10th November, 2014
By Gboyega Akosile
I have tried in vain to refrain from commenting on the current political activities in the country for some personal reasons. Majorly among those reasons is the lack of understanding of the subject matter usually exhibited by some elements in the society, no matter how hard one tries to drive home one’s message.
So much has been said about the subject of insecurity of life and property since the inception of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. Some have described the President as clueless, while others have strongly defended his inaction, tepid and lack-lustre attitude in addressing insurgency in parts of the north.
Some others have attempted to rationalize the president’s approach towards the fight against Boko Haram, his comments on corruption and the administration’s divisive method among numerous issues. I have had to listen to different arguments for and against the present administration particularly at the level of North-South dichotomy and the Muslim-Christian rationality!
Interestingly not much has been espoused on how such debates would translate to good governance, infrastructure development and real transformation for Nigeria and Nigerians!
I must say that we live in very interesting times because the majority of Nigerians seem to have lost what should be the drift of developmental discourse. We talk mostly about individuals and political affiliations rather than the real issues that affect us as a people.
Government is very smart. After all, it’s been alleged that the country’s leadership is populated by charlatans who are only after their welfare and that of their immediate families. Most of these people I can affirm here are insecure about what the future holds for them. My little relationship with politicians and political actors has shown that they are more insecure than the average Nigerian whose daily income depends largely on the work of his hands. Truly speaking, this accounts for why many of them who are opportune to be in power, cling to it as a matter of life and death! A state of insecurity usually leads to that of desperation. There is desperation in Nigeria! Desperation is what usually leads a man to take irrational action even when he has a better option before him or how can we define the recent action of the police following the defection of Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Speaker Federal House of Representatives?
Millions of discerning Nigerians had long known that Tambuwal was merely in PDP on paper. His soul belonged elsewhere. One did not need a soothsayer to say the Speaker no longer enjoyed his stay in PDP shortly after he vied for the position of Speaker against the wish of the PDP top hierarchy. A short reminder on how Tambuwal emerged as the Speaker would help. Tambuwal defeated the preferred candidate of the PDP having ridden on the back of the then ACN and CPC members along with his own friends and associates in PDP. This had set the tone for what remained a strained relationship between Tambuwal and the PDP on one hand and Presidency on the other hand.
Against all odds, he had emerged as the speaker in accordance with the governing rules of the House. No doubt, he has remained the most stable speaker of the House of Representatives in Nigeria’s chequered political history.
I really don’t know whether the majority of Nigerian political watchers would have been taken aback by Tambuwal’s 28 October defection to the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC but I know that he did not surprise me and a host of my friends. His defection was long expected.
We should note that politics is local. You can be successful as a politician only when you are connected to your local or immediate constituency. So it would be most politically unreasonable if not to the point of absurdity for Tambuwal, who is a governorship hopeful and whose state governor along with over eighty percent of the populace in Sokoto had joined APC to remain in PDP! Truly speaking, I had known that it was just a matter of time for Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal to cross over to the APC.
In what appeared a landmark move, the speaker announced his defection to the opposition political party. To some of us, our democracy is truly being tested, while others view it differently. I personally align with the popular belief that nothing is permanent in politics. After all, we have seen people you could describe as sworn political enemies yesterday who have become close associates today. There is a long list of that in Nigeria. The latest is Governor Rauf Aregbesola and his predecessor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, former Governors Segun Oni and Dr. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State.
The news of the withdrawal of Speaker Tambuwal’s security aides by the Inspector General of Police came as a rude shock. Never would I have imagined that happening in today’s Nigeria. It struck me as though we had returned to the 18th century Nigeria! This is the 21st century I reckon. No, it can’t be. The IGP couldn’t have done that. I needed a confirmation. After a few telephone calls, I got my story confirmed.
Not long after I had confirmed the story, the police issued a press statement to tell Nigerians why it acted in such manner. It was at that point that I broke down. Unsure of what to do next, I picked up the constitution, read the relevant sections and sought further clarifications from lawyer friends.
Section 68 (g) of the 1999 Constitution says: “A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected; provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored.”
One thing that came out in clear terms from everyone I interacted with on this subject is that the police cannot interpret the constitution. No, it is illegal, unconstitutional and ultra vires! The IGP is wrong in issuing a directive for the withdrawal of Tambuwal’s security aides. The police have a right to withdraw the speaker’s aide after the appropriate judicial pronouncements!
I went back in times to check whether there had been such action by the police and interestingly, there was a very recent defection by Governor Mimiko of Ondo State, who defected from Labour Party to the ruling PDP! Governor Mimiko did not go alone; he went with his entire cabinet and the legislature including the speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly, Mrs Jumoke Akindele.
The simple question is: why did Mr. Suleiman Abba-led police not withdraw Jumoke Akindele’s security aides citing the same section 68 (g) of the constitution? Why this selective persecution and glaring double standards by the IGP?
As expected, the media has been awash with lawyers, politicians and social commentators passing votes of no confidence on Mr. Abba-led police. But I refuse to join the bandwagon in outright condemnation of the police. I would rather tilt a little and lean on our immediate history and precedence.
Between year 2005 to 2007 the former President Olusegun Obasanjo deployed all the state apparatus including the Police, EFCC, ICPC and SSS in various degrees but in a constitutional manner to quash the presidential ambition of his deputy, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Some Nigerians condemned in strongest terms at the time what appeared to most people who did not like Atiku Abubakar as a good move. I remember telling friends that it was not about Atiku Abubakar but the office he occupied as the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. A dogged fighter, Atiku was in and out of the court till he got justice! Although the former Vice President got judicial protection, the way it played out at the time was a mockery of government institutions. A bad precedent was also set for the Nigerian political space. The president can attempt to subvert constitutional provisions through the instrumentality of the state to settle political scores.
The present face-off between Tambuwal and his former political party on one hand and the presidency on the other hand appeared to have followed the same pattern that the former president employed in dealing with his co-presidential traveller! The only difference here is that the Executive is separated from the legislature.
Thankfully, the law has taken its course. The court has said that Abba erred in law by withdrawing the security detail of the Speaker when he has not been removed from office. One can only hope that some lessons would have been learned by the police as well as other agencies of government that politicians may attempt to use to subvert the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Let aggrieved parties in political and constitutional disputes walk the path of honour and save Nigeria from ignoble approach to settlements. This is taking a negative toll on the psyche of everyone especially the generations coming behind us.
Nigeria has suffered too much leadership crisis. The latest action of the police is not only an embarrassment to the nation and the citizens but a further confirmation of a Nigeria where anything goes.
There is no doubt that the police boss’ action is fallout of the ruling party’s insecurity about what may happen next at the Lower Chamber of the legislature. However, pitiable their situation may appear, desecrating the country’s government institutions should be discouraged. Mr. Suleiman Abba, kindly restore Mr. Speaker’s security detail without further delay as ordered by the Federal High Court!
•Akosile wrote from Lagos