By Josef Omorotionmwan
NIGERIAN Citizens, NCNC, won an election into the Western Region House of Assembly. Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Action Group, AG, had been defeated. This was short-lived.
Between the election and inauguration, a lot of water passed under the bridge. The AG did not resort to the use of brute force as we see today. They got their calculations right and on the day of inauguration, at roll call, one by one, many members of the NCNC walked across the aisle to the AG side.
The table had turned and that was the genesis of the inglorious practice of carpet-crossing whose adulterated version has remained with us till date. That was how, there and then, Chief Obafemi Awolowo was sworn-in as the Premier of Western Nigeria, instead of Dr. Azikiwe who had arrived at the House of Assembly, properly attired for the purpose.
At the inception of the Second Republic in October 1979, no single Political Party had a clear majority to form the Federal Government alone. The spread of the political parties in the House of Representatives was as follows: NPN 171; UPN 110; NPP 78; PRP 47; and GNPP 43. Today’s politicians would have done anything, significantly unorthodox, to forge themselves into office; but the NPN resorted to a coalition arrangement with the NPP. The coalition constantly ran into murky waters but it wobbled till the end of the First National Assembly.
At the general elections of August 1983, the NPN embarked on the band-wagon escapade and was able to conquer for itself, enough seats to go solo at the National Assembly.
Since then, things have been getting incrementally worse; and we soon got to the ugly era of parliamentary parallelism, which invariably produces a win-win situation – all victors, no vanquish! In the Fifth Assembly in Edo State the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, had 16 seats as against 8 seats of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Trouble soon crept in. After the battle–royale on the floor of the Assembly, each party went its separate way; proclaimed its own Assembly; and elected its Principal Officers.
With the active support of the Federal might (Federal Government and all its instruments of coercion – the police and the armed forces), the PDP Assembly soon gained the upper hand to the extent that they ousted the ACN Assembly from the Assembly complex and occupied it while the ACN Assembly squatted in one enlarged room in Government House.
The same scenario played out in the Fifth Assembly of Rivers State where the Wike Assembly, which was originally in the minority but with the support of the Federal might, ousted the Amaechi Assembly from the Assembly complex while the latter took refuge in one obscure corner of Government House. This is how the concept of the majority of the minority is developing fast, no thanks to the Federal might.
The new trend at the Federal level is that at the threshold of every general election, a good part of the majority party would yank itself out of the majority party, collect other inconsequential political parties and together empty themselves into the main opposition party and the minority party automatically becomes the majority. This could be encouraged, if only as a way of obviating perpetuity in power by any political party. This is a subject for another day.
In 2006, six legislators in a 24-member Assembly constituted the two-thirds majority that impeached Governor Joshua Dariye of Plateau State. That was not all. The 18 “minority members” who refused to go along with the illegality were locked up for long enough to declare their seats vacant for non-adherence to the 181 days minimum attendance to the Assembly in the legislative year.
Oyo State was a theatre of the absurd. On January 12, 2006, 18 members of a 32-member House constituted the two-thirds majority that impeached Governor Rashidi Ladoja.
It took 11 long months for the impeachment to be overturned at the Court of Appeal. After that, the then Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Federation, Mr. Bayo Ojo vetoed the judgment of the Appeal Court, saying that the judgment was merely declaratory and not meant to be implemented. Hear the then Inspector General of Police, Sunday Ehindero, “Governor Alao Akala can lawfully remain in office until the appeal is disposed of at the Supreme Court”.
Even when the Supreme Court had affirmed the Appeal Court judgment, Justice Iyabo Yerima of Oyo State High Court still granted a black market injunction for a stay of execution on the Supreme Court decision. Will this rumble in the jungle ever end?
Each time we begin to see some ray of light, we are plunged further into the dark ages. See how shamelessly, in Benue State, the Federal Government with its police brutality is protecting the “majority of 7” members (8 members minus the former Speaker who is on suspension) and allowing them into the chambers while the “minority of 22” members are chased away. And so quickly have the “mighty 7” embarked on the process of impeaching the State Governor! Who would have imagined this back in 1918?