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History of impeachment in Nigeria, By Bernard Balogun

By News Express on 31/07/2017

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•Bernard Balogun
•Bernard Balogun

The word “impeachment” was uncommon in the Nigerian political lexicon until 1981, when Alhaji Balarabe Musa, the first executive governor of Kaduna State, was impeached. Not because of any fraudulent practice or misapplication of funds, but due largely to political differences between the Executive and the Legislature in the state. 

Balarabe Musa was elected on the platform of Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), led by Mallam Aminu Kano, a grassroots politician based in Kano, as its founder. However, the Kaduna State House of Assembly was populated by members of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). So you have the executive headed by a PRP faithful and the legislature by NPN. Chief Adisa Meredith Akinloye, an Ibadan indigene and a lawyer by training, was the national chairman of the NPN. The party controlled the centre, with Alhaji Shehu Shagari, from Shagari village in Sokoto State, as the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. 

Alhaji Mamman Dan-Musa was the then Speaker of Kaduna House of Assembly. On one or two occasions, the governor reportedly forwarded the list of his commissioners for confirmation. But, it was “turned-down” by the State House of Assembly, because the governor failed to include members of the National Party of Nigeria as Commissioners. Of course, the governor had a valid excuse, at least, to distinguished minds. If he had appointed NPN members as commissioners, the governor argued, their loyalty will be to their party, and not PRP which appointed them. In truth, that made political sense. The governor decided to work with special advisers, instead of commissioners. And that was the beginning of “Things Fall Apart” in the state, which subsequently led to his impeachment. Balarabe Musa’s decision was supported by governors of the opposition Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) – led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, one of the first set to be elevated to the prestigious rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) – and the two governors of the Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP). 

At that time, there was an active Progressive Alliance, made up of five UPN governors (Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande; Ogun State, Chief Olabisi Onabanjo; old Oyo State, Chief Bola Ige, popularly known as Cicero of Esa-Oke Bendel State, Prof Ambrose Alli, and old Ondo State, Chief Michael Ajasin); two governors of the GNPP founded by Alhaji Ibrahim Waziri, the apostle of politics without Bitterness). The two GNPP governors were Alhaji Mohammadu Goni of old Borno State and Alhaji Abubakar Barde of old Gongola State. The PRP governors were Alhaji Abubakar Rimi of Kano State and Alhaji Babarabe Musa of Kaduna State. Three Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) governors, whose membership of the alliance did not last the duration of that dispensation, were Chief Solomon Lar of old Plateau State, Chief Sam Onunaka Mbakwe of old Imo and Chief Jim Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo, the colourful governor of old Anambra State. 

It is important to explain why the NPP participation in the alliance did not last. Ab initio, the Nigerian Peoples’ Party was founded by Ibrahim Waziri, who invited late Dr Nnamdi Azikwe and a popular Lagosian, Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya. However, along the line, there were irreconcilable differences between Waziri and Zik. Consequently, Waziri had to break away to found the Great Nigerian Peoples’ Party, of which he became both chairman and presidential candidate of the party in 1979 and 1983 presidential elections respectively. On the other hand, Chief Ogunsanya became the national chairman of NPP, with Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe as its presidential candidate. NPP went on, after the break from the alliance, to romance with NPN, the ruling party at the centre. With that, NPP got two ministerial slots at the federal level, Speaker of the House of Representatives and deputy Senate president.

The UPN states, which the late Dr Tai Solari later named in his Monday column in the Nigerian Tribune, as LOOBO states, jointly owned Odua Group of Companies, the parent company of Daily Sketch Newspapers. The Nigerian Tribune largely owned by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, with Oluwole Awolowo, as publisher and Felix Adenaike as editor-in-chief. These two Ibadan-based newspapers gave maximum publicity to the activities of the Progressives Alliance and daily updated their readers with happenings on the floor of the Kaduna State House of Assembly, regarding the unpopular decision to impeach the governor, at all cost. 

Consequently, in June 1981, Balarabe Musa was impeached at the age of 45, thus becoming the first governor in the history of Nigerian politics to be so impeached. A gentleman, who was also a member of Peoples Redemption Party, and deputy governor, Alhaji Abba Musa Rimi, was subsequently sworn-in as governor. And he danced to the tune of the house of assembly. 

That was the only impeachment that took place in the Second Republic. However, on return to civilian rule in 1999, the political landscape witnessed about six impeachments of governors and also deputy governors. The narrative here is primarily on governors, not deputy governors. For that reason, I shall not talk about the impeachment threat to the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency, which he experienced at the tail end of his first tenure. 

Of all the impeachments, it was that of Bayelsa State governor, Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha, fondly called DSP, that had international dimension. He was allegedly found with huge sums of foreign currency in his possession, at the Heathrow Airport, London, which runs counter to British laws. 

Governor Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha, a staunch member of the PDP (otherwise known as DSP and self-styled ‘governor-general”) was detained in London on charges of money laundering in September 2005. At the time of his arrest, Metropolitan Police found about £1 million in cash in his London home. Later, they found a total of £1.8 million ($3.2 million) in cash and bank accounts. He was found to own four homes in London worth an alleged £10 million. His state's monthly federal allocation for the last six years has been in the order of £32 million. He jumped bail in December 2005 from the United Kingdom by allegedly disguising himself as a woman, though Alamieyeseigha denied this claim. Alamieyeseigha was impeached on allegations of corruption on 9 December 2005” (Google).

Consequently, his deputy, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, was later sworn-in as the substantive governor of Bayelsa State.  

Governor Ayodele Peter Fayose (a young man with Odoona-Elewa, Orita Challenge background, a radical member of the ruling PDP), became the second executive governor of Ekiti on 29, May 2003, after defeating the then incumbent governor, Niyi Adebayo, the son of a retired Army General, humble personified and of humane character, in the Ekiti State governorship elections. However, Fayose could not complete his first tenure as a result of his impeachment on 16, October 2006” (Google).

A number of reasons were given, ranging from outright fraudulent and sharp financial practices, to controversial poultry project, which claimed several billons without corresponding evidence. Immediately after his impeachment, Obasanjo, who was the sitting President then, declared “State of Emergency in Ekiti State, consequently appointed Major-Gen Adetunji Olurin (retd), an indigene of Ilaro in Ogun State and one time military administrator of old Oyo State, as the sole administrator. Ordinarily, Fayose’s deputy ought to have been sworn in, but there were discordant tunes in the State House of Assembly, hence the deputy could not be trusted enough. Again, this is important. Before his own impeachment, Fayose had instigated the impeachment of his deputy, a surveyor by trade.

In the case of Chief Joshua Chibi Dariye, an unassuming member of the PDP and executive governor of Plateau State, between 1999 – 2003 and 2003 to May 2007, due to persistent communal clashes between Christians and Muslims in the state, which claimed many lives, and properties worth several millions destroyed. The government at the centre felt the governor did not address the frequent clashes appropriately. So, President Obasanjo declared “State of emergency on the Plateau”, and went ahead to appoint Maj-Gen Chris Alli (retd) – from Kogi State, who once governed the state as military administrator – as sole administrator, between November 18, 2004 to November 18, 2006.  

Dariye was eventually impeached on November 13, 2006. His deputy, late Dr Michael Botmang, became the new governor. On March 10, 2007, after a Court of Appeal ordered Dariye reinstated as governor, the Plateau State Government announced its intention to appeal to the Supreme Court. On 27 April 2007, the Supreme Court refused the appeal of the Plateau State Government and ordered the reinstatement of Dariye with immediate effect. Following his reinstatement, Dariye's term of office as governor of Plateau State concluded on 29, May 2007.” (Google).

“Dr Chris Nwabueze Ngige, a medical doctor, who retired as deputy-director from the Federal Ministry of Health, turned to politics, becoming a founding member of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). By 1999, he was assistant national secretary and zonal secretary of PDP in the South-east region of the country.

“In 2003, he was elected governor of Anambra State, in controversial circumstances. He quickly broke ranks with his political godfather, Chris Uba, brother to Andy Uba, who was Special Adviser to President Obasanjo on Domestic Affairs (additional emphasis mine). There was an unsuccessful attempt on 10 July 2003 to have Ngige removed from office, through a fabricated letter of resignation, which the state assembly accepted.” (Google) 

In fact, Ngige became the first sitting governor, in Nigeria’s political history, to be abducted from office – despite security operatives around him - by characters described as “political thugs.”

Chief Rasidi Adewole Ladoja was a businessman before he became the Executive Governor of Oyo State, on May 29, 2003, on the platform of the PDP.

“Rashidi Ladoja was elected Governor of Oyo State in April 2003 and took office on 29 May 2003. He was supported by Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu, an Ibadan-based PDP power-broker. By August 2004, Ladoja and Adedibu were locked in a fierce struggle over allocation of government appointees. Ladoja was not supported by the party in this dispute. In an interview in late 2005, PDP national chairman, Dr Ahmadu Ali, said that Ladoja should take instructions from Lamidi Adedibu.

On 12 January 2006, Ladoja was impeached by Oyo State legislators and forced out of office. The impeachment may have been due to the argument between Ladoja and Adedibu. His deputy, Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala, was sworn in as the new governor. On 1 November 2006, the Appeal Court in the state capital, Ibadan, declared the impeachment null and illegal, but advised parties to the dispute to wait for confirmation of this decision by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court upheld the decision on November 11, 2009, and Ladoja officially resumed office on December 12, 2006. (Google)

Peter Obi stood in the Anambra State governorship election as candidate for the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in 2003, but his rival, Chris Ngige of the Peoples Democratic Party, was declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

After nearly three years of litigation, Ngige’s victory was overturned by the Court of Appeal on March 15, 2006. Obi took office on March 17, 2006. On November 2, 2006, he was impeached by the State House of Assembly, after seven months in office, and replaced the next day by Virginia Etiaba, his deputy, making her the first-ever female governor in Nigeria. Obi successfully challenged his impeachment, and was re-instated as the governor on February 9, 2007 by the Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu. Mrs Etiaba handed power back to him, after the court ruling. He once again left office on May 29, 2007, following the general elections, which Andy Uba won. Obi returned to the courts once more. This time, contending that the four-year tenure he had won in the 2003 elections only started to run when he took office in March 2006. On June 14, 2007 the Supreme Court of Nigeria upheld Obi’s contention and returned him to office. This brought to an abrupt end the tenure of Obi’s successor, Uba, whose April 14, 2007 election the Supreme Court nullified on the grounds that Obi's four-year tenure should have remained undisturbed until March 2010. 

On February 7, 2010 the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Peter Obi the winner of the February 6, 2010 gubernatorial elections, where he defeated Prof Charles Soludo, former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). This election victory gave Obi an additional four years. On the 17th of March, 2014 Obi served out his second term and handed over to Willie Obiano.

The new lexicon in the political airwave is called “Recall” and is blowing from Kogi State.

Conclusion

This “recall” saga has taken too much of our attention, it has become diversionary and does not help us in anyway. Senator Dino Melaye, has, in all intents and purposes, progressed in error, especially in his approach. And, he needs to be advised to “slow-down”. I concede to him, he has the interest of Kogi workers at heart, regarding the issue of non-payment of workers’ salaries, though the state government has consistently maintained that it’s not owing workers as much as 15 months’ salaries. It is, therefore, necessary for Melaye to redefine his approach, as this open hostility and confrontational instinct to the office of the executive governor – not necessarily to Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello as a person, as many people have interpreted it to be – is certainly an institutional disrespect, and nobody is happy about it. 

However, it does not make sense for whatever reason to destroy the house you have participated to build. My passionate appeal to Dino is: Please take it easy. Let us not turn our state to “slaughter house.” 

It is important I add this, impeachment processes or what is now popular in Kogi State: “recall”. A state becomes lull in government activities whenever impeachment process is brought to the front-burner or, if you like, “recall” over and above developmental programmes. So, it is not a good thing to indulge in it. In fact, “impeachment” or “recall” should be sparingly applied, except where it is absolutely necessary, after established cases of flouting the Constitution. Not with feeble excuses as it happened in some of the states referred to in this narrative.

It saddens me to say this. And this is my opinion. The media, as gate-keeper of the nation’s conscience, has not been active in this direction in recent times. It is the media’s statutory responsibility to educate the populace on the essence of “recall”, the pros and cons. I have not seen any concerted effort in that direction. Similarly, someone who ought to know has been too partisan to genuinely appreciate the worth of his position in a matter as sensitive, such as recall. 

Many years ago, I know sensitive issues such as this would have  naturally elicited feature articles from senior editors in the class of late Labanji Oyebanji and late Mr Peter Ajayi of old Daily Sketch, Uncle Lade Bonuola of old Sunday Times and later pioneer Associate Editor of The Guardian (then flagship); Felix Adenaike of Nigerian Tribune, the flamboyant late Dele Giwa of old Daily Times and later National Concord, subsequently Editor-in-Chief of the Newswatch Magazine, Dan Agbese, Yakubu Mohammed, both of Newswatch. These were great editors of their time, who inspired young generation of journalists in the direction of in-depth news analysis and style of writing on burning national issues.

Here is one of such examples of the media being responsive to burning national issue at that time. Permit me to share this. In 1981, during the Shagari presidency, the Cameroon gendarmes went to Bakassi, before it was ceded, and killed six Nigerian soldiers on peace-keeping mission, at the peninsular. Former President Shagari said he was going to Addis Ababa to present Nigeria’s displeasure at the behaviour of the Cameroon gendarmes. Some days later, the management of BCOS, Ile-Akede, Ibadan, led by its general manager, went to Ikenne to hear from Chief Awolowo, the presidential candidate of the opposition UPN, if in his judgment the decision of the president was right.   

Chief Awolowo did not think so. In his opinion, if he were the president, he would have ordered the Nigerian military to go to Bakassi and kill equal number of the Cameroonian gendarmes, then go to Addis Ababa to sort out “our differences.” 

Recently, the media has been awash with the story of how Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, former Petroleum Minister in President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, bought a single property for $37.5 million in Banana Island, Lagos. No newspaper has subjected this story to serious analysis by way of proper education. Translate $37.5 million into naira at CBN rate of N306, that comes to N11.4 billion. I live in Kubwa district, so let us take Kubwa in Abuja as a case-study. Kubwa has a modest population of about 500,000 people. Therefore, N11.4 billion, which Diezani cornered for herself and family of less than 20 persons, can adequately provide modern drainages, tar all road networks within Kubwa district, provide transformers, street lights, traffic lights; FCT Water Board will provide clean and potable drinking water and provide security vehicles for the Police, Civil Defence and FRSC for the Kubwa Command, and sufficient money for the maintenance of these security vehicles for one year. And, I can assure you, the entire Kubwa landscape will be magnificently transformed to a mega-city. That is the money one person has corruptly arrogated to herself.

This is indeed a wake-up call and should not be misconstrued as an affront or indictment on this noble profession of the pen, which I hold in high esteem.

Again, this is yet another example. Recently, the deputy Senate president was unfair in his remarks on the floor of the Senate, on a burning issue regarding Senator Melaye’s recall. For Senator Ike Ekweremadu’s information, Barrister Sani Muhammed, the current Attorney-General of Kogi State, has recently been elevated to the prestigious rank of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. This means, if Ekweremadu and Muhammed were to appear in court today, Muhammed as a learned silk, will take the front seat while Ekweremadu will take the back seat. Again, the deputy Senate president got it wrong going by his definition, as expressed on the floor of the Senate, which elicited prompt response from our respected Dr Oby Ezekwesili, on this matter of recall of Maleye. Her advice was apt and timely.

Please, let us rely on Joseph Daudu (SAN) exposition as our guide. 

In a recent leadership publication, Joseph Daudu (SAN), a distinguished son of Ogoriland in Kogi State, one time national president of the Nigerian Bar Association, argued:

“Section 68 (2) Ekweremadu was referring to does not demand for any legislative action in the forms of motion, votes or resolutions in any Recall process. 

“The learned silk said Section 68(2) simply asks legislative leadership or Member to give effect to process undertaken and completed under Section 68(1). It never requires legislative exercise whatsoever, like voting, motion or resolution, after certificate is issued and transmitted by the INEC chairman, confirming to leadership of the Senate that a member has been recalled.

“What other evidence are the senators talking about other than the certificate written by the INEC chairman and delivered to Senate President in this instance, confirming that a Recall process is completed?” 

Another senior member of the Bar, Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN) said: 

“While the provisions of the Constitution as regards the Senate in the recall process is to MERELY (emphasis mine) to ratify what the INEC has already done, the upper chamber must be very careful, because it is under a test at the moment.

“There must be a combined reading of Sections 68(1), 68(2) and 69. Section 69 gives power to recall, while Section 68 (2) get Senate involved. The purpose is to ratify what the INEC has done, to ensure that the commission complied with the laid down rules. But Senate is under serious test now and must be careful not to be seen to be doing self-protectionism, in order to discourage future recall processes.”

Finally, Prof Akinseye-George (SAN) concurs with the two learned silks. His words: “…the Senate has nothing to do with recall process of a legislator. Senate has no role to play. The decision of INEC is final, except where a court of competent jurisdiction faults it.”

Your Excellency, Deputy Senate President, your conclusion that “it is dead on arrival” is absolutely inconsistent with the Constitution, as humbly submitted by these legal minds. In my humble opinion, Ekweremadu should have been “blacked out” by the media, because he had by his uninformed position, which he canvassed on the floor of the Senate, helped to pollute the minds of discerning members of the Nigerian public. And that is not what the media stands for.

Having said that, it should not be misconstrued that I support the recall process of my senator. He has been vibrant and initiated motions that have far-reaching impact. He needs to collaborate with his state governor. My position is to invite him and admonish him, to stop being confrontational. He should recognise the governor as his leader and the number one citizen of Kogi State. So that when his own turn comes he, too, shall be so recognised and honoured.  

My personal pain stems from the fact that Kogi State has never had it so good, in terms of cordial relationship with the federal might with the governor having unhindered access to the President, and Melaye very close to the Senate President. I honestly think these are rare opportunities, which ought to have been converted to fantastic opportunities to grow and develop our Kogi State. That is the way to go gentlemen, and let us bury this unnecessary confrontation, which will take us nowhere. 

Finally, my passionate appeal really goes to His Excellency, Yahaya Bello, to please try your level best to reduce your ‘adversary base’. As a leader, you may be regularly and frequently accused wrongly. That is the price you have to pay as a leader. It is your lot to constantly ignore such distractions. It is in view of this I wish to respectfully appeal to you to rescind your decision regarding the proscription of ASUU, Kogi State University branch. In all disputes, dialogue should be considered as a viable alternative, not punitive measure, which may go further to worsen the already bad situation. Never be tired to adopt this approach. You are doing well in other sectors of governance, but you certainly need a peaceful environment for transformation to take place. Akoro.

Permit me to renew my appeal for our respectable royal fathers, the Ohionyi of Ebiraland and his counterpart, the Obaro of Kabba, to please step-up their reconciliation approach on this matter.  

Kogi State can develop only in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. 

Ipinle Kogi koni baje lagbara Olorun Oba. Amin

Ete ekura Ikogi ayiononi oyinva vi ahaireku inu Obanyi Ohomorihi. Ose (Amin). 

The land of Kogi State shall never be the theatre of war, by the special grace of God. Amen.

•Bernard Balogun (BenPino) writes from Wuse District of Abuja; he can be reached on 0803.787.9275; bernardbalogun1@yahoo.com

Source News Express

Posted 31/07/2017 6:08:08 PM

 

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