Sunday, 10th December 2023

Still on the burden of deputies: Ondo State impasse

By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa
21 November 2023   |   2:39 am
Impeachment of elected politicians is a very serious matter and should not be conducted as a matter of course. The purpose is to set aside the will of the electorate as expressed at the polls.

The Supreme Court decision in the Taraba Deputy Governor’s case is a lesson in leadership and the transient nature of power. Concluding, the apex court held thus:

Per NGWUTA J.S.C. at page 168-169, paras. G-B:
 “Impeachment of elected politicians is a very serious matter and should not be conducted as a matter of course. The purpose is to set aside the will of the electorate as expressed at the polls. It has implications for the impeached as to the electorate who bestowed the mandate on him.

“Whether it takes one day or three months prescribed by law, the rules of due process must be strictly followed. If the matter is left at the whims and caprices of politicians and their panels, a state or even the entire Country could be reduced to the status of a banana republic. The procedure for impeachment and removal must be guarded jealously by the court.” (Emphasis Supplied).
Per NGWUTA, J.S.C. at page 169, paras. C-F:
 “In conclusion, based on the undisputed facts in the affidavits of the appellant, I am of the considered view that the court below ought to have resolved the issue of denial of fair hearing against the respondents and in favour of the appellant. In consequence, I allow the appeal and vacate the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

“ I hereby order that the entire proceedings of the panel that purported at the instance of the Taraba State House of Assembly, to investigate the allegation of gross misconduct made by the House against the appellant, the Deputy Governor of Taraba State, up to and including the incomplete and edited report relied on in removing the appellant by the House, be and is hereby declared null and void and of no legal or factual consequence whatsoever. In effect, at all material times, the appellant, Alhaji Sani Abubakar Danladi remained and is still remains the Deputy Governor of Taraba State and he is to resume his interrupted duties of his office forthwith.”
The cases of Edo and Ondo States are very intriguing, going by their peculiar facts and circumstances. In Edo State, the Deputy Governor, Hon Phillip Shuaibu, wants to succeed his boss, Governor Godwin Obaseki. They were the best of Siamese twins when the going was good but things suddenly fell apart and Shuaibu had to go to court to protect his office. Since then, he has been denied access to government house and sidelined to a remote office, with no official car or the compliments of his office.

His profuse apology was flatly rejected by the Governor but they have both resolved to complete their tenure in peace, which is okay. The case of Ondo State is somewhat different. Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu has had a health challenge for a long time but God has been faithful to keep him alive. In many posts on his verified Facebook page, the Governor would make open confessions of his faith in God, seeking prayers while expressing his absolute confidence in God for his healing. Of course that is vintage Akeredolu, very firm and fearless in his resolve.

This has been one of his many admirable characteristics. I met him closely when we both appeared before the Federal High Court, Osogbo many years ago. He represented the university while I represented the lecturers.

He was so brilliant and ebullient on that occasion and indeed as always. But if anything, Akeredolu would later emerge the President of the Nigerian Bar Association where he proved his mettle. He spoke the truth to power and gave Nigeria a good report of the Bar. The scenario playing out in Ondo State presently was the case when Alhaji Musa Umar Yar’adua held sway as President of Nigeria. Akeredolu spoke the minds of Nigerians to President Yar’adua then. Listen to him.
“The prayer of the Association is that the President should recover fast, return to his office, and resign. No matter how much you love your country, it should not be at the detriment of your health. It is not your party or your wife that will decide whether you are capable of handling state matters; it is only your doctors that can decide that. The Bar is not asking the President not to come back and take his seat, but the right thing must be done.”
When Akeredolu joined the race and was eventually elected as the governor of Ondo State, it was such a joyous moment for me to have such rare talent traducing public office. And Akeredolu never disappointed me or indeed Nigerians.

He rose in defence of his people courageously, with the formation and support for the Amotekun Corps, the demand for true federalism and as the Chairman of the Southern Governors Forum, he courageously rallied his colleagues for the famous Asaba Declarations.

So you imagine the pain of the people when terrorists took the battle to his home town in Owo to massacre innocent worshippers of the St. Francis Anglican Church. I was myself moved to tears when the governor wept openly in church, telling the people that he knew what to do but he had no power to do so under the contraption of the laws of Nigeria.
To be continued tomorrow
Adegboruwa is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).