BY OBINNA NWACHUKWU
The month of July 2018 which ended last week, may earn for Nigeria, a place in the Guinness Book of Records as month of impeachments, political defections and rascalism. From Owerri to Kano, Makurdi and Sokoto, the drumbeat of impeachment carried out by political gladiators reverberated through the nation’s political landscape heightening anxiety in the already tensed and fragile political environment. The actions which took place in clear disregard to rule of law appears to be the worst of its kind in the history of Nigeria.
The most recent, as at the time of going to press last week involved Sokoto state Governor, Aminu waziri Tambuwal who cross carpeted to PDP, July 30. He made this known during a solidarity rally held in his honour at Government House Sokoto State.
In his statement he said “Let me at this juncture state emphatically that I return to PDP with a clear conscience because the party has learnt bitter lessons and noted what mistakes it must avoid in the future. It is now a repositioned and forward looking political party to which I now pledge loyalty”
He stated his readiness to contribute towards improving the lives of Nigerians, expanding opportunity for youths, promote excellence, enhance competency, portray good governance and enthrone genuine democracy to save Nigeria from decadence.
Making known the reasons for his actions, Rt. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal said “In line with the best tradition in a major political decision as a serving and elected Governor, I have painstakingly consulted far and wide and unearthed that the Buhari led platform is not a viable vehicle for achieving the aspiration of the good people of Nigeria”
He maintained that incompetency, sustained denial of obvious leadership appointments, high level of impunity, inability to break new grounds nor manage inherited good legacies led by the previous administrations, inability to complete bulk of uncompleted federal project nor commence new ones in states, unending massacre of defenceless law abiding Nigerians and security men by unknown gunmen, mismanagement of Nigeria’s economy, increasing poverty and frightful conspiracy against the cohesion of Nigerian state are the reasons for his withdrawal from All Progressive Congress, APC.
He disclosed that information from National Bureau of Statistics reveals that over nine million of Nigerians lost their jobs in the last three years. Unemployment rate also increased from 11.70% as at 2014 to 33.10% in 2018.
Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal said, his defect is in the interest of equity, prosperity, wellbeing of Nigerians, adding that what exists presently under Buhari is akin to prison yard democracy.
One of the bizarre political acts in the gale of impeachments sweep through the country against APC took place in Makurdi, capital of Benue state, July 30. On that fateful day, eight out of 30-member lawmakers of the Benue State House of Assembly served Governor Samuel Ortom, who recently defected from the All Progressives Congress, APC, to the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, a notice of impeachment. Earlier on July 30, Deputy Governor of Imo State, Eze Madumere was impeached by the state house of assembly in Owerri. Yusuf Abdullahi Ata, Speaker of Kano House of Assembly suffered same feat in Kano, on Monday, July 30.
In all the situations, anger and condemnation trailed the action of the respective states’ lawmakers, and strong backing given to them by security operatives, especially the Police.
While, an Owerri High Court was able to give Madumere a momentary relief by stopping the swearing-in of a new Deputy Governor, Calistus Ekenze, nominated by the state Governor, Rochas Okorocha, as replacement pending the hearing and ruling on his suit, the impeached Speaker of the Kano State House of Assembly was not so lucky. As if to add insult to injury, the Kano State Deputy Governor, Prof Hafiz Abubakar, a loyalist of Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso has raised alarm over alleged plot by the State Assembly working in tandem with the State Government, to impeach him from office. A few days later, the Deputy Governor defected to PDP.
A number of the impeachment saga of recent has moved to the law courts. In the case of Imo Deputy Governor, an Owerri High Court, presided over by Hon. Justice Benjamin Iheka, on Monday July 30, granted a restraining order to parties concerned in the impeachment proceedings against the Deputy Governor.
The order was granted sequel to the prayers of Chief Ken Njemanze (SAN), counsel to Madumere, restraining the Chief Judge, Speaker of Imo State House of Assembly, members of Imo State House of Assembly, 7 Man Panel of inquiry among other parties involved in the matter from taking any further action that bothers on the impeachment proceedings until the determination of the matter before it.
Chief Njemanze had filed an originating summon with suit number: How/565/2018; Eze Madumere V Chief Judge of Imo State and 9 others with another motion on notice for interlocutory injunction, challenging the constitutional breaches vis-a-vis the said impeachment procedures which were observed in breach. The ruling was given at 11 am in favour of Madumere’s prayers but the State House of Assembly defied the court Order and went ahead to sit by 2pm and impeached the Deputy Governor.
The House also approved Governor Okorocha’s nomination of Ekenze, the State Head of Service who happened to be Madumere’s kinsman, as new Deputy Governor. But his scheduled swearing-in could not hold as same high court gave a restraining order against both the Chief Judge and all other high court judges in the state from administering the oath of office on Ekenze. Governor Rochas Okorocha immediately directed that the court order be obeyed to the latter as relayed by the Attorney-General of Imo State, Hon. Militus Nlemadim. The matter is due for hearing this week.
However, on Thursday, 2nd August, Madumere raised alarm over the withdrawal of his police security officers and the sealing off of his official quarters in Owerri.
In a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Uche Onwuchekwe, the Deputy Governor drew the attention of the general public and the Inspector-General of Police of what he called “the continuation of utter disregard for Rule of Law by the Commissioner of Police, Dasuki Galandanchi, who has thrown caution to the wind by withdrawing the security apparatchik of the Deputy Governor of Imo State, Prince Eze Madumere, thereby making him susceptible to attacks’’.
“The Office of the Deputy Governor condemns the action of the Commissioner of Police for yielding to being an instrument of oppression in the hand of the Governor and ready to do his bidding, too. We view such action as not only deliberate but playing-out a script of his sponsor of not only harming the Deputy Governor but to also take his life”, the statement further read.
Onwuchekwa further alleged that strange looking police men without any recourse to the restraining order of court, at about 10 am on Tuesday, August 1, 2018, sealed-off the entrance gate to the office of the Deputy Governor with chain and padlock without any reason advanced for their action. The police officers were reported to have claimed that they were sent from Governor’s office.
The CPS to Madumere also said: ‘’All the staff of the Deputy Governor were not only humiliated but chased out of the office. This act of impunity has, in no little measure, affected the business of the Office of the Deputy Governor as Imolites who visited the office for genuine reasons were humiliated and embarrassingly turned back.
‘’This act of illegality is not only limited to the Office of the Deputy Governor, Prince Madumere. His official residence located in the Commissioners’ quarters along Concorde Boulevard was also sealed-off. His Excellency, the Deputy Governor, relations and staff have not been allowed access to the facility and to their personal belongings”, the CPS stated. He appealed to the Inspector General of Police to call the Imo State Commissioner of Police to order and direct him to restore Prince Madumere’s security details without further delay.
As prelude to the impeachment, Gov. Okorocha was alleged to have doled out huge sums of money to each of the state lawmakers to facilitate the impeachment against Madumere. The plot is attributable to Prince Madumere’s refusal to support Governor Okorocha’s resolve to impose his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu on Imo people as the next Governor of the State, come 2019.
It was further alleged that the Speaker of the Imo State Assembly, Rt. Hon. Acho Ihim was promised the office of the Deputy Governor while Hon. Lugard Osuji who, reportedly, is the go-between was allegedly promised the Speakership of the House of Assembly should they succeed in impeaching the Deputy Governor. But in response to these allegations, Samuel Onwuemeodo, Chief Press Secretary to Governor Okorocha denied all the allegations against his principal and the government, describing them as falsehood and figment of the imagination of the accusers.
The Kano State House of Assembly same Monday, July 30, 2018 impeached its speaker, Yusuf Abdullahi Ata, alongside two other principal officers. The motion for Mr Ata’s impeachment was raised by a member representing Warawa Constituency, Labaran Madari, and seconded by the lone member of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, Abdullahi Muhammed.
Ata was replaced by the immediate-past speaker, Kabiru Alhassan Rurum, who was impeached over alleged bribery scandal. The 40-member Assembly resumed on Monday from two-month recess, during which the legislators hatched the impeachment plan. On May 15, 2018, twenty four members signed for the former speaker’s impeachment. The State government immediately denied having any hand in the impeachment.
And barely 24 hours after the impeachment of the Kano State Speaker, Yusuf Abdullahi Atta, the State’s Deputy Governor, Professor Hafiz Abubakar, alleged threat to his life, as well as plans to impeach him.
Professor Hafiz Abubakar has petitioned the Police and the State Security Service. In the petition, addressed to the Kano State Police Commissioner, Rabiu Yusuf, copied to the Assistant Inspector-General in Charge of Zone One and the State Director of SSS, the Deputy Governor, prayed for the deployment of more security operatives around him.
Among others, he accused the state government of disbursing funds to mobilise youths from the 44 Local Government Areas of the State to protest against his continued stay in office. A loyalist to Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, the Deputy Governor has been at loggerheads, with the State Governor, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje.
In Benue state which has known no peace in the last two years due to insecurity and wanton destruction of lives and properties, 8 of 30 lawmakers of the Benue State House of Assembly served impeachment notice on Governor Samuel Ortom. The eight lawmakers also took control of the premises of the state parliament with the support of the police
Fingers are being pointed at the direction of Senator George Akume, a former governor and APC senator from the state who was said to have brought police officers from Abuja to use eight lawmakers to impeach a governor in a House of 30 lawmakers. The crisis came a few days after Gov. Ortom defected from the APC to the PDP.
It also came days after 23 PDP lawmakers impeached Speaker Terkimbi Ikyange. He was accused of failing to carry other members along in legislative activities.
Hon. Ikyange, who remained in the APC despite recent mass defection of his colleagues to the PDP, was said to have been impeached because he was no longer in the majority party. Some of the majority House members who impeached him insisted it had nothing to do with his status as a minority lawmaker.
Last week, PDP lawmakers said they were compelled to use the Government House in Makurdi to conduct legislative businesses after security agencies locked the state’s Assembly complex. The state’s police commissioner was last week changed.
The mass defection of APC lawmakers in the House was in anticipation of Gov. Ortom’s planned defection to the PDP from APC, which eventually came last week. Meanwhile, the state government has obtained an Order from the state high court restraining the eight lawmakers from impeaching Ortom, while the action of the lawmakers has drawn the ire of Nigerians from all parts of the country.
For now, the waiting game continues in Imo, Kano, Benue and Sokoto states and possibly in some other ones.
Additional report by John Ekah