I heaved a deep sigh of relief as I watched the Senate President, Senator Ken Nmamani pronounce that the constitution amendment bill has failed to scale through for a second reading in the house.
And all these happened while I was away on official assignment and did not have a dedicated system to keep you informed of all the nitty gritty happening in the power houses Senate and House of Representative as the debate ensued and till its final demise.
But then, I'm sure you kept up with the news through other means. Did you hear of the N50Million bribe story for senators? The straight 6-year term suggestion by a senator? The non-debate of ALL the other agendas on the 1999 Constitution Amendment Bill?
I also watched President Obasanjo's address his ruling PDP party (PDP.........'share the money!'). Here is an excerpt from the speech which must have been prepared by the eloquent yet garrulous Fani Kayode, a one-time ardent critic of Obasanjo and his government.
Well, for those that might have been missing in action, you can at least catch up by reading this piece from His Excellency, The President of the Federal Rebublic of Nigeria, The Democrat, Nationalist, Statesman and most importantly International Figure, Chief General Olusegun Obasanjo.............. (Applause......)
"When the National Chairman of our party, People's Democratic Party (PDP), decided to call the emergency meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC), I decided to alter my long-standing programme to be able to address you and, through you, members of our great party and, of course, by extension, the nation.
"The National Assembly as the constitutional and legitimate body for making laws for this country including the supreme law of the land -- the Constitution -- has just concluded as it deemed fit, especially the Senate, the exercise on the amendment to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The outcome is victory for democracy. There is no absolute right and absolute truth except God. And in any argument or debate, there is bound to be an element of right and wrong or truth and untruth on either side. And we must respect each other no matter the human verdict and human foibles. Respect, of course, begets respect.
"At the last NEC meeting, our party took a position as a major stakeholder in the constitution amendment debate, as normal in a democracy. And again, as a democratic party, it did not impose its decision on its members in this respect; no matter what office they hold. Members were allowed to discuss freely and to act or vote according to the dictate of their conscience. That is democracy at work. And it must be hailed in spite of alleged imperfections.
"Many derogatory statements and unfounded allegations have been made about me and my position concerning the so-called third term in the National Assembly and in the media which are false, incorrect and uncalled for. Of course, that is part of burden of leadership in our own type of society. However, I believe that in all situations, decorum must be maintained and different arms of government must perform their functions with mutual respect and dignity.
"Just as the National Assembly and the distinguished and honourable members should be respected, they too must learn to respect others and other institutions. Tolerance is a mark of maturity.
"Throughout the period, I resisted the invitation to be drawn on either side and I maintained studied silence. I was maligned, insulted and wrongly accused but I remained where I am and what I am and I remained focused. However, one thing is clear from the exercise, the constitution has been operated and it stood the test of democracy.
There are some regrettable reports from all accounts that I received, and that is the threat of, or actual use of blackmail, intimidation and violence on both sides. Once debate and discourse are being substituted by intimidation, blackmail, threats and violence, then democracy is in great danger. I have also received allegations of bribery which EFCC is investigating. Apart from these unsavoury allegations, the exercise is another process in the operation of our Constitution. The Constitution should hopefully be strengthened by the process and the exercise that have just been concluded. As a political Party, we should accept the verdict of the National Assembly even though the two Chambers initially concluded differently.
The Constitution must be held hallowed and sacred. And, on the basis of the Constitution in hand, we must start to plan for the next elections.
"I have no doubt in my mind that the acrimony, threats and media excesses that accompanied the constitution amendment exercise, must have created or deepened conflicts and divisions within our Party. As a matter of urgency, Mr. Chairman and members of NEC, I believe that we must embark on fence-mending, soothing of relationships, closing gaps and reconciling and ensuring inclusion wherever possible. Setting up a team of three eminent men and women of great maturity and integrity to carry out the exercise in each zone with the Zonal Vice-Chairman accompanying may be the way to deal with the issues expeditiously within the next two weeks.
"Again, I want to congratulate the proponents and the opponents in our party of the constitution amendment exercise that the National Assembly has just concluded. As a party, we should put the issue behind us, heal the wound of acrimony and together march forward. Once again, it was democracy at work and it was victory for democracy. And all Nigerian democrats are winners.
I think we have watched a film, which was no doubt, very interesting and it has by far beaten the standards of most Nollywood movies.
Whoever cooked it up, wrote the scripts, auditioned and chose the actors and actresses, directed, ensured continuity, took care of props, managed lights and sound, transportation and all location assistants, I say KUDOS. It was a job well done.
You have successfully re-directed the attention of all Nigerians away from whatever valuable stories we should have witnessed and kept our focus on 'the third term saga.'
Now the story is ended, NEXT FILM…........