The Weighty Side Of Impeachment


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The Weighty Side Of Impeachment




Pini Jason



culled from VANGUARD, October 31, 2006



In the book: Power of  Congress, published by the Congressional Quarterly Inc; impeachment is described as “perhaps the most awesome though the least used power of Congress”. But in the Nigerian case, impeachment has become the most promiscuously, thus most abused, power of the legislature.

The publication went further to describe impeachment as “a political action, couched in legal terminology, directed against a ranking official of the federal government”. In the United States, the House of Representative is the prosecutor. The Senate chamber is the courtroom; and the Senate is the judge and jury, said the book. The final penalty is removal from office and disqualification from further office. There is no appeal!


Power of Congress also reveals that impeachment proceedings have been initiated in the House more than 60 times since 1789, that is in all of 217 years. But look at our record in less than eight years! Of the 60 impeachment proceedings only 13 officers have been impeached. That is really tried: One president, one cabinet officer, one senator and 10 federal judges. Of these 13, 12 cases reached the senate where two were dismissed before trial after the person impeached left office, six resulted in acquittal and four ended in conviction.


The most recent and most familiar impeachment is that of Bill Clinton. The controversy of Monica Lewinsky notwithstanding, he was convicted on one count of perjury but was left off lightly because the Congress and American public opinion did not consider his offence grievous enough to overturn the votes of the American people. I shall return to that.


Impeachment has been as controversial in America as it has become in Nigeria. Three major questions, according to Power of Congress, have dominated the history of impeachment in the United States. They are: What is an impeachable offence? Can the senators serve as impartial jurors? Are there ways other than impeachment to remove a federal judge from office? Even more controversial in our own case is the definition of “gross misconduct”. The 1999 constitution left that to the imagination of the legislators. As the Anambra case is beginning to show, very soon every executive action of a governor will become “gross misconduct”!


On the impartiality of the accusers who also play jurors, the Anambra case has also shown that it is problematic expecting impartiality form the legislators. Although there is a provision for an ‘impartial” panel of seven to “investigate” the allegations and report to the House, the Anambra notice of impeachment ended on this note: “…with this notice of allegations against Mr. Peter Obi and Dame Virginia Etiaba, the Governor and Deputy Governor respectively of Anambra State, who by the foregoing ARE GUILTY of gross misconduct….”. The House of Assembly pronounced the Governor and his Deputy guilty of the allegations weeks before the investigating panel was set up. Thus the panel is expected to work to an already known answer. But these are not even the troubling issues.


We copied our constitution from the United States. In the United States everybody is aware that impeachment is not just about the removal from office of a Governor, President or Federal Judges. It is more a punishment reserved for Federal Judges because they are appointed for life. When it concerns elected officials like Governors and Presidents impeachment becomes a very weighty instrument that is not employed lightly as is the case in Nigeria.
The removal of an elected official is tantamount to overturning the votes of the people, annulling the mandate of the voters. And this is not taken lightly because impeachment is no more than a coup with a constitutional blessing!


That was why, in spite of the emotions raised by his escapades with Monica Lewinsky and the intensity of the Jewish lobby, Clinton was not removed from office. The consideration was whether the offence was weighty enough to warrant an even weightier action of overturning the votes of Americans.

 The Anambra case is a classical example of where those who get into elected office have no regards for the electorate who supposedly elected them to office. Why should they, when they got into office through fraud perfected by one Godfather? Chris Uba “single-handedly” got them into office against the true wishes of Anambra people.


And, according to some legislators who abandoned the impeachment ploy, the impeachers were reportedly promised another fraudulent automatic return to the House 2007, a car and a plot of land in Abuja by another Godfather. Why should they care about the wishes of Anambra people? The impeachers consistently chorus the cliché that it is their “constitutional responsibility”. But the question is, on whose behalf are they insisting on this “responsibility”?


If the impeachment of Governor Obi succeeds, it is the votes of Anambra people that the legislators who came to the House through discredited means would be overturning.


But Anambra people through various organisations including the Students Associations, the Bar Association, the Labour Union, Anambra Professionals, Anambra Town Unions, Trade Associations, Council of Traditional Rulers, Bishops and Church Leaders, Former Governors, Federal and State Legislators, members of Federal Executive Council of Anambra origin and even the Peoples Democratic Party leadership have all condemned the impeachment.

Then, who else do the impeachers represent? Whose dirty job, are they determined to do at the expense of the entire people of Anambra?

What these induced impeachers seem not to be mindful of, is that it is not Peter Obi, but Anambra people and their votes that will suffer. Since 1999 it is Anambra people, the ordinary people that have been suffering the irresponsibility of the renegades among them, not Dr Mbadinuju, not Dr Chris Ngige, not Emeka Offor, not Chris Uba and certainly not Andy Uba.

Politicians who precipitate trouble are rarely the victims. The masses often bear the brunt. The issue that all Anambra people who are opposed to this spurious impeachment must resolve quickly and decisively is whether the thumb, no matter how fat can be bigger than the nostril!

The tricky statistics of teledensity.


Last week a newspaper crowed that the number of telephone subscribers in the country has risen from 19.8 million to 26.7 million by the end of June this year. Well, well, well! The question is this: Are there 26.7 million telephone subscribers in Nigeria or are there 26.7 million phone lines sold? I ask this because I carry three active lines, one inactive line, one inactive Turaya, one line dedicated to internet use, my wife carries two lines, my son carries two lines and each of my two daughters carries two lines. That is a total of 14 lines. But we are a family of five! So does 26.7 million lines actually mean 26.7 million subscribers?


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