Tambuwal fell on his own sword

By John Okiyi Kalu on 01/11/2014

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Finally, he [Brutus] spoke to Volumnius himself in Greek, reminding him of their student life, and begged him to grasp his sword with him and help him drive home the blow. And when Volumnius refused, and the rest likewise ... grasping with both hands the hilt of his naked sword, he fell upon it and died.

-Plutarch in The Life of Brutus

 

Permit me to start this review from a constitutional point of view given that our constitution, as the grand norm, should guide us in issues like this.

 

Section 68 of 1999 constitution states:

 (1) A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if -

....

(g) being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected; Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored.....

..............................................

Aminu Waziri Tambuwal is no longer a member of House of Representative by virtue of the above stated section of the 1999 constitution and hence cannot be the Speaker of the house or even enjoy privileges of membership . He should therefore not be permitted to enter the hallowed chamber of the national assembly complex on the 3rd of December. Unless as a visitor and citizen of Nigeria. He simply committed political suicide by falling on his own sword.

 

If he has doubts on the legal implication of his defection from PDP to APC he should feel free to go to court and may be prove that he was sponsored by Sokoto PDP as against National PDP. As far as we know, factions in state chapters of political parties affect only state legislators whereas factionalization of national leadership affect federal legislators. Same Tambuwal picked his PDP form at Abuja in 2011 and it was the national exco that signed his INEC nomination form. Not Sokoto PDP.

 

Hon. Aminu  simply cannot eat his cake and have it. He should feel free to leave PDP and the benefits of being a member of PDP. You can't  expect to leave PDP and keep the benefit of membership of PDP. The law does not permit that and in my view, Tambuwal has fallen on his own sword. Let him go to court while we wait to see how the court will rule. But no interim injunctions please. We await a final ruling, for the sake of deepening sound democratic practices in Nigeria.

 

The best way to strengthen democracy is by following the constitution. Otherwise one day soon 5 PDP legislators will impeach their APC Speaker and Governor and ask them to wait for court judgment. Tambuwal knew about Section 68 even before he became a legislator. All he has been trying to do is to find a way to beat it and retain his massive privileges of office whereas he has long joined APC unofficially. Are we going to allow him to benefit from his own voluntary suicide because of public opinion? How many of those supporting him will recommend same situation in Rivers, Lagos or Kano?

 

We should use Tambuwal to set example of how the law is meant to work. That will discourage legislative cross carpeting and deepen party discipline. The idea that a party that failed to win a single seat during an election can suddenly become the majority party is repugnant to good conscience and sound democratic principles. What exactly do you think will happen if all the legislators we voted for as "PDP" decide to join a newly registered "Party of Homosexuals" and make laws for us? Or even "Boko Haram Party of Nigeria". Will you still make same argument you are making today?

 

The IGP should ensure that all privileges due a legislator are removed from Tambuwal without exception. If he wants to remain Speaker let him go and be re-elected and then find a way to engineer APC majority at House Of Representative (HOR). INEC should also follow the constitution and immediately declare his seat vacant. Section 68(g) is up there in black and white.

 

Those talking about members of the house electing their own speaker do not even know that in law you can't rest something on nothing. The house cannot elect or keep a non-member as Speaker. Tambuwal is simply no longer a member of House Of Representative. Similarly, those talking about factions in Sokoto PDP should ask themselves which of the party's structures that spinsored federal and state legislators. For the avoidance of doubt, it is the national PDP that issues and signs nomination documents of federal legislative candidates to INEC. Whereas the state PDP endorses that of state legislators submitted to INEC. Claim of factionalization is only valid for a federal legislator if the national leadership of the party is factionalized and INEC was made formally aware of the factions. While the Baraje-Oyinlola factions remained with PDP it was possible for Tambuwal to benefit. But they are all now members of APC and no other faction exists at the national level for PDP.

 

The framers of our constitution delibrately inserted the clause on loss of legislative seat at decampment to avoid a situation where someone is sponsored by one party to make laws in line with the party's ideology and manifesto presented to the people (and on the basis of which the people voted) and he abandons ship to defraud the electorate by supporting another ideology and manifesto. It amounts to 419 on the electorate. Our constitution is clear that only parties sponsor candidates for elections and hence only parties can canvass for votes based on their manifestos. It was on the basis of this underlying constitutional framework that the supreme court awarded the governorship of Rivers State to Rotimi Amaechi who never went to the public to canvass for votes. It was also the basis that our courts ruled that since Omehia was of PDP there was no basis to extend Amaechi's tenure given that the party was enjoying the benefit of it's victory at the polls through Omehia and later Amaechi.

 

Note carefully that the law on carpet crossing is somehow time bound. It applies for the time of decampement. If Tambuwal had decamped while the Baraje faction held sway he would have retained his seat as a legislator but still go through another election to determine if he can remain the Speaker. In a democracy like ours, modeled after American presidential system, the majority cannot be ruled by the minority without their approval. In America, a single seat majority is enough to hand leadership of the relevant legislative house to a party unless someone in the other party decides to vote accross. In that case he will most likely be sanctioned by his own party. Such sanctions might also lead to loss of seat as result of loss of membership of the party.

 

In the decided case of Abubakar Atiku V AGF the supreme court held that a person sponsored by a political party to power could leave the same party to another without breaching any section of the constitution. But in respect of elected senators, House of Representative members and state legislators the 1999 constitution specifically in section 68(1)(g) and (2) and 109ig) (2) only makes provisions for the tenure of members of the legislature and not that of the executive. The provisions clearly state that a state or federal lawmakers must vacate his or her seat after defecting to another political party, member of the Senate or House of Representative shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if (g) being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party before the expiration of the period for which that house was elected provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or faction by one of which he was previously sponsored”.

 

It is therefore clear that while our law stipulated clearly that a decampee legislator has lost his seat automatically, the same does not apply to a decampee governor and other members of the executive branch. That explains why Governors Amaechi and Kwankwaso are still keeping thier seats after moving from PDP to APC. The Governors and Presidents can only be removed by the state and federal legislators respectively through a process that is well defined in Sections 143(1-11) and 188(1-11) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 

 

For clarity, permit me to reproduce verbatim section 68 of the constitution which is at the heart of the Tambuwal debate  for your examination.

 

Section 68.

(1) A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if -

 

(a) he becomes a member of another legislative house.

(b) any other circumstances arise that, if he were not a member of the Senate or the House of Representatives, would cause him to be disqualified for election as a member;

(c) he ceases to be a citizen of Nigeria;

(d) he becomes President, Vice-President, Governor, Deputy Governor or a Minister of the Government of the Federation or a Commissioner of the Government of a State or a Special Adviser.

(e) save as otherwise prescribed by this Constitution, he becomes a member of a commission or other body established by this Constitution or by any other law.

(f) without just cause he is absent from meetings of the House of which he is a member for a period amounting in the aggregate to more than one-third of the total number of days during which the House meets in any one year;

(g) being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected; Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored; or

(h) the President of the Senate or, as the case may be, the Speaker of the House of Representatives receives a certificate under the hand of the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission stating that the provisions of section 69 of this Constitution have been complied with in respect of the recall of that member.

 

It is interesting to note that Tambuwal never mentioned factionalization of PDP as his basis for decamping in his letter or announcement to members of the house or even during the APC mini convention where he publicly switched parties. It is therefore argumentative for people to ascribe his action to "factionalization of Sokoto PDP". Of course as one time number 4 man in Nigeria he is expected to know that INEC is more concerned with national factions of a party when the issue is Federal legislators and executive members hence he couldn't have broached such reasons in public and make himself look like an ignoramus. It is also important to look closely at Section 68(g) and note that it followed up with merger of the party. Parties are not merged at state levels but rather at Federal level. It is therefore clear that the intent and spirit of the constitution is that only events at the national party level will affect Federal legislators. We are operating a Presidential system with different constitutional provisions governing activities at different tiers of the government. 

 

Could it be that lawmaker Aminu Tambuwal did not know the law on cross carpeting by legislators? I suspect he does but bid his time to continue to enjoy the pecks of office until it became impossible for him to continue without jeopardizing his Sokoto governorship ambition under APC. He had to take the plunge and hope that a fabled "weak and clueless" President will not take relevant actions until December 3rd when he must have secured APC governorship ticket and then create crisis in the house and further adjourn the house till February 2015. What manner of political greed is that? Eating your political cake and still keeping it?

 

Strange politics made in Nigeria.

 

An honest man will simply dump PDP and elect to lose all privileges associated with the "evil" PDP. But not this "saint" of the Federal Republic who for months worked from within to destroy his own political party that sponsored him to office. And now he wants to retain his pecks of office after falling on his own sword of political greed. Nigerians should not permit it because of partisanship or else it will haunt us later. Just like we didn't accept minority PDP members leading a Rivers State House with more APC members, (albeit decampees from PDP at a time of PDP state factionalization) we should not permit a minority party leading at the HOR. PDP has a majority at the house of representatives and should enjoy the constitutional benefit of that majority by producing the speaker. Tambuwal is now in the minority party and no longer a federal legislator.

 

The reason why we have developed slowly politically is because of emotional interpretation of constitutional matters. When a breach favors us or those we support we clap. But when it works against us we pontificate and cite the same constitution. Yet if we allow the law to be applied to the letter in all cases we will develop our democratic institutions faster. There is simply no place in our constitution that says that the Police should wait for the courts to make a pronouncement before accepting the indirect resignation of the Speaker. The onus of going to court rest with the former Speaker if he feels his rights have been breached. Hopefully, he will not be manipulating the courts to issue an ex-parte injunction because there is no urgency involved in this matter. He took a well considered action knowing the consequences. The House of Representatives can continue running without him until the determination of the case. Please no court should lend itself to being used to sidetrack or abuse the constitution.

 

The Police is one of the institutions established by the Federal government for the protection of rights, enforcement of laws and regulations in the country. Section 214.(1) of the 1999 Nigerian constitution directly makes the police force a creation of Nigerian constiturion just like the National Assembly. The operational guidelines for the police are well encapsulated in the police act enacted by the national assembly. According to the Police Act, the duties of The police includes the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations. The question Tambuwal fans have not answered is whether or not section 68(g) is an enforceable law of the Federal republic of Nigeria.

But given that one of the constitutional role of the police remains to enforce the law of our land, and they have done so in this Tambuwal case, one wonders if the noise from various sources is not motivated by partisan considerations only. Asking the police to wait for court interpretation is akin to asking them not to arrest an armed robber until a court directs them to do so. Isn't that a laughable prescription for anarchy?

Just this September, The Appeal Court sitting in Akure, the Ondo State capital, sacked the lawmaker representing Akure South/North federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon Sunday Abegunde for defecting from Labor party to defunct ACN in 2012. His tale of factionalization was dismissed by the lower and appeal courts. Is that not enough "judicial interpretation"?

To grow democracy in Nigeria, we must regard political party defectors as political prostitutes without political principle, morality, conscience and lacking in political ideology to champion the cause of leadership for the well being of the society and political development of the country. This should be a non-partisan view because it ultimately affects all political parties and have the potential to make nonsense of our democracy and political system. It is also at the heart of political indiscipline that has plagued Nigeria since 1999.

 

Posted on November, 1 2014

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