Nigerians witnessed some desperation in the past in the illegal removal of some governors (using jackboot and gunboat tactics).
Nigerian democracy has finally slided into one of jackboot democracy and gunboat loyalty. You either toe the line of the ruling party or get run out of town by government security apparatchik, especially the EFCC, police, DSS and ICPC. It has never been so bad, not even during juntas when Decrees 2 and 4 were used to hunt down critics of government.
The latest of these atrocities and undemocratic acts were witnessed in Benue State yesterday, where the police and DSS physically aided eight renegade Benue State House of Assembly members to force their way into the hallowed chambers, to begin purported impeachment proceedings against the governor. They were led by a man who had earlier been removed as Speaker by the majority and even suspended. A court order was to affirm this removal and suspension with judicial imprimatur.
It is inconceivable that Nigeria could be brought down to this sorry state of nadir, this political mockery through utter desperation by a clueless, non-performing government that has spent over three years of its governance blaming past administrations, spreading poverty, hunger, insecurity, monumental corruption, disease, squalor and parlous economy.
For the information of the uninformed advisers of this desperate government that will praise to high heavens today a governor, politician or legislator when begging him at night like Nicodemus (in the full glare of cameras) and demonize and criminalize him the following day, when he decamps to another political party, eight members of a House of Assembly of 30 cannot form a quorum to serve impeachment notice on a sitting governor.
Impeaching a sitting governor is a very serious moral and constitutional issue, because it amounts to upturning the clear decision and will of the people of that state who had voted the governor into office for a fixed term. Section 188 of the 1999 Constitution prescribes at least eight major steps that must be taken towards impeaching a governor, beginning with a notice in writing signed by not less than one-third of the members of that state House of Assembly, alleging “gross misconduct” against the governor.
In the Benue State case, there are 30 members. One-third of 30 is 10. But the farce witnessed yesterday was a suspended former Speaker (who is, therefore, not even a member of the House for now), leading seven other members with the full protection of police and DSS to gatecrash into the Assembly, while the legitimate 22 members were securely locked out. Seven members cannot form a quorum to serve a notice of impeachment on Governor Samuel Ortom. At least 10 members are required. The members that schemed this legal and constitutional harakiri of purporting to give impeachment notice to the governor are actually seven, not eight, as erroneously published in so many quarters. Once the former Speaker was removed and suspended by the majority for six months, he ceased to be a member of the House for the period of suspension. To suspend is to adjourn, postpone, defer, interrupt, arrest, delay, keep in abeyance or interlude, or shelve.
So, when the former Speaker, Mr. Terkimbi Ikyanye (APC-Ushongo), was removed, suspended and replaced with Mr. Titus Ubah (APC-Kyaan), his membership of the Assembly, going by the meanings of “suspension,” was effectively deferred, interrupted, adjourned, postponed, shelved, or kept in abeyance and interlude. He cannot, therefore, during the period of suspension, attend, participate in, or contribute to the business of the House. He becomes a total stranger on the floor of the House who can neither sit nor vote during proceedings in accordance with section 56, 57 and 63 of the 1999 Constitution.
Consequently, only seven members brazenly and shamelessly (aided by the federal police and DSS), attempted to impeach a sitting governor. Nigerians witnessed some desperation in the past in the illegal removal of some governors (using jackboot and gunboat tactics). Such illegally impeached governors were Peter Obi (Anambra State, November 2, 2006); Joshua Dariye (Plateau State, November 13, 2006); Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti State, October 16, 2006); Rashidi Ladoja (Oyo State, November 12, 2006); Diepreye Alamieyeseigha (Bayelsa State, Decemeber 9, 2005); and Murtala Nyako (July 15, 2014). In most of these cases, the impeachment was reversed by courts of law that berated the government for committing constitutional aberrations. How come a government that promised change from the old ways is now the one spearheading the most blatant forms of constitutional crisis, simply to enforce gunboat loyalty through jackboot democracy? How can a minority of seven members take steps that should be taken by at least 10 members? How can a minority of seven be aided to terrorise a majority of 23?
Only last week, police were deployed to the Ekiti State House of Assembly for what they termed “security reasons.” It was clear that the federal government was in a hurry to force out Governor Fayose even before the October handover to his successor in a hotly disputed and rigged election already the subject matter before the election petition tribunal. It took the Speaker, Hon. Kola Oluwawole, and the Clerk, Mr. Tola Esan, to shout out that they never requested for police to guard a House already on vacation, before the misguided action was aborted.
READ ALSO: Defections and Nigeria’s jackboot democracy
There are eight major steps in an impeachment proceeding, which involves the sitting Speaker, the Governor, the Chief Judge of the state, two-third majority members of the House setting up an impeachment panel, right of reply by the governor, etc. The fact that the first foundational step of the giving of a constitutionally valid notice of impeachment by one-third of the members failed has already dealt a fatal blow on the satanic and luciferous shenanigans of an impeachment. The entire process was, therefore, aborted and dead on arrival; as dead as a dodo.
I hereby appeal, most earnestly, to President Muhammadu Buhari to save our hard-earned democracy from sliding into the abyss of extinction. Our democracy is dying by installment on a daily basis. The international community must rise up to help Nigeria help herself. All lovers of democracy must speak up before it is too late. This government should stop dancing on the cold graves of men, women and children who were murdered in cold blood by marauding herdsmen, while the same government looked elsewhere.
A governor who was praised to high heavens last week as a great performer and redeemer has suddenly been found corrupt (with the decamping legislators), by the EFCC. Because he audaciously crossed carpet against all dangled sticks and carrots. Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, who was canonized as a saintly stateman who helped to midwife the ruling party suddenly lost his political address whose exit must be “celebrated”, all because he shocked the powers that be with his deft Machiavellian sophistry and political sagacity. Loyalty cannot be enforced with brute force, coercion, intimidation and harassment. Cherished freedoms of speech and movement have been guaranteed under sections 39, 40 and 41 of the 1999 Constitution.
Is Proverbs 24:21 being realized before our very eyes?: “My son, fear thou Jehovah and the King; and associate not with them that are given to change.”
Like Nostradamus, I saw today
On June 28, 2015, less than a month after Buhari was sworn in as president and less than three weeks after the National Assembly was inaugurated, I wrote the following at the back page of my weekly Sunday Telegraph column. Now read on:
The political rumble in the legislative jungle of the 8th National Assembly (1)
The title of this piece is very apt. It is a nostalgic recall of the historic boxing tournament of October 30, 1974, in Kinshasa, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), where at the 20th May Stadium, Champion Mohammed Ali (formerly Casius Clay), knocked out George Foreman (challenger), in the 8th round. This fight organized by then rookie, Don King, has been dubbed, arguably, the greatest sporting event of the 20th century, with a record attendance of 60,000. They were not fighting the Vietnam War of 40 years earlier. It was about their pocket, the big purse. It was not in defence of the American flag. There had been spontaneous hunger and thirst to see Mohammed Ali fight again after he reclaimed his boxing licence, which had been seized from him in 1967, when he rejected fighting in the Vietnam War. Would he reclaim his belt? Could he make it?
Although Joe Frazier had beaten Ali in 1971, but Ali’s later 13 wins over others, including a rematch with Frazier, did not throw up the needed talisman to ignite world interest in this handsome “Louisville Lip.” Boxing is passion. It is money. It is life. It is an aphrodisiac, an intoxicating liquor.
At 32, Ali was not in his prime, so bookmakers placed the now flat-footed, more sluggish, but still loquacious and dancing Ali, at 40 – 1 odds. The fight, staged in Kinshasa, to burnish and bolster the diminishing image of Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga (the name is a sentence!), did much to whitewash the despotic and tyrannical terror. After using the “rope-a-dope” style to suck up Foreman’s best punches, Ali, as he had done to Liston in their 1965 rematch, bounced out of the ropes, like a meteor, to deliver the lethal right blow that floored Foreman and made him see zillions of twinkling stars. Ali had rewritten boxing history. He was once more the idol of the world, a global citizen.
Our write-up today is not about Ali, Frazier, boxing, Liston, Mobutu, or the “rumble in the jungle” in Kinshasa. It is not about money or fame. It is about our bi-cameral National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives), where there has been a re-enactment of this epochal rumble in the jungle of Nigeria’s hallowed legislative chambers.
Tuesday, June 9, 2015, witnessed an earth-shaking rumble in the parliamentary jungle of Nigeria’s 8th National Assembly. Nigeria was kept in a state of suspended animation. There was tension, palpable tension. The rippling effects were later to snowball into fisticuffs and pugilism, the type that certainly made Ali and Foreman’s “rumble in the jungle” pale to near historical insignificance. What went wrong? How did Nigeria find herself in this wanton exhibition of legislative rascality, adult delinquency and ominous signs of democratic harakiri?
The June 9 event in the National Assembly promptly instigated party realignment, demystified some towering APC tin gods, oxygenated an otherwise gasping and prostrate PDP that was already hemorrhaging within from self-inflicted wounds. The events altered the delicate political equation of the PDP and APC; and sent the right searing signals of the real “change” Nigerians expect from President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB)’s nascent government. This incident and subsequent developments constitute an acid test of the delicate tussle between party supremacy and legislative independence.
(To be continued next week)
Thought for the week
“It’s not tyranny we desire; it’s a just, limited, federal government.” (Alexander Hamilton).