Adamu Muhammad Hamid PhD
Lately Wednesday before last, the Senate arose from a session a group threatening impeachment of President Muhammadu Buhari, citing failure to address the deplorable security situation in the country. Most disturbing among the shameful security failures are the Kuje prison break, Kaduna-Abuja train attack and the seeming wiping of many communities and villages in Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto and Kebbi states. A plethora of articles was written discussing legal impediments to impeaching the president. Though intersections are between political and legal hurdles capable of making the impeachment impossible, the main focus of this discussion is the political hurdles that appear too formidable and insurmountable for the move to succeed.
In the legal parlance, nine difficult steps provided by Section 143 of the 1999 Constitution to impeach the president are there to deal with. Though not the main focus of this piece, let me quickly whizz through the essentials to provide a base for discussion. One, the National Assembly (here and after referred to as NA) has to send a notice to the President in writing stating any allegation of gross misconduct. Two-thirds of both the Red and Green chambers of the Assembly has to sign the notice. Two, within one week, the President and other members of the NA must be served with the notice by the President of the Senate. Three, the President has the right to reply to the NA. Four, 14 days after the notice, both Chambers will have to resolve through a motion without debate that the allegation is worthy of investigation. Again, such a motion for investigation would have to win the floors of the Assembly by the assent of two-thirds of members. Five, the process crumbles if the motion fails to sail but if it passes, then the Senate President shall request the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) to set up a panel of apparently neutral persons of integrity (in his/her estimation) to investigate the allegation. Members of such a panel must not be at the same time members of any political party, legislature or public servants. Six, the President has the options of defending himself or hiring legal practitioners to defend him against the allegations. Seven, within 3 months, the panel shall submit its findings to the NA. Eight, the process stops if the allegations were not substantiated; and if substantiated, the NA goes ahead to adopt the report through a resolution which also needs a two-thirds majority. Nine, once such adoption is declared, the President stands impeached.
A major intersection between these legal bumps and political ones is, at various levels, Section 143 provides that the Senate President plays key role in facilitating the impeaching processes. The reader will understand the political intrigues here casting quick hindsight. Ahmed Lawal becomes Senate President solely on the political favours of President Buhari; would he bite the same finger that fed him? Remember, when Buhari became president for his first tenure in 2015, he worked the political mathematics for Ahmed Lawan to become Senate President. But because he (Buhari) then did not garner enough political waves in the scenario, and Bukola Saraki and Dogara Yakubu refused to succumb to APC’s intense political pressures to give way, they played their cards across several political parties very well and clinched the seats of Senate President and Speaker, House of Representatives respectively. Buhari waited patiently, and before the end of his first tenure, the whole political stage in the country was at his fingertips to toy with at wish. So, with Buhari behind them, Ahmed Lawan and Fem Gbajabiamila became Senate President and Speaker House of Representatives respectively, within the blink of an eye. Now with this huge political debt Ahmed Lawal and Femi Gbajabiamila owe Buhari, would it be easy for them to spearhead a NA that would impeach Buhari. Predictably chances are that behind the scene, the duo would use their influence to douse any tensions that likely to go out of control. And the data evolving from the nation’s political scene is perfectly matching this prediction because in a dramatic drift to change their stance last Wednesday, the Senate summoned the Defense chiefs and gave them 4 months to bring the security situation in control.
It is true that some members of the Senate contemplated impeaching the Senate President. This can be inferred from the public statements made by Senator Danladi Sankara (from Jigawa State) dissociating himself from any move to impeach the Senate President to pave the way to an eventual impeachment of Buhari. In fact, the whole media agendum of the six-week ultimatum for Buhari’s impeachment was dispelled by Senator Gershom Bassey, saying that the six-week ultimatum was not for impeachment but to force the president to act fast to restore hope to the security of citizens’ lives and property.
The impeachment warning at the material time could be nothing but a political tantrum and whirlwind capable of exacerbating the woes of Nigeria. Analysts observed that the processes itemized above would require not less than six months to complete; while by six months from the date of the ultimatum, a new president would have been elected, waiting to be sworn in. So timing is one reason that impeachment is near impossible. Otherwise, where was the Senate during all the insecurity-related atrocities in the nation; they are waking up now rather lately!
The most intricate political hurdle to the impeachment tied to the law is the assumption of a two-third majority at multiple stages of the process. First, for the notice of the allegation of gross misconduct to be served to the President, two-thirds of both chambers have to assent; second, two-thirds of the chambers have to also agree that the allegation is worthy of investigation; third, two-thirds would still have to adopt the report by the panel set up by the Chief Justice of Nigeria. In political science, two-thirds is almost always difficult to achieve; because it means the overwhelming majority. At any stage, the condition of two-thirds fails, and the President wins. And this win would mean a landmine analogous to a foiled coup attempt, capable of having such spillover effect as gargantuan retaliations from the President himself or his well-wishers.
Moreover, at a stage of the impeachment process, as indicated earlier, the Chief Justice of Nigeria has to set up a panel of neutral persons to investigate allegations of gross misconduct. This legal condition also has an intersection with politics. Having been recently appointed by President Buhari without any objection, do you think the CJN would appoint such neutral persons who would possibly, at the end of the investigation, conclude that he was guilty of gross misconduct? Anybody in the Senate who nurses such a thought would require a psychiatric specialist’s assessment. Again, do you think that the executive would be this foolish to allow the political process to go while it just looks on?
Further, why two-thirds would consistently fail to be achieved is because of the character of our nation, designed by our diversity. The diversity in our faiths, regions, sections, ethnicities, political parties, etc., would never allow impeachment for any of Nigeria’s presidents, much less of Buhari. Many of the Senators would vote against impeachment or at best, stay out because Buhari is from the North, or he is a Muslim, or he is Fulani or he is in APC, and the party has the majority in the Senate. Based on this diversity problem, anyone who is the president of Nigeria would enjoy such sectional sympathies from his people in the Senate and in the lower chambers of the NA.
Again, for some of the senators, their initial motives for initiating the impeachment process would fail it. As submitted above, if the real intent for the impeachment was genuine, it should have started at a time that would allow it germinate to fruition. That it was started this late, it is possibly because some of the senators failed primary election in their constituencies, so they now want to create a bigger political confusion in the country. Probably some of them even sought for the party to manoeuvre the primary election process to guarantee their success; that this did not happen, they resorted to the twist.
While politicians in the executive and in the legislative arm of government might be trying to play politics with the security situation in the country, it’s indeed damn too pathetic and requires immediate decisive action from the government. It isn’t likely that anything will change if Buhari is impeached or if he leaves power. The whole precarious security problem of the nation is systemic; that which requires a definite and concerted effort to investigate the roots. The sorry security situation during Janathan’s presidency did not change with the change of power to Buhari; it only changed garment. Predominant during Jonathan’s time was Boko Haram insurgency, cattle rustling and farmer-herder crises. Remember, during Obasanjo’s time it was ethnoreligious crises on the Plateau, in Benue and parts of Bauchi state and oil bunkering in the South-South. A careful observer of trends in the country must conclude that something is actually wrong with Nigeria’s system, which creates a fertile ground for any type of evil of colossal magnitude to thrive. This must be objectively investigated, using the positivist philosophy to nail a finger on the real issue.
Many Nigerians voted for Buhari because they were confident he was decisive and did not tolerate corruption through the opportunities he had as governor, petroleum high commissioner, head of state and chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund. All through these levels, he declared his assets consistently, and when at PTF, he presented the annual financial report of activities of the Fund (which touched everyone in Nigeria) to the Kobo. He was very decisive, which was why he dealt with Maitatsine to a comprehensive retreat, and finally a defeat. Based on this, Nigerians thought he had the muscle to deal with Boko Haram insurgency, which was the major security challenge of the nation since the turn of the 2010s. So they voted for him having the anti-corruption figure and posture in mind. He came, and Boko Haram, to some extent was overcome. But soon after Boko Haram subsided, another Haram’ of similar magnitude cropped up in the garment of kidnap, abduction, hostage-taking and banditry. These evils frontally stared the government of Buhari in the face. After the Kuje prison break, the attack on a motorcade that was to receive the President last few weeks, only yesterday an Assistant Inspector-General of police was attacked near Abuja. This is to tell you how worse the situation gets by the passing day. Now, my point is, even if Buhari goes, so long as our system hasn’t changed for the better by researching and addressing the real issues, it’s possible ‘Banditry Haram’ would go with him, but another Haram would erupt. And It is less likely that armed banditry would go with Buhari.
Analysts and even the clergy pointed out that it is corruption at all levels of government and systemic injustice to the common man that leads the country to its present predicament. Buhari was thought to be that anointed leader who would deal with these major predicaments ravaging the nation. Still, something happened to Buhari, which made him change completely to tolerate open corruption. No one is punished for misconduct, criminals with capital offences are not executed and exemplary conduct is not rewarded. Therefore securing voter registration cards and renewing the card is useless unless among the options presented by the political parties as presidential candidates there is one capable of confronting this monster. Unless the country recruits Paul Kagame as president, the end to our security mess is not nigh.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect WikkiTimes’ editorial stance.