Why presidential impeachment is a taboo in Nigeria

0
27
*Buhari

Azuka Onwuka

Between 1999 and 2007 (eight years), five Senate presidents emerged from the five South-East states: one from each of the states. It is a point used to ridicule the South-East geopolitical zone as incapable of working as one. But those who make that argument miss the underlying point in that scenario.

Between 2007 and 2019, a period of 12 years, one person from the South-East, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, was the Deputy Senate President. The South-East ensured that he was not removed or replaced. No Senate President or Deputy Senate President or Speaker has stayed that long in office in Nigeria.

What was different between the two periods? Between 1999 and 2007, an overbearing president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, was in power. He interfered with the legislature and ensured that he had a say on who became the Senate president or Speaker of the House of Representatives. But there was another stronger reason. The Senate presidency was zoned to the South-East by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party. Therefore, the people knew that if an incumbent Senate president was removed, another South-East senator would still become the president.

Before the Senate president emerged in 1999, many South-East senators had argued that all the Senate presidents and Speakers that had emerged from the South-East all came from Anambra State: Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dr. Nwafor Orizu, Chief Edwin Ume-ezeoke, and Chief Agunwa Anaekwe. Therefore, even though Senator Chuba Okadigb was the most popular senator from the South-East in 1999, he was bypassed for Senator Evans Enwerem because he was from Anambra and also was not favoured by Obasanjo. But each time a new Senate president was elected, he was chosen from a fresh South-East state, until the five states from the zone tasted the Senate presidency. It was, therefore, a case of the head of the he-goat being in the bag of the he-goat!

Between 2007 and 2015, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua and Dr Goodluck Jonathan, who were more democratically minded, were in power and exerted little or no pressure on the legislature concerning who should be their leaders. Senator David Mark had a smooth tenure as Senate president for two terms, assisted by Senator Ike Ekweremadu. No attempt was made to impeach them. The only person that faced some pressure was the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, who opposed the presidency of Jonathan and later defected from the then ruling PDP to the opposition All Progressives Congress.

Between 2015 and 2019, Senator Bukola Saraki was Senate president, assisted by Ekweremadu. Another non-democrat, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), was in power as president. He exerted enormous pressure on the Senate leadership from the day Saraki and Ekweremadu were elected against his wish. But Saraki and Ekweremadu served out their tenure. On Ekweremadu, no South-East senator tried to remove him. The reason was simple: The deputy senate presidency was not officially zoned to the South-East. Therefore, if Ekweremadu was removed, it was most likely that he would be replaced by a senator from another zone. Even the South-East senators who were not in the same party as Ekweremadu saw it as meaningless to remove the only top politician representing their zone in the regime of Buhari. Ekweremadu, therefore, became the only Senate deputy president that has served for three terms.

Similarly, even though Obasanjo was not the choice of the South-West in 1999, when there was a rumour that he had died before the inauguration date as allegedly predicted by Pastor Tunde Bakare, which was false, riots broke out in parts of the South-West. Also, after Obasanjo’s first tenure, there was an attempt to replace him with Dr Alex Ekwueme from the South-East, but the South-West opposed it. As far as the South-West was concerned, it was its turn to rule Nigeria. Consequently, Obasanjo completed his second term.

Likewise, in 2009 when it was obvious that Yar’Adua was no longer capable of ruling Nigeria because of severe illness, the North fiercely opposed the attempt to make Jonathan the acting president. They saw it as an attempt to cut short its rightful turn to rule Nigeria, after Yar’Adua’s mere two years as president. Yar’Adua was a Muslim from the North, while Jonathan, his vice president, was a Christian from the South. Consequently, Nigeria had no president for months until the Doctrine of Necessity was invoked by the Senate to make Jonathan acting president.

Yar’Adua was not impeached even though it was obvious that he was incapable of continuing as President. He was left to continue bearing the title of president until he eventually died on May 5, 2010. Yar’Adua’s death meant that the North had lost its turn to be president. It was a bitter pill for most Northerners to swallow, irrespective of party affiliation. Many voiced it out that Jonathan stole the mandate of the North, and he was opposed stridently by the North virtually all through his tenure.

There have been calls for Buhari to be impeached for incompetence, ill-health, tribalism, and inability to protect Nigeria from killings and kidnappings. Recently these calls have been repeated following the high rate of insecurity in various parts of Nigeria. Anytime this call is made, even the fiercest opponents of Buhari from the North oppose it. The reason is simple: Impeaching Buhari means the North losing its turn to be president. The Southwest (Vice President Yemi Osinbajo) will take over as president. That is something that no Northern legislator, especially from the North-East and North-West, will support.

On the contrary, if there was a provision in the constitution that if the president is removed before the end of his tenure, that someone from his zone would replace him, there would have been no fuss over Yar’Adua’s incapacitation, neither would Buhari have lasted this long in office.

Impeaching Buhari will not succeed. It will be resisted fiercely by the North. In fact, it is not good for the political stability of Nigeria.

On paper, what should be most important in deciding who should lead a country at any point in time is the capacity or competence of the person. But in Nigeria, it is not all about competence. Ethnicity and religion play a huge part. These two issues cannot be discountenanced.

Nigerians are primarily loyal to their ethnicity and religion and secondarily loyal to Nigeria. Any attempt to deny them the presidency is seen as an act of war that must be resisted. That is why it will be virtually impossible to impeach a sitting president or vice president.

If Nigerians want to have the possibility of having their president or vice president resign or get impeached, they must insist that it be added to the constitution that whenever a president or vice president resigns or is impeached, someone from the same zone as the president or vice president will replace him or her. This means that there will be two vice presidents: one from the zone of the president and another from another zone.

There is no gainsaying that Buhari has been a huge failure as president of Nigeria. But calling for his impeachment is a waste of time. It will never happen. It is not even healthy for Nigeria that he be impeached. Nigeria is already facing many problems for another to be added to the mix.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here