Legislators: Lawmakers Or Lawbreakers?


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Legislators: Lawmakers Or Lawbreakers?




Jaafar Jaafar




November 14, 2006 


The Constitution is in dire straits. Only a review could, at least, save it from being regularly abused, flouted and defiled by the impeachment-happy lawbreakers we call lawmakers. The culture of impunity manifest mostly in the Executive arm of the government drags and tramples it in the mud. You can’t tell apart, the Nigeria’s Constitution and a melodrama in which we read the most bizarre tragicomedies. I do not say the Constitution had ever been respected bearing in mind the cascade of unprecedented abuse it faced during the military regimes. But today we are not in the military regime, but the impeachment criminals have violated the provisions of the poor thing – rolling out, rather, some queer self-serving ‘laws’. Now, we realize, the lawmakers are the real lawbreakers and criminals, not the hapless pickpockets or area boys the magistrates are busy giving custodial sentences every minute.


We would not have noticed that the Constitution leaks so much if not for the courtesy of a torrent of impeachment rain. This wide constitutional fissure may have, perhaps, been cemented but for the satanic agenda of the ruling cabal, aka third term, that scuttled the whole exercise. The deluge of crises it is facing, this time round, leave us in utter bewilderment and even wish, with hindsight, if the constitutional review exercise was never called to a halt. Some of us who have little grasp of constitutional matters couldn’t make head nor tail of the situation.


The law that is meant to govern the society and control the behaviour of its members is in a pitiable state. If you think court order is meant to be heeded, please ask the Chief Justice of Nigeria and wander around Ibadan to see certain “Governor” Alao-Akala or rather, sneak through the highest lawmaking chamber of the land to see how it is full to the brim with Dagashs. What do you expect from persons who did not, in the first place, have the people’s mandate? They break all the electoral law before being there, what do you expect from them hence? If you still think the law is to be respected better by its manufacturers and custodians, please go somewhere else but not Nigeria. If you want to see a zoo of three governors come to Nigeria. If you believe that the Constitution is sacrosanct, supreme, please go to Ekiti, Anambra, et cetera, et cetera to see how extra-constitutional dramas are being staged. Hear the Speaker of Anambra State House Assembly, Hon. Mike Bolonwu, after he sneaked silently from his hideout in Asaba and superintended the rape of the Constitution: “It is a victory for everyone, victory for democracy, and so we thank God for what had happened today” (my italics). Please read the italicized “today” as tonight, not for any poetic effect but an assertion of fact. Just as some of the biggest heists of the thieves often take place in small hours, a matter as serious as impeachment of an elected governor, took place during an ungodly hour. The happenings may give cause for dismay, I feel so much worried. But when one remembers where he is – Nigeria and who he is – Nigerian, one quickly dispels the gloomy mood.


Of cause all the eleven-count charge of “gross misconduct” leveled against Obi, are not convincing and the legislators did not constitute a quorum. Even with one’s poor numeracy, one easily figures out that the said eleven members that purportedly sat and “impeached” Obi, even when the jury was still out on the report, did not constitute two-third of the thirty-member House. One distinct drama that was played out was that each of the 11 Honourable members that “impeached” Obi seemed to have shared the 11-count charge among themselves!


If the law is no respecter of persons we should start jailing these erring lawmakers that toy with the Constitution. Violating the Constitution is, in other words, also the violation of the law. If so, why then would a goat thief be sent to the baking walls of the prison for violating the law while the lawmakers that committed a crime so catastrophic enough to have precipitated the declaration of state of emergency by the president be still left without arrest? Where lies the logic of the cliché – rule of law – Bayo Ojos of this world are preaching the gospel of? If Ojo were still at the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, and not the Attorney General of the Federation, he might be one of those condemning the AGF’s action. Or why would Plateau State’s lawmakers be arrested because they refused to be party to the violation of the Constitution? This may sound pedestrian; someone should please bail me out of the wood.


Take a look at the manner in which DSP Alamieseigha or Ayodele Fayose, former governor of Ekiti State and self-styled “father of modern Ekiti”, a man who many, including this writer, wanted to see out power, was impeached – and banished. The press did chastise him severely, yet at the same time, it maintains that the violations ought to give cause for concern. The move by the State Assembly to impeach Fayose, given the incriminating report of the EFCC on him, was a step in a right direction but the process of the impeachment was a step in a wrong direction. But if you dare complain that the law of the land is not respected, you will be labeled “corrupt” and Ribadus of this world will spring from nowhere to give you Senator Aruwa treatment. No, we do not say we support Fayoses but we urge respect for the Constitution.

 Here comes another drama. Only a day or so when we were punching the air in triumph thinking that Constitution had triumphed after the Ibadan Division of the Court of Appeal declared as unconstitutional and null and void, the removal of the former Governor of Oyo State, Senator Rasheed Ladoja, when Justice Minister, Bayo Ojo comes with his new theory. In its unanimous judgment, the Court of Appeal presided over by Justice James Ogenyi Ogebe described the lawmakers action as “unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.” No, Ojo says, the Constitution has not triumphed.


Lawmakers, at times, are more dangerous than corrupt judges even in the mould of Wilson Egbo Egbo, who was once besieged by dubious politicians to sign ex-parte motions the way Tom Cruz signs autographs. Ex-parte order, if granted fraudulently, is often ignored (Ngige saga is a case in point), but lawmakers always get away with impeachment, however fraudulent. Justice Samson Uwaifo (rtd) once captured the scenario though differently but most aptly in which he said a corrupt judge is more dangerous than a man who runs amok with a dagger in a crowded street. “While a man with a dagger can be restrained physically,” said the eminent jurist in his valedictory speech, “a corrupt judge deliberately destroys the moral foundation of the society and causes incalculable distress to individuals through abusing his office while still being referred to as Honourable.”  You may worry sick to know that despite the fact that Honourable Bolonwu, Honourable Aderemi and the like’s criminality that led to arson unrest and indeed state of emergency, they are still freemen – with police protection and the appellation, “Honourable” before their names!


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