was that we finally secured our democracy.
“The level of public interest that the debate generated is due in large part to the decision to televise our proceedings. This is more or less the origin of the now institutionalized use of television to publicize the work of the National Assembly. The publicity of the debates prompted lawmakers to sit down and take the art of lawmaking seriously. No one wanted to be filmed sleeping or making rambling statements.
“No one wanted to be seen by members of their community taking a shameful position on such an important issue. The televised public debates have become a new incentive structure to improve the quality of debates in the Senate. Suddenly, we acquired a new vision of the legislative profession, we were then ready to submit our decisions to public scrutiny, ”he declared.
Senator Nnamani, however, argued for the need to focus on building the strongest and most resilient institutions of democracy and development.
“We need to have the best institutions, because economic and social development depends primarily on the quality of institutions. However, recent political experience teaches us that cunning autocrats can deprive these institutions of meaning and use them against democracy and development.
“The candidacy for the third term was almost a disaster, without the vigilance and courage of the leaders of the National Assembly who supported due process and opposed an invasion of selfish politicians. “
In his message of goodwill at the event, President Muhammadu Buhari praised Nnamani’s contributions to nation-building, assuring that the country will continue to fight insecurity and ensure the development of the entire region of country.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo also praised Nnamani for documenting his experience as a leader so that future leaders can learn from them.
Osinbajo also acknowledged that Nnamani has never shown desperation for anything, noting, “He (Nnamani) wants to serve but not at all costs.
The chairman of the occasion and former army chief of staff, General Theophilus Y. Danjuma, in his opening remarks recommended the book to all upcoming leaders.
His words: “In my opinion, this is a manual for all young men and women who want to run a difficult country like Nigeria. I recommend the book as a must buy for any aspiring leader.
The former president of the Senate, Adolphus Wabara, was however very fierce in his message of goodwill, blaming the current security apparatus which, according to him, only favored part of the country to the detriment of the other part of the country.
Charging Nnamani, who once chaired the Senate Committee on the Federal Character, to convince the APC to correct the anomaly.
“You have to make sure that the country remains democratic and we have to thank Buhari for not having nurtured the ambition of a third term. I take my hat off to him. If he wanted an amendment to the constitution to extend his mandate, I am sure that this current National Assembly will grant it, stand firm, ”he accused.