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Why Plateau Speaker, Abok was ‘impeached’

By Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi, Jos
08 November 2021   |   4:07 am
When Hon. Nuhu Ayuba Abok was elected Speaker, Plateau State House of Assembly, Governor Simon Bako Lalong was lauded for his support in producing the youngest Speaker in Nigeria.

Nuhu Ayuba Abok

When Hon. Nuhu Ayuba Abok was elected Speaker, Plateau State House of Assembly, Governor Simon Bako Lalong was lauded for his support in producing the youngest Speaker in Nigeria.

Abok was a 400-level Law Student of University of Jos in 2019 and was said to be a mobiliser and yo uth leader, who Lalong thought would be east to manipulate.

But the governor was wrong. The cordial relationship soon turned sour because Abok oftentimes disagreed with Lalong’s administrative style, especially his handling of insecurity and other centrifugal matters that polarised residents of the state.

The issue came to a head during the last crisis in Jos, which affected places like Bassa, Jos North, Jos South, Riyom, Barkin Ladi, Bokkos, Mangu and killing of travellers at Rukuba Road and Yelwa Zangam.

When the crisis became protracted, the House of Assembly under the leadership of Abok gave the governor an ultimatum to stop the killing and address the state. The governor was also asked to pay condolences to affected victims, provide them relief materials and pay their hospital bills.
  
The governor was said to be angry at the matching order from lawmakers, though he responded to the their demands. Sources said lawmakers’ actions were seen to have emboldened some residents who dumped the corpses of victims at the Government House before their mass burial.

Shortly after the mass burial of the victims, a battle line was drawn between the governor and Speaker. Pro-Lalong group went to town accusing Ayuba of having an ambition to become governor and impeach Lalong from office.

Unknown to some APC lawmakers, 14 of them were made to append their signatures to a document, affirming their loyalty to the party and denounce rumours making the rounds of their intention to decamp to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The Speaker was also said to have signed the document, which was later interpreted to be their consent for passing vote of no confidence in Speaker.
   
To prepare ground for his impeachment, the state chairmanship of APC was zoned to Barkin Ladi to compensate the majority Berom-speaking tribe in Plateau North. Prof Danladi Atu, Secretary to the Governor, supported this arrangement for Afizere to take over deputy governorship slot in 2023.
   
Information further revealed that during the recent local council primaries, of APC Abok sponsored a candidate for Jos East and Jos North chairmanship against the choice of the Secretary to the Government (SSG), Shehu Bala Usman. SSG had his way but the election generated bitter reaction against Abok by groups believed to be loyal to Lalong.
   
It is believed that grievances between SSG and Ayuba coupled with the suspension of Latep Dabang as chairman of the party further deepened the crisis.

It was also gathered that the mistrust among APC leaders was the reason for the last state parallel congresses that further polarised the party. While the governor and SSG led a faction, Abok, Pauline Tallen, Ishaya Itse held another congress that produced another set of exco.
  
It was gathered that the governor did not want to present the 2022 budget before Abok as it was assumed that a new Speaker would have emerged before the budget presentation. But this did not happen because Abok was said to be enjoying support of majority members of the House.
  
Immediately after the presentation of the budget, it was obvious that if Lalong did not move against the Speaker, his impeachment may be difficult as majority of lawmakers were displeased with his (Lalong) attitude towards lawmakers. And perhaps to prevent this, the Governor, who accused Abok of dividing the party struck first by engaging eight members to impeach the Speaker.

Speaking after his controversial removal, Abok said he fell out with the governor for kicking against killings in the state. He said the House led by him forced the governor to start visiting some communities affected by the crisis.

This, he explained, made the governor uncomfortable and vowed to remove him even if with only two members of the House. Exonerating himself from the impeachment saga, Governor Lalong said the House is totally autonomous and capable of determining its leadership at any time without any external interference.

He expressed confidence that their decision is the best for the state because they have clearly shown that they are on the side of the people and will not sacrifice legislative duties, which they have taken an oath to perform on the altar of political ambitions.

The Governor said: “As a House, you are the ones who know why you had to change your leadership at this moment. However, this kind of event is not new to the Plateau House of Assembly where the leaderships have been changed arbitrarily in the past.

“Nobody comes to the House as a Speaker, but the members donate such privilege to one of them as first among equals. That is why those who have such privilege should do their best to carry their colleagues along and work for the benefit of the people and the legislature.”

He assured the new House leadership that he will support them and continue to work for their success, being a former Speaker and one who has championed the autonomy of the legislature by being the first to implement it in the country

A public affairs commentator, Bulus Musa said: “In Africa, there can be no impeachment of the Speaker without the governor’s knowledge and involvement.”
    
While it was learnt that a group had petitioned EFCC against the Speaker, alleging misappropriation of funds, another group debunked the allegation, saying that the allegation was a plot to give the Speaker a bad image and pave way for his impeachment.
    
According to a source: “The relationship between the Governor and Speaker had gone sour following reported high-handedness on the part Governor, who treats the legislature as an extension of the office of the Governor so much so that the request of the House to have assess to some financial documents in MDAs that they appropriate funds for were denied the House.
   
“The Speaker not only identified with people of Plateau by granting them audience, he went as far as visiting the wounded victims of attacks and also declared to pay their bills.”
   
It was further gathered that on another occasion, while the students of the Plateau State Polytechnic were protesting against the strike embarked upon by lecturers of all tertiary institutions in the state, a combined team of security men opened fire on the defenceless students, beat and subjected them to all manner of barbaric treatments, right under the watch of the State Government.
   
The Lalong administration was said to beso insensitive to the point that not a single government representative was present at the burial of the student who was killed, but the Speaker was there.
  
Such moves have endeared Abok to the people who now see him as the only voice in the administration standing by them, a move that is rumoured to have sent shivers down the spines of those in the executives who fear that with the popularity and acceptance of the Speaker by the Plateau people, he may have the Governor impeached.

  
A political analyst in the state, Musa Ajang said that the Constitution has spelt conditions under which the Speaker can be impeached – it must be by a two-third majority of the House, in this case not less than 18 members must consent to the impeachment.
   
Members of the House who claimed to have impeached the Speaker did not do their job well as only eight of them did the hatchet job by 6.00am. The eight lawmakers was said to have arrived at the House of Assembly complex by 5.00am, and completed the process before 6.am.
   
At the gate of the Assembly, security men did not allow other members to enter the Assembly complex. That was why a lone protester, Evangelist Yakubu Gidado, described the impeachment as “illegal and an anathema”.
  
As the new Speaker, Yakubu Sanda representing Pengana constituency in Bassa local government, was at the Government House to present himself to the governor, Abok converged with 14 members outside the Assembly Complex where he presided over and deliberated on what happened and suspended the eight members and principal officers of the House. The 14 members passed a vote of confidence in Abok.
Meanwhile, a Reps member, Dachung Bagos has described the removal of Abok, as illegal and a calculated attempt to murder democracy in the state and berated the state governor, Simon Lalong for supporting the illegal removal of the Speaker. He said the governor’s position undermines the tenets of democracy and peace on the plateau.

Bagos called on President Muhamadu Buhari, the senate President, Ahmed Lawan, and Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila “to urgently intervene in the political crisis going on in the state before democracy is murdered”.

He said, “Abok was removed because of his standing with the people over incessant killings in the state. He has being speaking truth and trying to proffer solutions, which has made him a scape goat with a kangaroo coup carried out by six members, purportedly to impeach Speaker,” he said.

HOWEVER, former Governor of the state, Senator Jonah David Jang has called on Plateau elders to rise up to the occasion by prevailing on Lalong, to demonstrate leadership for once by allowing members of the House to decide who their leaders are.

The former governor in a statement said even if the Speaker were to be impeached, members of the House should be allowed to decide instead of arm twisting few members, adding that the unfortunate development will further derail the government of the day as it staggers toward a directionless route.

He said, “The executive has tried, albeit unconvincingly, to wash its hands off of the disgraceful events in the House of Assembly but the more the Governor and his handlers try to spin a story around the issue, the more glaring it becomes that the six members who staged impeachment are only acting out a script for the Governor, the hasty nature with which the Governor hurriedly received a ‘new speaker’ knowing full well, being a lawyer, that what happened was an aberration, speak volumes.

“Evidence has shown that the numbers required to carry the impeachment is not available to those desperate to remove the Speaker, hence they have resorted to using undue force in pushing forth their agenda which is indeed, not only unconstitutional but, shameful” he said.

“The Governor must listen to the voice of reason and restore normalcy in the Plateau State House of Assembly, the crisis bedevilling the Assembly has a way of spiralling to affect the lacklustre performance of the government, which has already failed in discharging its responsibility to Plateau citizens, the interests of a few millions of Plateau people, who deserve better treatment.

“No amount of explanation will justify wrongdoings, it is unconstitutional for eight out of 24 members to effect a change in leadership in the House, no matter how the Government goads them on. The Governor should know better as a lawyer, he must not allow the trappings of power push him to dig deeper into infamy, the prize he has earned for himself, with Plateau people, in seeking personal ambition over the collective welfare of the citizens.”

Jang continued, “Democracy has come of age in Nigeria and those of us who were in trenches fighting for return to democratic rule will not fold our arms and watch our labours washed down the drain by the egotistical pursuits of individuals who are only beneficiaries of what we were even jailed for by the military.

“I want to use this medium, as I join my voice with those of other well meaning Plateau people, to call on the Governor to salvage the situation and restore normalcy to the House. We have become a laughing stock and we must put an end to the unconstitutionality playing out at
the Plateau State House of Assembly.

MIFFED by the wise counsel of the former governor, Lalong fingered Jang as the brain behind leadership tussle rocking the House of Assembly to score cheap political points saying the former Governor is the least person to preach politics of morality.

A statement signed by the Commissioner for Information and Communication, Hon. Dan Manjang, expressed shock over the accusation levelled against Governor Lalong by Jang.
 
He said, “The Government is shocked not only by the accusations and attacks by the former Governor on the person Lalong, but by the boldness of the former Governor to attempt to change the narrative and preach what he has never believed throughout his political life, all in a bid to fool the gullible members of the public. 
 
“The face behind the mask has been unveiled by no other than the masquerade himself. For those who have been looking for the person behind the ugly stage-managed incidences in Plateau State, which culminated into the recent impeachment saga at the House of Assembly, the answer has come out in the most unexpected and spectacular manner. 
 
“We do not intend to dignify the former Governor who is the least qualified to preach any morality about democracy in Plateau State and Nigeria because of his anti-democratic credentials, we deem it necessary to put the records straight and save the people of Plateau State and other discerning Nigerians from being whitewashed with false propaganda shrouded in sentiments. 
 
“There is no better case of “pot calling kettle black” than the infamous sermon by Jang who is either suffering from amnesia, or has come full circle in the art of deciet that he is attempting to fool the people including himself.”

MEANWHILE, Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria has urged Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) to intervene in the leadership crisis that rocked Plateau State House of Assembly where two Speakers emerged following the purported ‘removal’ of Abok on October 28.

The Chairman of the Conference and Speaker, Bauchi State House of Assembly, Hon. Abubakar Suleiman, who led other Speakers from Ogun, Ebonyi and Ekiti States, made the plea during a crucial meeting between the leadership of the Speakers’ Conference and the Chairman of NGF and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Fayemi Kayode in Abuja.

Abubakar in a statement by his spokesman, Abdul Ahmad Burra, expressed deep concern over the Plateau State House of Assembly fracas, “in which two factions emerged with two different Speakers that led to the siege of the Assembly by the security operatives.

“The Speakers therefore called for the quick intervention of governors so that all parties involved in the crisis will sheath their sword and respect the Constitution.”

Abubakar, who reiterated the sanctity of the legislative arm and the setback the crisis would bring to governance in Plateau State, expressed their confidence that NGF and Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, would quickly intervene on the matter to restore normalcy to the Assembly.

Fayemi commended the Conference for their commitment to find solution to the crisis that rocked the Plateau Assembly, stating that the Forum is closely monitoring the situation and has requested the Chairman of the North Central Governors Forum and Governor of Niger State Abubakar Sani Bello to travel to Jos and meet the Governor of Plateau and all the parties involved with a view to ending the fracas.