By George Akume
The constitutional power of impeachment is 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 Nigerian 1999 federal Constitution (as amended) provides for removal of the President/Vice and Governor/Deputy only in the case of serious constitutional breaches amounting to gross misconduct. The legislature itself forestalls abuse of executive powers 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 of impeachment. 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 after 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 old 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.
Real abuse of the sacred power of impeachment commenced under the Presidency of Obasanjo in 2003-2007. President Obasanjo 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 noted 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 unemployment index.
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 elections, in Adamawa state, the House of Assembly passed an overwhelming vote of confidence in Governor Murtala Nyako. However, after his defection from PDP to APC, and soon after indicting Mr. President in the memo he wrote to his colleagues in the Northern State Governors Forum (NSGF), 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 Umaru 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 between the Presidency and the impeaching lawmakers 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. In whose interest, one wonders. Is it in the