By Tonnie Iredia
In Nigeria, politics has become the only game played daily across the nation at the risk of development. In other parts of the world, as soon as governorship or presidential candidates win election, they rises above partisanship and assume greater pedestal of statesmanship operating as the governor or president of all. They invite certain members of opposition parties to government not in search of procured unity; rather such invitees are requested to bring in their expertise to aid development.
Whereas such a policy does not cancel the spoils system which allows party officials who helped to secure the victory of the party to be rewarded, the key point is that it is essentially experts that are invited. As a matter of fact, government deliberately gives a ratio of positions to non-partisan technocrats to ensure that the job gets done. In Nigeria, the situation is deteriorating by the day. Many years back, politicians were appointed only into part-time governing boards of institutions, today virtually all Nigerian Parastatals are headed by party stalwarts or their nominees, thereby politicizing developmental strides
To show that all we do in Nigeria is politics, much of our time is devoted to impeachments. Section 188 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 empowers a state legislature to remove from office a governor or his deputy who is found guilty of gross misconduct. This seems to have encouraged our legislative houses in the states to engage in a stiff competition as to which house attains the highest number of impeachments. In 2012, the then Deputy Governor of Taraba State, Sani Abubakar Danladi was impeached by the State House of Assembly for allegedly using his office to attract development to his community. In Enugu, the State House of Assembly relied on the same Section to impeach the Deputy Governor of the State, Mr. Sunday Onyebuchi for the “gross misconduct” of running a poultry farm in his compound. Much earlier, the Bauchi, deputy governor Mohammed Garba Gadi was impeached while on annual vacation leave; meaning that his hair was shaved in his absence. But none of these incidents compares favourably with the situation in Imo.
Indeed, if a competition is organized today, Imo state will no doubt win all the awards among the states. In the game of fake impeachment of deputy governors, the gold medal will surely go to the executive governor while the silver and bronze medals will go to the speaker and members of the House of Assembly respectively. Imo is in fact, the only state which tried to impeach two deputy governors of the same governor making it look as if the iberiberism impeachment of deputy governors is a hobby in Owerri. In 2013, the first deputy governor, Sir Jude Agbaso was impeached on false charges of corruption while the second deputy governor, Eze Madumere was also framed up with charges of gross misconduct. Thus, no one can stop the current Imo governor from grabbing the medal in the game because he seems to have a large appetite for nominating ‘unsuitable’ people to serve as his deputy,
A cursory look at the disposition of many of our legislators may confirm the allegation that many of them were house boys sponsored by the master to get his bill passed. Perhaps that is why they hardly rationalize the roles they play in the impeachments requested by their principals. Hence, almost every impeachment process is usually rough or crude as the legislators are always too active to be sane whenever ample ‘stomach infrastructure’ takes place. They even often forget to follow the legal guidelines on the subject just as they do no comparisons while acting. Otherwise, how can legislators who fight for constituency projects impeach a deputy governor for allegedly attracting development to his community? Besides, which deputy governor has a more developed community than that of the governor?
Once allegations are made, the weighty defences of the accused are usually ignored so as to arrive at guilt. Interestingly, the Governors on whose behalf the legislators act often have more questions to answer than the Deputy Governors being maligned. If Onyebuchi of Enugu allegedly ran a poultry farm with his personal money, is it true that there was a much larger farm behind the compound of his Governor, Sullivan Chime that was run with public funds? After Onyebuchi produced a video showing that he was present at an event he was accused of not attending, it was then decided that where he sat at the venue was inappropriate! What makes all these inferior to the Imo situation is that the latter never obeys the simple principle of natural justice which requires that an accused be heard before he is condemned. The high and the mighty in Owerri do not believe in the rule of law making Imo the state where law makers are also law breakers.
Although the Judiciary specifically ordered that the process of impeaching Eze Madumere be put on hold, the Imo state house of Assembly disobeyed the court order and purported to have impeached the deputy governor. Perhaps all these were in line with the state government’s plan to be known in history as an administration that contributed a new aspect of governance known as Familiocracy- a system where the government of a state is dominated by members of the same family either by blood or by marriage. Even those who are strongly opposed to this development must in all honesty credit it to the Okorochas. Let’s hope that our democracy which has refused to grow may use the variant of Familiocracy to throw enough light to the fight for restructuring.
But the greatest medal of the year must go to the Imo state judiciary for calling both the executive and the legislature to order – a feat which has not been attempted let alone achieved elsewhere. In the words of human rights activist and lawyer, Femi Falana, “the chief judge rightly turned down the contemptuous directive of Governor Okorocha to swear in Ekenze as deputy governor of the state. In a historic solidarity with the chief judge, all the other judges in the high court of Imo state resolved not to lend judicial weight to the subversion of the rule of law.” But the gold medal is earned mostly by Justice Ben Iheka who had the courage to restrain the panel set up by his chief judge from taking any action in the impeachment process. So, considering that the governor had picked the first gold medal for always seeking to impeach his deputy while the state house of assembly retains the one for irrational political behavior, it is clear that Imo gets all the gold medals including that of the best judiciary of the year.