Ondo Impeachment: 5 things we learnt

By Amako Nneji April 29, 2015 15:10

Ondo Impeachment: 5 things we learnt

Following the removal of the Ondo State Deputy Governor, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, by the Ondo State House of Assembly on Monday, and the nomination of Lasisi Oluboyo, the State Commissioner for Agriculture, as the new Deputy Governor, the power Nigerian Governors exert has come under public scrutiny.

Post Nigeria has drawn out a few lessons that can be learnt from the political clamor that shrouded the incident.

1. Deputy Governors are mere political appendages
According to the 1999 Constitution, the Chief Executive is the Governor of the State and is elected, like the President, to a four-year term of office in the first instance. The Governor is assisted in the discharge of his duties and responsibilities by a Deputy Governor. The Governor is empowered to appoint Commissioners and Advisers and to assign responsibilities to them.

A political scientist, Boniface Ayodele, observed that Deputy Governors merely exist and function based on the whims and caprices of their principals with whom they share joint tickets during the election.

    Former Governor of the old Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeife stated that “Deputy Governors are mere spare tyres; they are not a functional part of the Government of the day.”

Deputy Governors who made the attempt to oust their bosses were often kicked out before their intention assumed political effect and disrupted the political calculations in the state, particularly for the Governor who always schemed to maintain his grip of the party structure.

The 1999 Constitution was silent on what roles Deputy Governors were assigned, until the first set of Constitutional amendments in 2006 gave some acknowledgment to the office by asking Governors to cede authority to the Deputy during their absence from office.

Many constitutional lawyers contend that Section 130 of the 1999 Constitution is to blame. It created the positions of Deputy Governor and Vice President as an amoeba, a constitutional parasite without meaningful shape or deep political significance.

Under the constitution, the Governor is not compelled to assign functions to his deputy.

Also, the Deputy Governor, like the Vice President, cannot appoint his personal staff. All the aides of the Deputy Governors are appointees of the Governor. Their loyalty also goes to the Governor, and not the Deputy Governor.

In Abia State, Eyinnaya Abaribe was sacked as the Deputy Governor by former Governor Orji Kalu. In Bayelsa State, former Governor Timpreye Sylva orchestrated the impeachment of his Deputy, Hon. Perebowei Ebebi. Garba Umar, the Deputy Governor of Taraba State, had to fight to become the Acting Governor, following the hospitalisation of his boss, Danbaba Suntai who was involved in a plane crash.

In Sokoto State, former Governor Attahiru Bafarawa and his Deputy, Alhaji Ibrahim Wamakko, had to go their separate ways in 2007. Wamakko wanted to succeed Bafarawa but the former Governor objected. To achieve his motive, Wamakko had to defect from the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

2. Impeachment proceedings are quicker than lawmaking
According to reports, the Ondo State Deputy Governor was kicked out of office just five days after the impeachment letter was served.

Nigerians are of the view that with the same political will Governors use to kick out their Deputies with the aid of the State Houses of Assembly, if same is exercised on good policies, programmes and projects the lot of the public whom they serve will be greatly improved.

It has been constantly reported that most Governors spend months assessing, evaluating and making wide consultations before they implement people oriented policies but, when it comes to getting rid of their Deputies, they can execute this task at the drop of a hat.

Ideally, impeachment notices should be served three months before the actual proceeding starts.

3. Deputies defecting are tantamount to disloyalty
The problems of Alhaji Alli Olanusi, the impeached Deputy Governor of Ondo State, allegedly started when he defected from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

Political experts maintain that Deputies are under the beck and call of their superiors, so defecting to your superior’s rival party is an indication that the two of you are not on the same political page.

According to reports, a few minutes after he defected, Olanusi failed to attend a State executive meeting scheduled by the Governor, Olusegun Mimiko.

In 2010, the relationship between the then Abia State Governor, Theodore Orji, and his then Deputy, Comrade Chris Akoma, deteriorated following Akoma’s defection to the PDP. The Deputy Governor accused Governor Theodore Orji of sponsoring impeachment proceedings against him by assisting the members of the State House of Assembly to commence an impeachment process against him.

In the end, Akoma resigned.

4. Nigerian Governors are more powerful than the President.
From the power conferred on the Governors, they exert much influence over their subordinates.

During party primaries, Presidential aspirants tend to curry the favour of the sitting Governors because they have more influence over the delegates from their States.

Governors have themselves kicked against Local Government autonomy, and still remain the source of funding for the State Houses of Assembly.

Never in Nigerian history has the President succeeded in impeaching the Vice-president, even when the Vice leaves the party from which he emerged as Vice President.

When President Obasanjo instigated the National Assembly to impeach Atiku Abubakar, a Senator from the North East said “Forget any move by Obasanjo to impeach Atiku here in this Senate. He will never get two-thirds majority in both Houses. We have met and we are resolute in our decision.

    “In taking that decision, we have the understanding of some aggrieved PDP Senators. The impeachment will never happen. When Jigawa State Governor, Saminu Turaki, crossed over to the PDP, did anyone say anything about removing him from office?’’

5. Politicking often supersedes the law
A political scientist said, “Once an Executive Governor is bent on collecting his pound of flesh, even the law cannot stop him’’.

In the case of the impeached Ondo State Deputy Governor, the House maintained that the Deputy Governor was impeached “Pursuant ‎to the provision of section 188 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, we the undersigned members for the Ondo State House of Assembly pursuant to our enabling powers under section 188 (2) of the 1991 constitution of the present to the Speaker the following allegations of gross misconduct against the Deputy Governor, Alhaji Ali Olanusi.”

Reports show that Olanusi was not given the opportunity to defend himself against the seven count charge that was leveled against him.