Talking Point

December 3, 2014

IG Abba Suleiman, Tambuwal and Jonathan

IG Abba Suleiman, Tambuwal and Jonathan

Tambuwal and Goodluck Jonathan

By Rotimi Fasan
THIS may not be the best of times for the Inspector General of Police, Abba Suleiman. He has been cast in what, I would imagine, is the unwanted role of chief enforcer for President Goodluck Jonathan, in his proxy war against Aminu Tambuwal. Why President Jonathan finds it difficult to come out openly against Aminu Tambuwal who, he obviously does not want to continue as Speaker of the House of Representatives, is a mystery only he can resolve. He wants to be seen as a democrat, no doubt.

Sulaiman Abba and tambuwal

Sulaiman Abba and tambuwal

He wants nobody calling him names like they did former President Olusegun Obasanjo who wouldn’t make any bones of the fact that there is no love lost between him and Tambuwal, were he presently in the position President Jonathan now find himself with Aminu Tambuwal. But his failure to put his money where his mouth is, to stand like a politician able to openly stand his ground, whether good or bad, portrays him as less in control than the man he fights. Even worse, it puts another man, Abba Suleiman, in a position he clearly does not relish. But more on Suleiman shortly.

Since Aminu Tambuwal left the PDP to join forces with the APC, he had become anathema to the PDP hierarchy including President Jonathan. Soon after defecting from the ruling party, in a move obviously meant to enhance his chances in the contest for the governorship of his state (don’t be deceived by his purchase of nomination form for the APC presidential slot), Tambuwal had lost the support of President Jonathan for his continued leadership of the Lower house. There is nothing unnatural about the President’s reaction. Only a masochist of a president would be comfortable with an arrangement that requires him to work closely with the Speaker of a house whose support he can’t count on. Therefore, President Jonathan is right or, at least, is being human in not wanting to continue to do business with Tambuwal. But he can only show his aversion for the man within the limits of the law, not beyond it.

That, however, is not what Nigerians have been seeing in the last few weeks. What they’ve been treated to is the impatience of a president who cannot wait for the law to take its course before stampeding a political enemy he can no longer care about. His failure to stick to the elementary requirements of the law, to wit, allow Aminu Tambuwal to continue in office as Speaker until a court of competent jurisdiction decides to the contrary blight his democratic credentials. Only those who chose Tambuwal to be Speaker from among them can remove him. Anything outside this can only result in chaos. Which is what Nigerians saw when personnel of the Nigeria Police locked the gates of the House of Representatives against Aminu Tambuwal in a bid to prevent him taking charge of proceedings in the House. The legislators in reaction to the unseemly display of unauthorised power by the police responded in an equally unseemly display of anger that saw them scaling over the high gates of the House like common brigands. More violations were to come. The police would respond by shooting teargas at those it called thugs invading the precincts of law-making. The confusion that followed would force the President of the Senate, David Mark, to make an uninvited entry into the chambers of the House in yet another violation of the conventions that separate the operations of the two legislative chambers of the National Assembly. Not only was Mark shouted at and threatened by the outraged occupants of the Lower house, he was shoved severally by some of the enraged members who couldn’t accept his presence among them.

While David Mark has since received the apologies of the senator representing a zone from which some of his attackers come from, a committee of the House of Representatives compelled the Inspector General of Police, Abba Suleiman, to appear before it to explain the role of the police in the summary pounding of legislators with teargas. This saw them running for their lives in a race many of them had not engaged in a long time. The meeting of this committee and Suleiman came to an abrupt end, no thanks to the Inspector General who refused to recognise Tambuwal as Speaker of the House of Representatives.

For Suleiman, Tambuwal ceased to function as Speaker the moment he quit his membership of the PDP. It was for this reason the IG withdrew the Speaker’s police guards. Prior to this, Mr. Suleiman had, like a lawyer, quoted sections of the law and pronounced on Tambuwal’s ineligibility to continue as Speaker. The whole drama is more absurd than funny. When, many might ask, did it become the business of the IG, a member of the executive, to determine which leader of the other arms of government deserve his recognition or otherwise? What is his business in this matter of recognising or not recognising who is the Speaker of the House of Representatives? This is surely a curious scenario that bears all the marks of a poorly written and ‘directed’ comedy that might yet turn out tragic.

The only person that can put an end to this nonsensical posturing of the IG, one that casts him in a role he is neither trained for nor assigned by law, is President Goodluck Jonathan. It is also sad that the President chooses to put Abba Suleiman in this most uncomfortable of positions. He was only recently confirmed as IG and it would seem playing this role of devil’s advocate and agent provocateur, all at once, is something he must do to prove his loyalty to President Jonathan. The position in which the IG finds himself today is one many public servants find themselves- to defend the indefensible policies and positions of their bosses. It is certainly one of the pitfalls and dilemmas of public office which speaks to the need for an independent body to be responsible for the appointment of public officers like the Inspector General of Police.

The IG like any other public servant ought to be neutral in a contest between and among politicians. That he was appointed by a president that is a member of a political party does not and should not make him a supporter of that party. But that is what is happening to the IG today.

He is being turned into a spokesperson of the PDP for no fault of his. That is the role to which he has been assigned by his principal if he is to retain his position as IG. But this is one role Nigerians must not allow him to play if we want an independent police.