Enugu Secret Impeachment Trial And Implications For Democracy


By Law Mefor

Nigerian Governors have since become absolute rulers. Like ancient monarchs, those in whom all power is vested or, as is more often the case, taken by them, the governors reign like emperors and wield the kind of power not even seen under the variegated military dictatorships.

Although absolute rulers such as the Roman emperors (who declared themselves gods) and Napoleon Bonaparte (who declared himself an emperor), and now Governor Sullivan Chime who now sees himself as the maximum ruler of Enugu dot our history, men of good conscience have questioned right from ancient times why one individual should wield absolute powers. A classical objection to absolute powers arose expansively from John Dalberg Acton (1834–1902). The historian and moralist, who was otherwise known simply as Lord Acton, expressed this opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887 thus: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

While Lord Acton’s text is a favourite of collectors of quotations and frequently used in analogies of climes where power has taken the better senses of its exercisers, Enugu is your best bet if you are looking for a typical case of absolute power corrupting absolutely. The way Governor Sullivan Chime has also declared himself a god and emperor of the state and how he conceived and is going about the impeachment of his Deputy, Mr. Sunday Onyebuchi, the man who resisted all pressure to take over as acting Governor when he (Governor Chime) was bedridden overseas, says it all. Chime declared rather too arrogantly: “I gave him the option to resign. It has actually come to a point where we need to know who actually is boss because we can no longer work together.” Who told him that Onyebuchi is his political appointee?

The impeachment initiated by Chime and goaded by him through the House of Assembly against his amiable deputy is, to say the least, condemnable. To begin with, the kangaroo panel banned the media from covering the proceedings, thus making it a secret trial, which is alien to democracy. Feelers also show the panel is desperate to deliver its premeditated judgment, as a day after it was inaugurated, the seven-man panel hurriedly began sitting, without serving the parties appropriately. Even the way the panel members voraciously descended on the food and refreshments provided by government at their inauguration portrayed them as famished people in dire need of resuscitation. They are: Bar. Franklyn Uche Oraekeiyi (Chairman), Bar. Maxwell Ebele Eze, Bar. Anthony I. Iguh (son of a supreme court veteran), Bar. (Pastor) Fabian Uluakanwa Oko, Perfectus Okwuchukwu Aroh, Mr. Martin Onyemuru, and Mrs. Mercy Praise Anyim.

Although the panel’s chairman said the committee was “not a tool for political witch-hunt”, and that the panel would give fair hearing to all the parties to prove or defend the allegations as the case may be, the same chairman claimed the panel was an investigative sitting and not a public hearing and as such that media were not welcome. Question is: why is the panel afraid of public view of its work if it is such a noble exercise?

The action of Governor Chime and the House has equally brought so much bad blood in the state, even within Nkanu, where the Deputy Governor hails. It is unfortunate that the divisive politics has pitched brothers against brothers, making many to publicly refer to others as political vultures without conscience, for positioning to take over from their own brother, not minding that the Deputy Governor has become a victim of political conspiracy going on in the state.

It is sad that members of the civil society and pro-democracy activists have looked the other way while this show of shame lasts. But like the embattled Deputy Governor himself observed, it is actually not just him, but also the nation’s democracy that is on trial. The kangaroo process is a dangerous precedence that has brought more odium to democracy and justice in Nigeria.

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As observed earlier, the allegations against Onyebuchi are in themselves absurd, spurious, and trumped up in a desperate attempt to get him out of the way in a calculation that obviously relates more to 2015 than to good governance.

Instructively, on this absurd allegation of rearing chicken in Government House, Onyebuchi told the panel: “On the poultry in question, by January 27 (2014), all the birds were removed; I did not know what happened to them, whether they were sold or eaten; I never complained, rather the person who took my birds is the one complaining.” The Deputy Governor also explained that the Governor himself also rears poultry, cattle, and pigs in his own farm unit section of the Government House.

In any case, what this means is that Sunday Onyebuchi’s poultry no longer exists. What then is basis of the charges? Video evidences and facts from the panel’s sitting equally invalidate the spurious claims that the Deputy Governor failed to represent the Governor at events.

It is sad that Chime does not realise that power is transient and that his predecessors who were even less reckless in their exercise of executive powers are not all happy people today. They and Enugu Assembly men do not realise that allowing democracy in Enugu State is even a guarantee of their own freedom tomorrow, for it is the measure of freedom they give/create today that they would receive/live in tomorrow.

Governor Chime and the other governors, who prance the political landscape like Czars, will soon become yesterday’s men, just like their predecessors because today’s men become yesterday’s men by tomorrow. Power is temporary. Men, who carry on today as if they would be in power forever, act amiss; they do not only endanger the nation’s hard earned democracy but like others who choose the ignoble path in the past, will equally come to grief. What goes around naturally comes around.

As for the panel members, especially the lawyers among them, they should find out why no member of the kangaroo impeachment panel on Peter Obi in 2006 has ever been cleared by the National Judicial Council to become justices or SANs.

•Mefor, Forensic Psychologist and Journalist, is Director,  Center for Applied Psychological Research, Abuja.  Tel.: +234-803-787-2893; e-mail:[email protected]