(Vanguard of Sunday, January 22, 2006)
I was telling you last week that the Yoruba had started presenting, in my view, a picture that would make me review my disturbing accusation that they did not produce Awolowo as a nationality group but that Awolowo incarnated in their midst as an individual who may well have emerged among the Urhobo or Tiv. I said I was ready to take back what I said if certain conditions were met. And these conditions were to be spelt out this week until one tree fell on top of another and the need arose that the tree on top must be removed first. That tree on top is the Ladoja Tree. We will therefore have to move why I want to eat my words forward.
I don’t like what is emerging in the South West, what we used to know as the West which earned for itself the descriptive appellation of Wild Wild West. The wildness started in Ibadan when the Western Region was one of Nigeria’s three regions, the others being the Hausa/Fulani-dominated Northern Region and the Igbo-controlled Eastern Region.
With the internal quarrel in the Action Group leading to a combustion that almost swallowed the whole country because, don’t deny it, the problems in the West led directly to the intervention of the military in 1966, it is only the fool who would not be taken aback by the glaring rape that the removal from office of Rashidi Ladoja is. What is wrong with us! Why are we driving ourselves to certain death?
Ladoja has been removed by forces that believe that the electorate, the people to whom sovereignty belongs, have no say, should have no way, but that the rules we have set for operating the system of democracy we have chosen must prevail. The decider is not the courts that the Constitution says should adjudicate on all issues between individuals and individuals, individuals and governments and governments and governments. The decider is he who controls the security forces and is in a position to influence their operations.
We are therefore now operating ruthlessly and stupidly and dangerously in utter disregard of the document that brought all the lawmakers, law-executors and law-interpreters into existence. These are all creatures of the Constitution and they can do absolutely nothing not provided by and in the Constitution. But we have been sucked into so much ignorance of how we came to be that we now glow in the belief that the creature is the creator.
One danger about claims that do not avail the creature is that the Creator anchored His Will into Creation so solidly that in spite of what the creature thinks, it remains a creature and must be bound by the rules settled by the Creator. Turn and twist as you may wish, the rules do not recognize your gimmicks.
It is the same thing with the Constitution. It is the Road Map and what it says is what binds those it created. Abuses of its provisions have a lifespan. And time shall tell.
Within two months, we have had cause to smile, celebrating victory, like the thief who successfully robbed a bank. Hurrah, we removed the Governor of Bayelsa State! Hurrah, we have removed the Governor of Oyo State! The Lord shall be praised when we oust the next person penciled down for removal!
Oh yes, remove those who have breached their oaths of office, but do so in accordance with the rules settled for doing so. I tell you without equivocation, we are murdering sleep the way we are operating the Constitution and those who murder sleep shall know no sleep.
Please remove emotion from clear provisions of the Constitution. The Governor of Bayelsa State was removed on the basis of an interim report. Where is the full report? The Constitution provides for three full months of hearing before a report is finally filed.
Where under section 188 of the Constitution is there a provision for an interim report? None. But those in a hurry to achieve predetermined ends have settled for a precedent that there can be an interim report upon which a governor can be removed in respect of accusations of gross misconduct which had not even been looked into. And long before the House starts its work, the security agencies are there in full gear to protect those who must do a hatchet job.
Nigerians are watching, watching to know where security agents will next move their hardware so that they can chalk off the next victim in this madness to show how powerful we can be in a jungle populated by gorillas. Because that is what Nigeria is being turned into.
In the case of Ladoja, we broke every provision of section 188 of the Constitution. In opting to package materials which would ground the allegations of gross misconduct, we sidelined the Speaker of the House who must receive the allegations and perform the chore so clearly imposed under section 188 of the Constitution. He and no one else is the one who must collect the allegations and send copies to all the members of the House, and to the person accused, in this case the Governor.
There is a time limit for the Governor to respond after which the House must show by a motion supported by two-thirds of ALL the members of the House that the allegations be investigated.
Let’s stop here. The Constitution provides for what is needed in different areas for the resolutions of the legislature to be binding. In the first case, there must be a quorum of the House before any business is transacted. That is one-third of ALL the members of the House (sec 98.1).
The members of the House are there because of what the Constitution says the number should be. The least number of members of a House of Assembly in Nigeria is 24 and the largest is 40. This number is determined by section 91 of the Constitution and is calculated from the number of members of the House of Representatives the State has in the National Assembly.
You cannot reduce that number or increase it through arithmetical manipulations. Which means that if some of them die or some of them have resigned, you must still deal with ALL the members the House is constitutionally entitled to accommodate.
What the mathematicians in Oyo State seem to be saying now, in line with what destroyed the Second Republic in 1983, is that since seven members of the House of Assembly in Oyo State had been suspended, then the number to calculate the two-thirds on is 25 and not 32! Oh yes, we are at it again, and who is moderating this but the brains behind the twelve-two-thirds theory that set back the hands of our national clock.
The fear is not that this manipulation will move from state to state. The fear I have is that is may well be lifted to the national level. I do not know if you can see what has been bothering me. I pray that it stops at the level of daydreaming, but here it is.
There is a third term dream and the problem arises as to how the necessary constitutional provisions can be met. If the Oyo State scenario is a precedent, then why not try it at the National Assembly level? How?
There are 360 members of the House of Representatives and 109 Senators. You need 240 members of the House and 76 Senators to secure the necessary changes you need in the Constitution. With the precedent being set in Oyo State, that the two-thirds majority is secured when seven members are on suspension, why not push those who oppose the third term agenda to walk out of the House and declare them suspended for un-parliamentary behaviour!
That would substantially reduce the numbers in both houses. Move ahead to record the two-thirds majority on the number left and change all the provisions you want in the Constitution, with the police and army waiting to deal with anyone who wants to cause trouble!
That is what Oyo State Assembly has contributed to our evolving democratic culture, and someone is going to point to it as precedent. If you are not worried, I am.
(Published in Vol 2 of Democracy Watch, A Monitor’s Diary by Tony Momoh, pages 85 – 88; Lagos 2008 )