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Impeachment as political boo-boo

By Matthew Agboma Ozah
10 August 2022   |   3:44 am
The last seven years must go down as our season of political office holders’ disappointing leadership particularly those whose responsibility is to make and interpret the laws.
Nigeria Senate

National Assembly. Photo/facebook/TopeBrown/NigerianSenate

The last seven years must go down as our season of political office holders’ disappointing leadership particularly those whose responsibility is to make and interpret the laws. Despite being guided by the spirit and letters of the Constitution they play a less than commendable role as they fail to exercise credible judgment on critical national issues. With this continued leadership failure good governance remains a far cry even as the people are denied peace and unity in the country as a result of insecurity. Indeed, one area in which our elected representatives have made a good mockery of our democracy is in the act of issuing empty threats. Over the years, we have heard about impeachment threats, both in the states and federal levels where fire, brimstone and thunder were invoked, and before sunset, it is resolved in the name of a family affair and business as usual continues.

An aspect of that family affairs culture can be seen in the recent impeachment threat before President Muhammadu Buhari. With the handwriting on the wall and body language, it is clear that members of the ruling party in the house will not join forces in the fray. Notwithstanding whatever the National Assembly and their House of Representatives members say or intend to do, one indisputable fact about the Nigerian politicians is that, political office holders only push agenda that favours them and pay deaf ears to issues militating against the masses until such challenges creeps closer their doorsteps.

Of course, such is the case now that the insecurity situation demands impeachment notice as the bloodletting terrorists are now home to roast in the Federal Capital Territory, no thanks to the Kuje prison attack, the brigade of guards ambush and the threat to kidnap the President among other FCT terror attacks. However, the sad thing about impeachment threats is that no matter how much support the public and well-meaning citizens garner behind the move, it is usually regarded as dead on arrival. The senators and lawmakers are only grandstanding as no such notices in the past ever sail though successfully.

Recognising that, the current notice of impeachment by the Red Chamber and the support from the Green Chamber reveals the facts and figures on parade are lucid and the reality on ground probably impressed well-meaning Nigerians to throw their weights behind the impeachment drive. Sadly, to believe that it would happen means you are day dreaming, never mind the other day, at an interactive session to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Abeokuta club, the Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka noted that “very often, the grounds for breach of contract, I think we all agree is, misgovernance. One of the ways of breaking this kind of contract, we know even before the duration of a contract, is known as impeachment”. Regrettably however, when the issue to terminate the contract was raised on the floor of the Red Chamber, it triggered a walk out from the plenary by the opposition party as the president of the Senate, Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan didn’t want it to be discussed.

Given the trajectory of disregard to impeachment notices and how it is thrown overboard before landing, you will understand the rush to defend the presidency over the deteriorating security situation in the country for which the notice was served by the president’s men. In a statement, the Senior Special Assistant to the president on Media, Garba Shehu threw every caution to the wind and woefully failed in his attempt to defend his principal recognize the fact that, the greatest beneficiary for citizens is safety just as it is the primary purpose of government to ensure the safety and security of lives and property in the country. Rather, Shehu chided and regarded the action of the House of Representatives members who on solidarity ground supported its Senate counterpart over the impeachment notice as performative and babyish antics. He admonished the lawmakers that, rather than making a mockery out of voters by trying to imitate what they see in America, the opposition would be well advised that their time would be better spent tackling the pressing issues Nigerians face, such as the current global cost of living crisis. Their continued failure to do so, Shehu believes, goes some way to explaining why they remain in opposition.

Indeed, Shehu’s statement is not only laughable but considered as always government officials’ shenanigan and insensitiveness to the plight of the masses. For this reason, he sees global food crisis occasioned by the Russia/Ukraine war and to a large extent climate change to be more of an important issues to talk about than the killings happening on a daily basis across the country. He concluded that only persons in opposition see the killings as something to worry about. Anyway, this explains why the former chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Adams Oshoimole professed that any corrupt politician that defected to the party, his sins forgiven.

No doubt, the distraught insecurity has caused Nigerians is beyond comprehension. Hence those who argue like Shehu continue to furnish the evidence that anyone can use to question the commitment of the government to end insecurity in the country. True, the insecurity situation in the country calls for a swift action. But strictly speaking, the misadventure of the National Assembly is unbecoming because of sentiments such as party, religion and ethnicity. Notwithstanding section 143 sub (2) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) stipulates that 1/3 of the members of the National Assembly can initiate an impeachment proceeding against the president or the vice president. But the question is, how far can the impeachment agitators go? Do they have the numbers to carry out the constitutional requirement? There are currently 109 members of the National Assembly and 360 members of the House of Representatives.

The bottleneck is that 37 and 120 members are required respectively from both chambers but to make it more successful, it must be supported by 74 Senators and 240 House of Reps members and these numbers are hard to come by, owing to political prostitution (cross-carpeting) and the fact that majority of members of the House lost their primary elections.  Also, the outcome of the recent presidential primaries in some ways, has affected the continued membership of some politicians in the major political parties. More so, the timing of the impeachment notice is very close the 2023 elections as electioneering campaigns will begin soon. These combined dark forces are quite often deceptively tricky as some members will castigate the president in the day, while in the cover of darkness at night, dine with him. Above all, if truly the National Assembly members are patriotic they shouldn’t have gone on recesses after serving the notice of impeachment on what is considered a national security threat. So, for me, the impeachment notice is a boo- boo.