Political Harakiri,Constitutional Aberration & Democracy


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Political Harakiri, Constitutional Aberrations And The Death Of Democracy




Jide Ayobolu






November 4, 2006


The gale of impeachments sweeping across the country has created political tensions that are threatening to undermine the nation’s seven and a half years old experiment in democratic governance. At least three states- Anambra, Oyo and Plateau are embroiled in political crises arising from disputes over the appropriate procedure for the impeachment of their governors. There are other troubled states, for instance, Ekiti, that is under emergency rule, where a sole administrator has taken over the functions of elected officials who unable to resolve the political disputes among themselves have been placed on a six month suspension, and Ogun, Enugu and Abia, that are gripping by fear of impending Federal Government-inspired impeachment moves against their governors. In all the troubled spots, the problem has been the failure of the dramatis personae to resolve their disputes within the confines of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria. Added to this is the perceived double-dealing of the Federal government, which has circumscribed the ability of its agencies, particularly the police and the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, to discharge their responsibilities efficiently. This ineffectiveness of the federal agencies is generally believed to have worsened the crises in the states, leading to the creation of emergency situations that can attract emergency rule. The major point of dispute in the crises-ridden states is the application of section 188 of the constitution, which outlines the processes for the impeachment of a governor or his deputy. Although many lawyers agree that for those that are minded to obey the law, its provisions and processes laid down are clear and unambiguous as the steps to be taken are clearly stated from subsection 1-9.


It is however imperative to underscore the fact that, political expediency, rather than letters and spirits of the constitution, has dictated most of actions of the politicians, leading to the intractable disputes that have engulfed at least three states and is threatening three other states. The general disregard for the constitution and rule of law appears to be on display in Anambra, Oyo and Plateau States, where despite judgement of the court sitting in Ibadan, in the case of Governor Ladoja Rashidi, the impeachment crises have failed to stop. The appellate court in a unanimous decision of its five justices read by Justice James Ogebe, had said in the main that for the purpose of impeaching a governor or, and deputy under section 188, the requirement is the stipulated fraction of all the members of the House of Assembly. Secondly, it held, particularly in a situation of division, that a part of a whole could not act behalf of the whole even if that part is in the majority. That is, a faction of the Assembly no matter its numerical strength cannot take a decision in isolation of the other. Thirdly, it held that no meeting of the Assembly could be held outside the place presided by its rules, and without its principal officers. In spite of this very clear ruling, which under normal circumstances should have laid the foundation and set the tone for how governors and deputy governors should be legally and properly impeached, but to the greatest chagrin of all right thinking Nigerians, all these legal pronouncements are being ignored, and legislators in various states of the federation are carrying on as if democratic practice is not guided by the constitution and the rule of law. What is noticeable is the fact that, the president is using the EFCC to undermine the governors by instigating the state legislators to impeach the state governors even through unconstitutional means, so that, he can continue to hang on to political power even beyond the time that is stipulated by the constitution.


This situation that has been created in Oyo, Anambra and Plateau States, are such that there can be two or more governors, which can easily lead to the breakdown of law and order. If this occurs, many fear that emergency rule may be declared in the three states, and with a similar crisis in three others, seven states may be under emergency rule on the eve of the general elections slated for next year. Some political observers have expressed worry that this may create an opportunity for the protagonists of tenure extension for President Olusegun Obasanjo to revive their project on the grounds that elections could not hold in an atmosphere of crisis as evidenced by emergency rule in many states of the federation. According to the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, (CBCN), “what is happening in PDP is shameful and that is why Obasanjo has to look into it seriously so as not to drag the nation into anarchy. The PDP should be called to order at this time. In Plateau State where they are threatening to remove the governor, it is PDP. In Oyo and Ekiti States where the governors have been impeached, it is PDP. And today in Anambra, it is PDP lawmakers that have impeached the governor. In all these places, it is a matter of party struggles and that leaves one to wonder if the lawmakers are indeed fighting for democracy or against it. The Nigerian legislators no longer care about the rule of law in their processes to impeach a governor; this was not good for the country”.


The point here is that most of the people that got to political offices got there because they bought their way through from people that were already pauperized by misanthropic economic policies of past governments. The danger in this abysmal absence of any ennobling ideals and programmes which the people can identify with in order to lend their support to the parties, as obtained in the past, is that money becomes the most viable instrument for purchase of the people’s decision. After the elections, those who gain political offices through this skewed and corrupted process do not see themselves as accountable to the people. And so, throughout their stay in office, they are accumulating more loot with which to buy the people’s vote in the next elections. As a result, provision of amenities like roads, healthcare, education, power supply, may not even feature in their list of priorities since they are not hoping to use the evidence of their performance to persuade the electorate to vote for them. Even when the people refuse to give them their votes, they still deploy money to hire thugs to intimidate electoral officers, and corrupt the process to obtain unearned votes.


It is in this regard that Okey Ndibe reasoned that, “it is time to impeach president Obasanjo for his many manifest acts of treason against the Nigerian nation. This is a bounden duty, a matter of the greatest urgency. You (National Assembly) must commence his impeachment, not tomorrow, but today. Clearly, the man who occupies the nation’s highest office has become a clear and present danger to the health of the fledging republic. The choice before you is as simple as the consequences of inaction are weighty. Impeach Obasanjo and save the nation from collapse. Yet, if you decide to remain nonchalant, offering him latitude to proceed with his destructive politics, then you, as well as the rest of us, risk imperiling the fabric of a nation that is already frayed.


But you can count on history’s merciless, unforgiving verdict if you elect to slumber while one man’s depraved politics brought down the roof over the nation. So I beseech you: send this man away and spare the nation the grief he is adept at manufacturing…..Obasanjo is the invisible hand behind the untoward developments in Anambra and Plateau, the monkey marionette manipulating the sordid political games. This imperial president appears determined to torpedo the ship of state.


And he will, too, unless you and other Nigerians stop him. Nigeria should indeed be gripped by the impeachment fever, but its target ought to be, first and foremost, president Obasanjo. No public office holder poses a more perilous threat to the corporate interests of Nigeria. Despite his oath to uphold and defend the Nigerian constitution, the president has set about shredding that sacred document, disdaining democratic ethos, mocking the concept of a society founded on law and order, and desecrating all noble principles of governance. The president, who recently confessed to missing his calling as a roadside mechanic, is assuredly, mindlessly tearing down the national edifice. We reckon this tragedy of a nation: somehow, a man who might have made a good or mediocre mechanic finds himself at the helm of his nation’s affairs. Worse, he evinces no greater scruple in his statecraft than if he were tinkering with the engine of a car whose problem confounds him”.


There is no doubt whatsoever that these constitutional aberrations are nothing but political hara-kiri, which can result in the death of democracy in Nigeria, if care is not taken.


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