Fresh revelations have surfaced on how former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, tried to tinker with the Nigerian Constitution to allow him run for a third term, contrary to denials by him.
In his new book, Standing Strong: Legislative Reforms, Third Term and Other Issues of the 5th Senate, former Senate president, Ken Nnamani (2005-2007) said the war against the third term bid in 2006 was the most defining task of his tenure as senate president.
He wrote: “The bill to amend the 1999 Constitution was titled ‘Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 Amendment Bill, 2006.” It has 116 clauses. The proposal of an amendment to accommodate a third term of four years for the president and governors was only one of these 116 clauses proposed in the bill. But this provision was so contentious that the whole bill became known as the ‘Third Term’ by the Nigerian public.”
According to Nnamani, in the course of his position as the Senate president, he was a regular visitor to the Presidential Villa and was also having one-on-one conservations with Obasanjo as well as phone calls.
Though the president never mentioned his third term agenda to him, he said Obasanjo made references of how his legacies needed to be sustained, and never mentioned having a successor to sustain those legacies.
Disclosing how Senator Ita Giwa tried to lure him to support the third term bid, he recalled: “At one of the breakfast meetings I attended at the Presidential Villa, the president’s Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Florence Ita-Giwa, spoke so glowingly of her boss’ achievements and why the bill that gives him extra term had to be passed. Many of the presidential aides also lobbied passionately to see that the bill was passed to give ‘Baba’ the needed extra years to cement his legacy and grow the country.”
Yet he did not buy into their plans as the bill was subjected to debates, and could not survive the second reading, to the jubilation of most of the senators. Senator Nnamani noted that Obasanjo, in his book, My Watch, struggled without success to rewrite history.
“He was mostly incoherent, bumbling from one place to the other, desperately searching for an anchor to hang his argument upon and finding nothing stable or strong enough. It was sad to see how hard he was trying to give alternative explanations to what many Nigerians knew to be the facts about the third term, and failing woefully,” he wrote.
He said further that Obasanjo claimed that he never told anyone that he wanted a third term, but “that’s not exactly true, because ‘he discussed it with people quietly and privately. Of course, he told his close aides who were the footsoldiers in the fight to get the third term, and he told the party leader, including the Chairman of the party’s National Executive Committee and Chairman, Board of Trustees, who became the chief enforcers of the third term.”
Senator Nnamani also wrote that some of the senators who were offered N50 million bribe to vote in favour of the third term bill told him “it was filled with brand new notes of N1,000, packaged in bundles of 10, amounting to N1 million per package. Each package of N1 million wrapped and sealed in transparent nylon. There were 50 wraps of the N1 million packages in the box, amounting to fifty million naira.”
He was, however, sad that Nigeria lost an opportunity to change aspects of the contentious 1999 Constitution because the third term clause was smuggled into the bill, and everything died with it.