Impeachment and impunity: The path to Armageddon
By George Akume
The constitutional power of impeachment is a sacred power that can be likened to the mystical Sword of Damocles which dangles over the executive branch to keep it in check, but seldom falls on its principals. Sections 143 and 188 of the Nigeria 1999 Constitution (as amended) provides for removal of the President/Vice and Governor/Deputy respectively, only in case of serious constitutional breaches amounting to gross misconduct.
The legislature itself forestalls the rare use of the power by exercising oversight functions on all governmental institutions so that things do not degenerate to the level of impeachment which is akin to capital punishment. Even the advanced democracies of the world hardly use the power.
In our recent history, only former President Bill Clinton of the USA came close in spite of the overwhelming evidence of
desecration of his exalted office. We all know that our presidential system is fashioned against that of the USA.
One of the critical events that caused the chain reaction that culminated in the demise of Nigeria’s First Republic was the purported removal of Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola as the Premier of Western Region by the Governor acting on the purported vote of no confidence by the House which is the equivalence of impeachment under a presidential system of government.
In 1979, conservative “hawks” in the Shagari administration took advantage of President Shagari’s passive disposition and orchestrated the impeachment of the progressive Governor of Kaduna State Alhaji Balarabe Musa. In deference to popular outcry following it, no other impeachment of a governor was witnessed in the over four years of the Second Republic.
During Babangida’s transition government, Sir Michael Otedola was elected governor of Lagos State on the.ticket of the NRC. He had only one member of his party in the Lagos House
of Assembly. All others were from the SDP, and yet, we never heard of any threat of impeachment against him from
the Lagos House.
The real abuse of the sacred powers of impeachment commenced under the presidency of Obasanjo in 2003. President
Obansanjo superintended the removal from office of Governors DSP Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State, Joshua Dariye of Plateau State, Ladoja of Oyo State, and Fayose of Ekiti State. It is
noteworthy that the courts reversed many of those impeachments owing to flagrant breaches of the stringent constitutional procedures laid down in the impeachment clauses.
It is further noteworthy that none of these impeachment resulted from popular outcry of the people of the relevant states. They were orchestrated by the President as punishment for
disloyalty while the people remained bystanders. In spite of these brazen assault on democratic institutions, democracy survived President Obasanjo’s tenure.
Under President Jonathan, our nation is going through its most difficult challenges. Insecurity has become part of our daily living. Nigerians pray to God for the grace to survive each passing day without being blown away by terror attacks. Three states of North East have remained under a state of emergency over a year, even as over 200 of our daughters remain in custody of Boko Haram savages three months since their abduction.
Corruption is now our national past time even as the modest efforts of former President Obasanjo’s administration have
been reversed. The latest Transparency International (TI) report not only lists Nigeria as among the most corrupt countries of the world but indicates that it has the highest global percentage of citizen’s perception that corruption has worsened in the last two years.
Kidnapping, oil theft and bunkering and other sundry violent crimes are also worsened by unprecedented graduate
These are enough challenges to focus a purposeful administration. Regrettably, the PDP administration of President
Jonathan has decided to deploy government’s vast resources towards “procuring” state assemblies to remove opposition governors at any cost only five months to the next general election.
In Adamawa State, only a few months ago, the state Assembly passed an overwhelming vote of confidence on Governor Nyako. However, after defection from PDP to APC, and soon after indicting Mr. President in the memo he wrote to his colleagues in the Northern Governors Forum, Governor Nyako’s seven and half year old “sins” were exhumed for his crucifixion.
Predictably, Nyako’s impeachment is a mere harbinger of many more as 2015 draws nigh.
Governor Tanko Al-Makura who has outperformed all his Benue, Kogi, and Plateau neighbours has been served with another impeachment notice soon after it was rumoured that the
majority PDP members of the state legislature held a clandestine meeting in Abuja, and allegedly took home 50 Million Naira each!
The nexus betweenthe Presidency and the impeaching law makers is very well established – massive movement of tax payers money classified as missing to the rogue state legislators.
Like a joke taken too far, he too stands the risk of removal.
For whose interest?one wonders. Is it in the interest of the children whose schools he has magnificently constructed? Is it in the interest of the rural dwellers whose roads he has opened up? Is it in the interest of the Mararaba, Karu and Massaka dwellers for which he is providing alternative access to Abuja through decongesting the overcrowded Abuja–Keffi highway, totally neglected by the Abuja PDP Federal authorities? There are also
ominous signs that other progressive governors like Amaechi of Rivers, Adams Oshiomole of Edo and even Kwankwaso of Kano are also under the PDP radar!
After all, the new National Chairman of PDP Alh. AdamuMuazu boasted that he is master poacher!
One may ask where all this is leading to.
Clearly this is to destroy opposition and democracy. There cannot be democracy without meaningful opposition. That is
why the constitution has provided roles for the opposition. Nigeria has seen more robust and purposeful politicking with
the emergence of the majority opposition party APC.
Rather than use the opportunity to rebrand PDP, the President is becoming more belligerent, intolerant, autocratic and fascistic! Why on earth would the President keep haunting opposition
leaders to the extent that the Nigerian airports are often closed to them, but opened to friends of the President? Only a couple of days ago, the Maiduguri airport which was closed allegedly on
security grounds was exclusively opened to Senator Ali Modu Sheriff for the purpose of arranging his defection ceremony to PDP. This is regardless of the fact that the sitting Governor and
pilgrims from Borno and Yobe are made to travel by road with the attendant insecurity in the region.
It is disheartening that all impeachment from 1999 have been orchestrated by the federal authorities. It is not as if President Obasanjo and Jonathan have not themselves committed impeachable offenses. When in President Obasanjo’s
first term, the House of Representatives compiled impeachable grounds against him, many elder statesmen and some of us who were state Governors intervened to save Obasanjo. We did this for the purpose of stabilizing the polity and saving democracy.
Today, it is easy to compile impeachable breaches against Mr. President. In fact, what most members of the public do not
know is that recently some federal lawmakers started compiling brazen and arbitrary breaches of the constitution against the president. The quantum and quality of materials available is
unprecedented and earth shaking. The intervention by two well-meaning senior citizens and the belief in the stability of
the nation led to the suspension of this patriotic exercise.
President Jonathan must not play Idi Amin, Stalin, Gaddafi and Putin. The way Mr. President is going – total disregard for Rule of Law and the assumption of sweeping and arbitrary powers – smacks of the contemptuous behaviour of Louis XIV of France who once boasted “L’etatcestmoi”meaning “I am the state.”
The President must move cautiously lest he walks up and discovers that the Nigerian State no longer exists. The verdict of history will be very harsh on him.
I, therefore, call on Mr President to stem this dangerous tidal wave threatening the ship of state.
Senator George Akume is the Senate Minority Leader