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The impeachment of Murtala Nyako, erstwhile governor of Adamawa State and the aborted impeachment bid against Governor Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State have further set the stage for more intrigues between the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its archrival, the All Progressives Congress (APC), with state legislators as ‘the pawn’. Pundits believe that the outcome of this fledging ‘war’ could prove decisive in the 2015 general elections.
By Olisemeka Obeche
With the epic 2015 elections fast-approaching and options for power consolidation limited, the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) appears to have resorted to the instigation of impeachment against the All Progressives Congress (APC)–controlled states’ governors as a grand design for whittling down the power of the latter in those states. Indeed, in the past few weeks, the PDP has used its numerical advantage in some state Houses of Assembly to threaten APC Governors with impeachment. APC Governors who could not muster enough loyalists in their state. Houses of Assembly have suddenly become susceptible to impeachment plot hatched by the PDP.
Expectedly, Adamawa State governor, Vice Admiral Murtala Nyako (rtd), became the first major casualty of the PDP-APC power-play. Nyako was on July 15 impeached by 18 out of 24 members of the state House of Assembly for his alleged ‘gross misconduct’, despite his effort to evade the legislative hammer.
Although, the former governor had mobilized a team of seasoned lawyers to contest his ouster in the court, he has since been placed on the wanted list of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged mismanagement of public funds, an indication that his ordeals is far from over.
And taking a cue from their Adamawa counterparts, Nasarawa State legislators recently turned impeachment sword on Governor Tanko Umaru Al-Makura. The legislators officially kick-started an impeachment proceeding against Governor Al-Makura on July 14 through a motion of public interest initiated by the Deputy Majority Leader of the House, Mr. Yahaya Usman (PDP-Umaisha/Ugya) alongside a signed document during plenary in Lafia. “For violating the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, today being the 14th day of July, 2014, the 20 members of the 24 members of this House unanimously endorsed to serve Governor Tanko Al-Makura notice of impeachment,” Usman said.
There was a spontaneous reaction to the action as the people of Nassarawa State turned out in large number to protest the plot to impeach Al-Makura.
Reprieve for Al-Makura
However, Al-Makura got a reprieve on August 5, when the seven-man investigative panel set up by the Chief Judge of Nasarawa State, Justice Umar Dikko, dismissed the allegations levelled against him by the state House of Assembly. The panel said it did not find any proof of the 16 counts levelled against the governor by the Assembly.
The Chairman of the committee, Yusuf Usman, said the report on their findings would be sent to the Speaker of the assembly, Musa Mohammed. Usman pointed out that the panel had carried out its responsibilities in compliance with section 188 (8) of the 1999 Constitution.
The governor’s lead counsel, Chief Nnoruka Udechukwu, had earlier urged the panel to dismiss all the allegations because the assembly failed to prove them.
Earlier in his submission, the counsel for the lawmakers, Ocha P. Ulegede argued that the proceedings of the panel on August 1 and August 5, 2014 as well as other subsequent ones were illegal because the committee had been disbanded by the Assembly. He said the sittings of the panel were in violation of Section 188 (7) (a) of the 1999 Constitution as amended. The counsel submitted that the panel usurped the powers of the Assembly to make laws. He, therefore, urged the committee to disqualify itself to avoid a constitutional crisis.
Reacting to the verdict of the panel at the Government House, Lafia, Al-Makura said the dismissal of all the charges against him had proven beyond reasonable doubt that he did nothing wrong in the discharge of his duties as the governor of the state. He said: “There can be no further vindication than the verdict of the panel because each and every of the 16 allegations have been proved to be frivolous and dismissed accordingly. The people of goodwill in Nasarawa State who stood by me have also vindicated me by virtue of my antecedents and relationship with them. Even though the action and process taken by the legislators was a violation of the constitution, irrespective of that, I decided to appear before the panel to defend myself. As God will have it, the very people that accused me and alleged so many frivolous and unsubstantiated allegations against me were not there to defend the allegations. They were trying to make a scapegoat through certain technicalities which were not sustainable.”
The governor added that he has nothing to fear and described the panel’s action as a victory for democracy and the rule of law.
On its part, the APC hailed the dismissal of the allegations. The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, described it as a vindication of the party’s position that the impeachment move against Al-Makura and others in the country was a mere political witch-hunt against the opposition in the country. He said the party was happy that the panel had dismissed the allegations as being unfounded and baseless. Mohammed said: “Our position has been that the gale of impeachments in the country is nothing but political witch-hunt. We saw the gale of impeachments as nothing but part of the grand plan of the PDP to decapitate the opposition. We are happy that the panel has dismissed the impeachment allegations as baseless and unfounded.”
Indeed, the developments in Adamawa and Nasarawa states had sent shock waves across other states where APC Governors are contending with the PDP dominated legislature. Rumours of impeachment plots against Adams Oshiomhole and Abiola Ajimobi of Edo and Oyo states respectively made headlines recently with other APC Governors now taking desperate measures to build enough support-base in their state Houses of Assembly to stave-off impeachment.
Indications that PDP would deploy impeachment as its political tool for witch-hunting its enemy governors became clear last July when the Rivers State legislature erupted in crisis following attempts by some members to impeach Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and his ally-Speaker, Mr. Otelemaba Amachree. The mayhem caused by power-tussle between pro and anti-Amaechi lawmakers culminated in the factionalisation of House of Assembly.
Governor Amaechi became arch-enemy of the Presidency and the PDP national hierarchy soon after he contested and won the chairmanship of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), against the wish of his party. Although, he managed to survive the onslaughts, thanks to the numerical advantage of his supporters in the House, his government is yet to fully recover from the after-effects of the stand-off with the Presidency.
Nyako’s unsuccessful survival battle
While Amaechi was able to wriggle out of the impeachment traps, it was not easy for Nyako to survive his battle due to certain circumstances. Until a grand plot to hijack the Adamawa State PDP machinery from his clutches forced him to join a gang of rebellious Governors mid-last year, Nyako had enjoyed a relatively trouble-free reign in the state. But his political fortunes began to nose-dive soon after the emergence of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur as PDP National Chairman. Both were not destined to be on the same page as Nyako feared Tukur would hijack the state party machinery from him to facilitate the emergence of Awwal, (Tukur’s son) as state governor in 2015. Nyako too wanted his son, Abdul-Aziz, to succeed him.
And by the time a controversial state party congress engineered by the Tukur-led PDP National Working Committee (NWC) produced the Joel Madaki-led exco in Adamawa State, Nyako knew his political career was under threat. Even when President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in some north-eastern states at the height of Boko Haram insurgency last year, speculations were rife that Adamawa was included as part of the grand-design to cage Nyako. But Nyako, relying on his military instincts, preferred to match on, undeterred by the dangers lurking around him.
However, his political fortunes took a devastating plunge when he teamed up with a gang of dissident PDP governors to form a splinter faction (new-PDP) and later decamped to the APC. Although, the crisis culminated in the dramatic exit of Bamanga Tukur as the PDP national chairman and the eventual defection of Nyako and four other PDP Governors to the APC, it was obvious that forces battling him were on the prowl; still hell-bent on pulling him from power.
And he subsequently dealt his continued stay in power a mortal blow when he openly accused President Jonathan of carrying out ‘genocide’ against northerners in the anti-terrorism war. However, he paid the price following his inability to survive his impeachment. Analysts also cited Nyako’s moves to hijack the Adamawa State APC soon after his defection, ostensibly to create a platform for the realization of his son’s ambition to succeed him in 2015, as a major contributory factor to his downfall.
According to Mr. Cliff Nneli, a political analyst, the manner Nyako wrestled the state party machinery did not go down well with other APC political heavyweights in the state such as former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. “It was not surprising to some of us that none of these political figures made attempt to persuade the lawmakers to stop the impeachment proceeding against Nyako because they felt alienated,” he said.
Also cited as a contributory factor to Nyako’s impeachment was his poor handling of the appointment of chief judge for the state. This is because his choice of one of his four wives ─ Justice Binta Nyako ─ as the CJ was not approved by the National Judicial Council (NJC). Consequently, the Adamawa State judiciary has not had a substantive chief judge since the retirement of Justice Bemare Bansi in 2011. Justice Nathan Musa, Justice Bathimawus Popo Lawi (now late) and Justice Ishaku Banu all had brief stints as acting chief judge of the state respectively before Justice Ambrose Mammadi, who set up the panel to investigate the impeachment allegations against Nyako, took up the position on acting capacity.
Close observers say Nyako would have had chance of survival if he had his man at the helm as Chief Judge. “A friendlier CJ would have constituted a favourable panel which would most likely declare Nyako innocent of the allegations and, constitutionally, end the impeachment move,” Chidi Chima, a political analyst said.