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Recently, the All Progressives Congress, called on the National Assembly to commence an impeachment process against President Goodluck Jonathan, over the state of the nation. Ademola Adeyemo, Shola Oyeyipo and Ojo M. Maduekwe write on the reality of the call
In a true democratic society, impeachment, no doubt, is a necessary instrument to check abuse of office and other unpatriotic and unconstitutional behaviour on the part of public officers who may have betrayed the trust placed on them by the people.
In other words, no system of government can be said to be a democracy if there is no provision for impeachment of elected officers. This explains why the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria stipulates in Section 143 (11), the process of unseating an erring president.
Is it a Patriotic Call?
Recently, the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) party called on the National Assembly to urgently commence impeachment moves against President Goodluck Jonathan. APC said Nigeria was increasingly sliding into lawlessness and abuse of judicial process.
According to the Interim National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who made the call on behalf of his party, APC believes that the impeachment of the President was a legitimate, constitutional option available to the National Assembly, to protect the nation’s democracy and also ensure the country’s unity.
Giving reasons for the call, the APC spokesperson said: “Since the raison d’etre of any government is the security and welfare of the citizenry, and the present administration has failed to live up to the justification of its existence, there can be no other definition of gross misconduct than that.
“Therefore, the time has come for the head of that government, on whose desk the buck stops, to be removed through the provisions stipulated in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is the patriotic thing to do and that Jonathan’s impeachment would save the country from imminent collapse.”
Also in order to drive home its points, APC subtly employed some form of blackmail by threatening the lawmakers that it would share “with the clueless and feckless Jonathan administration the eternal blame for bringing to naught the hard work of the nation’s heroes past and for crashing and dashing the hopes of millions of Nigerians, especially the youth who are the leaders of tomorrow”, if it does not proceed as urged.
However, the APC was trying to be clever than half when it wanted to seize the opportunity of a feud between former president Olusegun Obasanjo and the president to take on Jonathan.
The allegation raised by Obasanjo that President Jonathan is training some snipers; that 1000 persons are on a watch list and the attempt to declare the seats of five governors of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who left for the APC were some of the issues that the opposition party considered capable of instigating cataclysm for Nigeria if not quickly checked.
However, the above allegations remain largely unsubstantiated or proven beyond reasonable doubt.Although, many Nigerians believe that the Jonathan administration is slow in addressing the several pressing problems in the country; that it has continued to run round in circles over the socio-economic and insecurity problem, especially the Boko Haram insurgency, many analysts see the APC call as hasty, political, frivolous and self-serving.
Even with the myriad of problem facing the country, many people don't see this as a total failure on the part of President Goodluck Jonathan as the APC would want Nigeriansto believe. They don’t agree with APC that President Jonathan’s head must be sacrificed.
According to some analysts, commencing impeachment proceedings at this point in time would, instead of serving as panacea to the myriad of problems which the APC aptly captured, will throw the country into bigger chaos. Apart from the fact that the timing of this call is wrong, it is coming at a period that the nation is trying to bring some sanity into an already overheated polity.
However, since this issue came into the public glare, there have been reactions which show that the APC formula in resolving the current problem facing the country did not go down well with many people.
The Special Adviser to President Jonathan on Media, Dr. Reuben Abati, was quick to react to the party's statement. He stated that: “We have noted with utter disdain, the reckless and irresponsible call by the APC for the National Assembly to commence impeachment proceedings against President Goodluck Jonathan.
“The Presidency totally condemns the decision by Alhaji Mohammed and his party to move further beyond the bounds of honourable and acceptable political conduct with the senseless call for the impeachment of a President who continues to sincerely devote himself to the discharge of the sacred mandate freely given to him by Nigerians.”
Obviously persuaded by the negativity of the opposition's idea, the Senate dismissed the impeachment proceedings against President Jonathan as “utter rubbish,” according to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media, Information and Public Affairs, Enyinnaya Abaribe, who noted that the call lacks merit and as such, the lawmakers would not consider it.
Also, a former Transport Minister and member of the PDP Board of Trustees said the impeachment call was a wild chase and empty bravado that cannot materialise. Babatope therefore called on the National Assembly to ignore the call.He posited that what was before Nigerians and the president “is beyond the frivolities now characterising the activities of a losing, and visionless APC, a party that knows nothing other than to feed on the carcasses.”
A member of the House of Representatives, Dr. Stella Dorgu, described the call for impeachment as frivolous and called on the country’s political class to desist from heating up the political landscape.
According to her, “What has President Jonathan done to deserve impeachment? Has he violated any constitutional provision? I think our political class should stop heating up the polity unnecessarily. Have they read what the Constitution says about impeaching the president?Impeachment process is a grave issue that should not be toyed with just like that. I think this is just borne out of frivolity. Everything should not be reduced to political gerrymandering.”
Also considering the call as not only amusing but insincere, the General Secretary, United Niger Delta Energy Development Security Strategy (UNDESS), Mr. Tony Uranta, said while such call is not new to our democratic system, “there are sinister motives behind this particular one.”
He described it as mere calculated attempt to undermine President Jonathan and his concerted effort to revamping Nigeria, “most especially with the on-going plan to convene a national conference.” Uranta said instead of calling for the impeachment of President Jonathan, “the on-going National Conference should be allowed as a means to provide veritable solution to all the problems in the country.”
Mr. Yinka Odumakin, a top notch of the Afenifere, a Yoruba socio-cultural group, said the APC’s call for President Jonathan’s impeachment was part of the orchestrated and masterminded plans “to disorganise the president, to frustrate the proposed conference and force the agenda of certain set of calibre and power brokers, who have held the nation to ransom since the sixties that Nigeria obtained independence. The call for Jonathan’s impeachment didn’t come as a surprise, but a thing that should give every Nigerians serious concern,” Odumakin said.
Also reacting, a chieftain of the PDP in Ogun State, Prince Buruji Kashamu, said Nigerians should be allowed to decide between what is good and what is bad. “What do you expect the opposition to say about President Jonathan? They have concluded that anything Jonathan is doing or has done is bad.What I want all Nigerians to understand is that those people that are bent on pulling down President Jonathan’s administration at all cost, as if Nigerians have no choice in the matter, are the enemies of this nation.”
How Desirable is the Impeachment?
First, it must be understood that in any democratic government, an impeachment process is always a cumbersome procedure and the situation will not be different in Nigeria.Ordinarily, every motion of impeachment of a president ought to be considered by the legislature on its merits for as long as the process is not abused and charges are clearly enunciated, but certainly, only a motion of impeachment with merit will go forward and a motion that cannot muster support and scrutiny from the members of the legislature will not have any impact on the presidency.
The president's kinsmen are agitating for a second term of office for him, while on the other hand the northerners have the quest to ease him out of office. Hence, an impeachment of the president will easily count as a northern agenda to oust him at all cost. And it will have dire consequences on the nation.
That is why analysts believe that the call by the APC for the impeachment of the President was rather hasty and not well thought out by the party. It amounts to an opportunistic call arising from the allegations contained in the 18-page open letter that former President Obasanjo, wrote to President Jonathan. The constitution clearly says the president can be impeached only if he has committed an offence amounting to gross misconduct.
Without the president having been investigated or found guilty of any charge of gross misconduct, it is rather difficult to pinpoint what Jonathan has done so far that can be said to approximate to a “gross misconduct.” Most of the allegations flying around now are unsubstantiated accusations – including some of those contained in Obasanjo’s controversial letter.
However, the APC should not be totally vilified as many of the issues raised by the party in that statement need to be addressed by President Jonathan. There appears to be widespread disenchantment and disillusionment among the citizenry, which all opponents of the administration are latching on to, purely for political reasons.
But to buttress the point that the APC call was political rather than patriotic, APC Leader in the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, had boasted that the House has more than one impeachable offence against Jonathan and warned that should the PDP go ahead to unseat the five new governors of the APC, the national legislators would react in like manner against Jonathan.