Impeachment as a crude weapon: The Nigerian experience

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BY CHARLES KUMOLU

HAD the major players in the British political system in the 14th  century and the framers of the 1776 Constitution of Massachusetts lived till this moment, their verdicts on Nigeria’s political culture would be damning.

Dr. Chris Ngige

Dr. Chris Ngige

Even the country’s political actors would not be spared of the wrath of these men of ages, whose wisdom created a precedent whereby political wars between the three arms of government are settled without firing a single gunshot.

Through   conscious efforts, these ancient political players in Europe and America introduced   impeachment as a mechanism for bringing charges against an official of the state with a view to removing the person from office if found guilty.

Like the application and practice of other aspects of presidential and parliamentary democracy in   Nigeria, the usage of the inherent impeachment powers has  become a threat to the institutions it was meant to protect.

With the   impeachment of Alhaji Balarabe Musa as  the second republic governor of Kaduna State heralding the gale of impeachments in the country, impeachment   has become a political tool for witch-hunting of enemies or as an instrument of intimidation used to coerce stubborn   governors to the negotiation table for political gains.

An understanding of successful and failed impeachments since 1999  confirmed the argument that the  impeachments across the land have established that political actors are bereft of proper understanding of the meaning and purpose of  removing a public official from office.

Dieprieye Alamesiagha
Had the misappropriation of public funds by elected officials not assumed an alarming rate, allegations of financial recklessness, upon which  a former governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alameyesigha’s impeachment was premised, would have been generally dismissed. But in a country where corruption is endemic and on its way to becoming, institutionalized, only the man without sin can cast the first stone.

As governor of Bayelsa State at the peak of the Niger Delta crisis and the offshore/onshore dichotomy agitation, Alameyesigha was popular as a result of the mediatory roles he played.
Known as the Governor General of the Ijaw nation,  Alamiyesigha’s  parting of ways with former President Olusegun Obasanjo signalled the beginning of his end as governor.

Given that Obasanjo is known for   vindictive tendency and display of imperial powers as President, Alamieyesigha’s claim that his impeachment was midwifed by the then presidency was not in doubt.
The various roles played by the Federal Government in that saga  also corroborated the former governor’s stance.

To the chagrin of the world, the FG meddled in the affairs of the state by deploying its financial and institutional might to ensure Alamieyesigha’s removal.

Many, who kicked against the FG’s role, maintained that their grouse was not informed by the manner of financial allegations against Alameyiesigha, but that the powers  that be  Abuja midwived the process and ensured that Bayelsa State House of Assembly impeached the governor by all means in Yenagoa   under heavy security.

That episode, however, laid the foundation for subsequent usage of the federal might to remove or intimidate any state governor, who did  not dance to the presidency’s tune on many issues.

Joshua Dariye
Like the typical Nigerian politician, Chief Joshua Dariye was never far from controversy when he governed Plateau State. He was always in the news for the wrong reasons. Whether he was responsible for the wrong things is another angle to the Dariye story.

Coming to international limelight as a result of his arrest for money laundering in Britain made him an easy prey for the then presidency that had earlier sacked him in an unconstitutional manner.
Banking on allegations of financial impropriety against the governor, the House of Assembly embarked on impeaching Dariye.

While few members of the Plateau State House of Assembly were intent on having him   impeached, others in the majority and stakeholders in the state were vehemently opposed to the move.

But in a manner depicting the disregard for the rule of law, which hallmarked that era, a five-man House of Assembly group impeached Dariye on November 13, 2006. But for the support of the FG, the sack would not have been possible given that the number of those who impeached the Plateau governor  fell short of the constitutional requirement.
After a series of appeals he was reinstated as governor in May   before the end of his tenure

Peter Obi
When the then Anambra State governor, Mr Peter Obi,  hosted the then President Obasanjo during a state visit, hardly did he know that Obasanjo came to predict his(Obi) exit from Government House.

In his usual pontifical manner, the former president had told Obi to forget re-election in 2007 if he did not join the PDP because he (Obasanjo) would not support a non-PDP member.
And true to Obasanjo’s postulations, a day after the visit, Obi was impeached on November 2, 2006, after seven months in office.

The lawmakers had reportedly met with representatives of  Obasanjo in Asaba , Delta State and then  accompanied to Awka by heavy security provided by the police Mobile Unit.  The House of Assembly members arrived Awka at at 5:00 am and began sitting afterwards. The received the report of a panel of investigation  set up to investigate the governor and, after deliberating for about an hour, decided to impeach the governor, Peter Obi.

Ladoja

Ladoja

Although Obi was eventually returned  to office by the judiciary, analysts believe that his ouster would not have materialsed without the support of the PDP, led federal government.

Rashidi Ladoja
This is the story of  Alhaji Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja.
“Collecting N65 million as security vote every month. You know that governors don’t account for security vote. He was to give me N15 million of that every month. He reneged. Later it was reduced to N10 million. Yet he did not give me,” the late Chief Lamidi Adebibu complained about Ladoja, who he reportedly made governor.

Dismissing Adedibu’s claims, Ladoja denied reaching any agreement with the octogenarian.
He said: ‘’We did not reach any agreement about sharing money. When he asked me about his own share, I asked him under which account should I put it… The understanding of both of us of what governance is supposed to be differs. The difference is that I see governance as service while he sees it as business.’’

With the claim and counter claim setting the stage for Ladoja’s eventual impeachment, the scenario sadly depicted how petty political differences could remotely become an impeachable offence.
To observers, the removal with the active connivance of the federal might was connected to Obasanjo’s third term agenda, which Ladoja, an ally of the then embattled Vice President Abubakar Atiku, opposed.

While the law required 20 legislators to carry out the impeachment, 18 lawmakers met over the recommendations of a panel of inquiry and impeached the governor. The December 7, 2006, reinstatement of Ladoja by the Supreme Court  reaffirmed the general notion that he was impeached through hooliganism, political rascality, killing and maiming among others.

Ayo Fayose
With allegations of financial misconduct and murder leveled against him, the then Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose found himself fighting both seen and unseen enemies in a bitter political war that turned comic at a stage.

Fayose, a former ally of Obasanjo,  fell out with the former president, making Obasanjo to deploy the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,EFCC, against him. With the various illegalities on the part of Ekiti State legislators during the days leading to the impeachment still fresh in the minds of many, what followed could pass for a Nollywood script.

The removal of Fayose and his deputy, Mrs Biodun Olujimi, on October 6, 2006, heralded the drama, while the assumption of office by the state speaker, Friday Aderemi, made the crisis more hilarious.
However, the failure to heed the instruction of the presidency   to impeach only Fayose and spare the deputy, Olujimi, Obasanjo declared that there was a breakdown of law and order in the state and  declared a state of emergency, and appointed Brig-Gen. Adetunji Olurin (rtd) as the sole administrator of the state on October 19, 2006.

Rotimi Amaechi: Nearly impeached
Though  Governor Rotimi Amaechi  of Rivers State was already in the black books of the presidency before he contested for the leadership of the Nigerian Governors Forum,NGF, against the wish of his party,   his victory at the NGF polls further incurred the wrath of his traducers.

His   hurried suspension from the PDP triggered  the expectation  that those behind his travails would resort to impeachment. And some lawmakers in the state House of Assembly did not prove pundits wrong, as the House
was thrown into crisis in July when some members attempted to impeach the Speaker and subsequently Amaechi, leading to a  row that led to fisticuffs and the take over of the assembly’s duties by the House of Representatives.

In  the saga, the presidency had been in state of denial as to its alleged role in the matter, but the manner in which some institutions of the state were deployed to assist anti-Amaechi lawmakers, persons and groups punctured the denials.
That Amaechi survived the orchestrated onslaughts does not mean that the crisis did not rub-off on governance in the state.

Chris Ngige
But for the connivance of the presidency during Obasanjo’s   administration, Nigerians would not have witnessed the brazen disregard for democratic process displayed by Chief Chris Uba in his attempt  to have the then Anambra Governor Chris Nigige sacked.

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