Elder statesman, Chief Robert Clarke, has called for the extension of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), who said this on Monday, argued that the months preceding the 2023 elections are not sufficient to put an end to the insecurity, making the conduct of the election possible.
Speaking when he was featured on ARISE Television, Clarke maintained that the Constitution provides that the President can extend his tenure for six months, in the first instance, if he feels that conditions are not good to carry out elections.
He averred that it was wrong to believe that the President cannot stay in office for more than eight years of two tenures.
Clarke said the President can continue to give himself a fresh six months extension at a time elections could be held.
He said: “The Constitution provides that the President can stay longer than eight years. I’ve always said it. It is in the Constitution. If the situation in which we’re in now continues, and it is impossible to vote in the 2023 election, the Constitution says if a situation persists, the President will write INEC in view of all insurgencies, in view of kidnappings, in view of Boko Haram, I don’t think in these different areas of Nigeria, we can have a good election.
“The Constitution says I am going to stay for six months and in the first instance. So, the fact that the Constitution says the president cannot stay for more than eight years is wrong. Because the same constitution says he can be giving himself six months if those conditions persist.
“Now, I don’t see any green light. I don’t see how what is happening today can be stopped within a period of six months from today or before February next year when the elections will be held.
“The alternative then is for Mr. President to continue as president, allow the security watches to carry up the mopping up and Nigeria will become stable.
“Because I swear to God Almighty, without stability in Nigeria, without security, Nigeria is going nowhere. No foreigner will bring his money and put in any business in Nigeria when he knows that any of his expatriates who are sent to Nigeria can be kidnapped at any time. So, until all these things are sorted out, I don’t see any green light.”
“If nothing happens before the elections, God forbids, this country will be in flames,” Clarke warned.
The legal luminary regretted that the country has not been well run since the advent of the latest democratic dispensation in 1999, citing attempts to subvert the Constitution by exploiting its loopholes.
He added: “I am 84 years old, and I can assure you I’ve had the best time in my life, both in my legal practice, in my social life, in every aspect of life, but I can assure you, that those days are gone by. Since 1999, I have not been a happy man, the way and manner Nigeria has been moved.
“For instance, look at our first President, Obasanjo with due respect. What was the first negative act he did? I want a third term. Can you imagine? But he says, oh, it’s not me who wants it, is my friend who is asking me to go for a third term.
“That is how we started the 1999 constitution by looking for loopholes to breach the Constitution. I don’t see any green light for Nigeria. And if we’re not careful, if we’re not careful…the only consolation is this.”
Clarke’s call for tenure elongation followed earlier suggestion by another legal luminary, Chief Afe Babalola, to suspend the 2023 general elections while an interim government should be instituted at the expiration of President Buhari’s term in May 2023.
The founder of Afe Babalola University had proferred that the interim government should be in office for six months to chart a new constitutional course for Nigeria.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria had also posited that it was regrettable that the current 1999 Constitution, foisted on Nigerians by the military was no longer in tune with the realities of the day.
“The same Constitution has made politics become not only very attractive but the only lucrative business in Nigeria today.
“What this means is that any election that holds under the present scenario will end up producing transactional and recycled leaders, with no ability to turn things around,’’ he maintained.