8th August, 2012
BY BEN NANAGHAN
The 7th session of the Federal House of Representatives came into existence on Monday, 6 June, 2011 with a very forceful statement of gross party indiscipline and a yet unrivalled part rebellion.
The house gallery was packed full of influential money bags including some governors who came well armed for the election of the Speaker of the House.
And when the votes were counted Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal had a landslide victory with 252 votes in a house which boasted of 204 PDP members with only 156 members of the opposition. Alhaja Mulikat Adeola who was the government’s or PDP’s candidate garnered only 90 votes, regrettably losing to Tambuwal who was sponsored by the opposition.
From thence, it became clear that the Federal House of representatives was a sole creation of Nigeria’s opposition parties. It is therefore not surprising that he who pays the piper must not only dictate the tune of the music but also the dance steps.
The Reps have never hidden their utter disdain for President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and have never lost grip of their avowed determination to dislodge him from Aso Rock and replace him with someone from the opposition camp. Tambuwal’s frequent visits to opposition strongholds for constant briefing is an incontrovertible testimony to the grand design.
The Federal House of Representatives has made three serious threats to impeach Mr. President in 2012 alone, but none of them has taken off the ground.
Many observers are now convinced that these constant threats of impeachment are a fraudulent avenue of coercion and blackmail devised by the House to regularly bleed the Presidency of much needed capital for servicing of Jonathan’s transformational programme which the North has tried to truncate through the sponsorship of Boko Haram.
In January 2012 during the fuel subsidy strike, the opposition parties called for a nationwide mobilization for the impeachment of Jonathan. The house leadership met on a Sunday to plot their mischievous strategy for execution when the House resumed. I do not know if this blackmail yielded dividend in “settlements” but the great mobilization for impeachment was consigned to the dustbin of history on resumption of the House.
The second attempt at the impeachment of the President was during the Otuoke Anglican Community Church Renovation Saga when it was alleged by the opposition that a foreign firm executing a federal government project in Otuoke built a church for Jonathan as gratification for getting the juicy Federal Government contract.
Even though it looked puerile and copiously displayed mental vacuity, the opposition parties insisted that the transnational corporation built the ANGLICAN COMMUNITY CHURCH and donated it to the President as bribe. It is like building a Catholic Church and giving it to an individual as a gift or bribe. It does not just make sense. This spurious reasoning pattern epitomizes Nigeria’s opposition’s display of political immaturity.
During this period also a political party from southern Nigeria called for the President’s impeachment because according to the party, the President’s appointments favoured only Bayelsans. And I looked at the whole landscape and I did not find any Bayelsan. The President’s official staff like the Chief of staff, Aide de camp (ADC) and His Media Chief are all not indigenes of Bayelsa State. President Olusegun Obasanjo throughout his eight years tenure made sure that all his Inspector-General of Police were from the southwest, thereby ending the Northern hegemonic monopoly of the position of the police Inspector-General. Jonathan has been the most liberal and detribalized president, even to a fault in terms of federal appointments.
But those who have vowed to make Nigeria ungovernable for the president have contrived to make his tenure a bloody one in spite of his peaceful nature. And on 19 July, 2012 another impeachment alarm blared again on the floor of the House of Representative. This time from the Minority Leader Femi Gbajabiamila who warned with stern faced seriousness that, “if by September 18, the budget performance has not improved to 100 percent, we shall begin to invoke and draw up articles of impeachment against the President.” Femi Gbajabiamila talked tough and meant every syllable of his statement.
Despite his tough mien and stance, he failed to fully understand the spirit and character of the Nigerian constitution which he understands only vaguely. The Nigerian constitution is a very sacred and compact document. It is not a document for trivialities and inanities. In fact, it is not a play thing.
Section 143 (1) of Nigeria’s 1999 constitution states inter alia: The President or Vice-President may be removed from office in accordance with the provisions of this section. Section 143 (2) states thus: whenever a notice of any allegation in writing is signed by not less than on-third of the members of the National Assembly.
Section 143 (2b) states that the holder of the office of President or Vice President is guilty of GROSS MISCONDUCT in the performance of the functions of his office, detailed particulars of which shall be specified.
This impeachment plan is a calculated ploy not only to embarrass and ridicule the President but also to impugn the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And so what is the GROSS MISCONDUCT on the part of the President in a budget that was even delayed and released by the National Assembly on March 17, 2012 which was signed into law on April 13, 2012. And the threat emanated from the House on July 19, 2012 exactly three months after the budget came into force. Does Gbajabiamila expect the budget to be 100% implemented in just three months after the Presidents final signature?
The legal life span of a nation’s budget is normally 12 months if it is released in January as it is supposed to be. Most economically advanced countries complete their budget rituals early in January of the budget year which takes four quarters to implement. But what magic can we expect when our budget was passed in the 2nd quarter of the budget year? Time there was when our budgets were passed and signed in January of the budget year. But not anymore, a lot of wrangling, horse trading and selfish considerations are always drummed up to delay the approval of the budget before signature to give it legal teeth.
Perhaps the Reps have forgotten that drawing up a budget plan is the easiest aspect of budgeting. Its implementation is another ball game which depends on various factors and circumstances. For instance, the problems of budget implementation are as varied from one country to the other, especially in developing countries. These include inadequate budget monitoring facilities, lack of proactive planning, long delays in passage between the Presidency, National Assembly and the ministries supplying the data.Even though all the aforementioned factors play vital roles in budget implementation, budget planning for implementation is the most challenging especially in developing countries. This is more so because there are no project plans readily available even when budgets have been signed into law. Another vital problem is that project implementation could be more tedious and takes longer time than as in the budget plan especially in ueveloping countries where infrastructure and budget implementation mechanism are thwarted by underdevelopment and a weak technological base.
It is very pertinent to state here that those who go to equity must do so with clean hands. It is highly regrettable to say that members of the House of Representatives have mostly emeshed themselves in one form of corruption scandal or another. The most recent cases of scandal and corruption involving Herman Hembe, Farouk Lawan and most recently, allegation that Femi Gbajabiamila himself was a criminal when he was struggling in America. Of course no house built on a faulty foundation can stand. The present House of Representatives under Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal was built on a fraudulent foundation where so much happened to produce the leadership. Money will continue to be the name of the game in the House of Reps.
Perhaps they can redeem their pride by taking a cue from the political maturity being daily displayed by the Nigerian Senate. The Nigerian Upper House has demonstrated so much political depth that the Nigerian Senate today stands so tall as a stabilizing factor in the socio-political development and unity of the Nigerian State. Senate president, David Mark and the Senate leadership have shown great signs of intellectual growth and political maturity in leading the Nigerian Senate to such glorious and lofty heights with members full of integrity and decorum. Kudos to the S enate leadership and the entire senate. Our Reps have a lot to learn from Nigeria’s senators.
•Nanaghan wrote from Lagos, Nigeria. •E-mail: [email protected]