By Saadu Umar
“Section 68(1)(g) of the Constitution is to stop carpet crossing. A person elected to [the Senate] on Party A must remain in Party A for the term for which he was elected. If he defects to Party B, that is to say, if he voluntarily decides to change party he must resign and fight a bye-election.” – Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, JSC in Abegunde V Ondo State House of Assembly & Ors.
Senators Lawal Yahaya Gumau and Halliru Dauda Jika must vacate their senatorial seats immediately. These two senators have lost their respective rights and mandates to continue to occupy their senatorial seats at the National Assembly.
Senators Lawal and Jika have automatically lost their seats because of their defection to the NNPP from the APC without justifiable reason and contrary to Section 68 of 1999 Constitution as amended.
Make no mistake, the Constitution has, particularly, forbidden any Senator from changing his political party before the end of his tenure. Where a senator changes his party, then, automatically, he loses his seat.
To show why the above is true, permit me to quote section 68(1)(g), with light edition for flow, below:
“A member of the Senate shall vacate his seat if being a person whose election was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which [he] was elected.”
The opening quote of Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, Justice of the Supreme Court, simply explained the meaning of Section 68 above. Of course there is exception in the proviso to Section 68 which, again, Justice Olabode explained as follows:
“What is the exception? When there is a division in the party. That is to say when there are two distinct arms in the same party with two chairmen, etc then there is a division and defection by a disgruntled member is allowed.
Thus, the only reason a senator like Lawal and Jika may have, to legally leave the APC for another party, is where there is division in the APC.
Unfortunately for them and Undoubtedly, there is no division or faction in the APC. The merger that gave birth to the APC in 2014 is still intact.
Therefore, there is no valid reason for Lawal and Jika to leave the APC for NNPP and still have the right to maintain their respective seats in the Senate. The two seats belong to the APC not NNPP. It’s a settled law. They can’t have their cake and eat it.
Indeed, in his letter of resignation submitted to the Senate, Senator Jika adduced no real reason for his decamping to the NNPP as reported by the Premiumtimes on June 22, 2022. The report said Senator Jika “Gave no reason for leaving” the APC.
Premiumtimes further quoted Jika as saying in his letter to the Senate “I hereby wish to notify you of my defection from the APC to the NNPP whose ideals is in line with my political aspirations.”
Besides, in the resignation letter Jika submitted to his APC Ward Chairman of Kafin Madaki, dated 16 June 2022, he thanked and appreciated the APC leadership for the privilege of serving and for the opportunity of participating in the governorship primary election. Strangely, the “aforementioned” privilege, opportunity and advice from people were said to be his reasons for resigning from the APC. Weird!
To be sure, the above letters of Jika did not mention the only conceivable ground that may warrant his immoral, illegal decamping, which is ‘division’ in the APC. Jika did not because there is no division. No faction. Period. End of discussion.
Truth be told, Senator Jika just defected to NNPP because he lost the APC gubernatorial primary election to the best candidate – Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar – in a free, fair and credible election. A sore loser? Maybe.
Another reason might be because Jika could not be allowed to fall back to his senatorial seat, which he sought after his defeat to AM Sadique, given that Uba Nana was elected as the candidate of the APC in the Bauchi Central Senatorial District primaries and he wasn’t in the mood to relinquish his hard-earned victory.
Similarly, Senator Lawal left the APC for NNPP with no justifiable reason. He, too, like Jika, left because he lost his primary to Shehu Buba – a younger, smarter, more vibrant and the choice of the majority of the primary election voters.
But unlike Jika, Lawal bizarrely, merely mentioned “injustices” to his person and office as the reason for his cross-carpeting to NNPP. This can be seen in the letter he submitted to the Senate:
“My Dear SP, I write to formally announce to the Senate that I, Senator Lawal Yahaya Gumau withdraw my membership of APC and join NNPP. This is due to injustices done to myself and my office during the just concluded primary election process.”
What are the particulars of the said “injustices”? We know not. What we know is that Senator Lawal left the APC after he lost the primary to Shehu Buba. No more no less. Therefore, I think by “injustices” Lawal meant losing a free, fair and credible election! So Sad.
And certainly, the “injustices” Lawal cited didn’t include division or faction in the APC. Because, again, there’s neither division nor factions in the APC. Abdullahi Adamu is the sole leader of the APC; no one is laying claim to his office. APC has only one NWC. One NEC. In fact there is only one APC exco in Lawal’s native Wonu Ward of Toro LGA.
Consequently, since neither Lawal nor Jika is claiming a valid reason for defecting from APC to NNPP – the valid reason being ‘division’ as enshrined in section 68 of the Constitution and interpreted by the Supreme Court in Abegunde V Ondo State House of Assembly – they (Lawal and Jika) automatically ceased to be serving Senators. It is mandatory for them to leave the Senate.
The twin APC seats they used to hold are swept under their feet by the flash flood of their immoral defection. That is the right reward for political prostitution according to the law and Constitution of Nigeria.
However, should the two APC apostates – Senators Lawal and Jika – continue their contumacious conduct and fail to cease and desist from falsely parading themselves as the holders of the two senatorial seats belonging to the APC, we will urge the Senate President to formally and duly declare their seats vacant and equally request the INEC to expeditiously conduct a by-election in the Bauchi Central and Bauchi South Senatorial Districts.
To declare the seats vacant and call for by-election are some of the solemn duties our Constitution placed on the shoulders of the Senate President by virtue of his office as provided in section 68 (2) of the 1999 Constitution. Failure to do so will leave us with no option but to seek an order of mandamus to compel the Senate President to declare the seats of Senators Lawal and Jika vacant.
Lastly I will close by drawing the attention of our senators and the Senate President to the admonishment of the Supreme Court in FEDECO v Goni against:
“… the fraudulent and malevolent practice of cross-carpeting politicians of yester years who, for financial consideration or otherwise, crossed from one political party to another, without qualms and without conscience. Such a practice had to be discouraged if political public morality of our country was to be preserved.”
I rest my case.
Malam Saadu Umar, former DG of BASEPA is a lawyer and the Secretary of Bauchi State APC Media and Publicity Committee. He can be reached at [email protected].