Defection from one political party to another isn’t a new practice since the inception of party democracy in Nigeria. The defection of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal is not only one of many defections, but the most sensational of all. He has committed an unforgiveable sin: defecting as Speaker of the House from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to it bitter rival the All Progressives Congress(APC). This is perhaps the first time we will be having a person holding such an important legislative post defect decamp to the opposition. No one expects PDP to just lose one of its own just like that without a big fight. But the question is: ‘Is Tambuwal’s defection to the APC constitutionally correct?’
The PDP has come out to categorically state its position on the matter: he (Tambuwal) must resign or lose his seat since he has chosen to jump boat. The party relied on the provision of section 68(1)g of the 1999 Constitution to justify its position. It is also on the basis of this provision that the Nigerian Police Force clearly acting on ‘instruction from above’ withdrew the Speaker’s security details.
For those who know, except it’s stated in the House Rules, nowhere in the 1999 Constitution is party membership a prerequisite for the election of the Speaker save for election into the House as the case may be in Tambuwal’s case, he was elected into the House on PDP platform, but it wasn’t the case for the Speaker. Only those who stay in the mars will contradict me on this point.
Secondly, the PDP and its cronies perhaps forgot or deliberately choose to ignore the fact that the section 68(1)g cited has two paragraphs which recognizes the fact that there will be divisions or factions within political parties, or mergers of parties. Now the APC is today a merger of the old: Action Congress of Nigeria(ACN) All Nigeria People’s Party(ANPP), Congress for Progressives Change(CPC), a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance(APGA) and the new PDP, a faction of the PDP. Clearly, if Tambuwal have joined another party apart from the APC then automatically he loses his seat in the House. For the avoidance of doubts I quote the proviso: Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored… (Section 68(1) g of the 1999 Constitution)
This was why I earlier said that had Tambuwal defected to a party like the People’s Democratic Movement(PDM), he automatically lose his seat, since his faction, the new PDP merged with the APC. Should the PDP feels shortchanged (as it is sure will), it can resort to any of the following (honourable) options: First, on resumption of the House, it can authorize it Chief Whip to ‘whip’ its members in the House to commence impeachment process against the Speaker. This process will only be successful if the party is in the majority, two-thirds is actually the constitutional provision. Politics is the game of strength in numbers!
Secondly, the party can explore the provisions in section 69 of the Constitution to commence recall process against Tambuwal in his constituency. If the party does this, it will have any or all the following effects: 1) It will test the party’s popularity in Sokoto State which is presently controlled by the APC. 2 )it will revamp the party’s dwindling public perception and sympathy votes come 2015 elections in the state and elsewhere.
Thirdly, if the above options appear too cumbersome, the party should consider approaching the Courts to give a judicial interpretation of section 68(1)g of the constitution and declare Tambuwal’s seat vacant. This again may be time consuming but it is worth the efforts.
Any other attempt to unseat Tambuwal using unconstitutional, illegal means including the security agencies, will remain a nullity and will not help the already battered reputation of the party ahead of next year elections.
Adigun Waheed Olalekan via email@example.com