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Although concerted efforts are continuously being made to resolve the contending issues arising from the recent crisis that split the corporate body of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the disagreements among party members has reached a boiling point. Demands and counter-demands are being made by both sides of the faction with little hope of concessions being made on some of the key demands. Already, a storm of impeachment action is presently gathering over President Goodluck Jonathan in the nation’s apex legislature, the National Assembly – a move which has been described as a mere hoax and a bogey contrived to blackmail the Presidency and the Bamanga Tukur-led group of the PDP.
Recent media reports reveal that senators and House of Representatives members, majority of whom have allegedly joined the break-away ‘new PDP’ faction led by a former national chairman of the party, Abubakar Kawu Baraje, are said to be secretly meeting to perfect their plans to initiate impeachment proceedings against President Jonathan as soon as the lawmakers resume from their annual recess. The number of legislators reported to be involved in the alleged move to remove the President are said to be increasing by the day. As at Monday, September 9, 2013, the roll call of federal lawmakers said to have come together under the new PDP group to discuss the impeachment hit 80. Although this figure is said to be very unrealistic at the moment, the truth, however, is that a reasonable number of federal lawmakers are reportedly holding series of consultations among themselves along with some of the aggrieved PDP stalwarts, to see how they could succeed in shaking down the Presidency through the impeachment of Jonathan when the lawmakers reconvene.
It is, however, not clear the grounds on which the lawmakers might be predicating their alleged impeachment effort. What is basic here is that the prime reason may not be unconnected with the indisposition of the Presidency and the leadership of the PDP under Tukur to some of the key demands by the new group.
The aggrieved lawmakers, just like their sympathisers and most watchers of events within the PDP, are convinced that Jonathan’s 2015 ambition – though still veiled – was solely behind the crisis that has factionalised the party. The grievances nursed by most of the lawmakers and their political allies and godfathers within the PDP fold over allegations of imposition of persons, impunity and authoritarian behaviour have all combined to give rise to the impeachment move. It is believed very strongly in the camp of mainstream PDP that penultimate Saturday’s take-over of the ‘new PDP’ secretariat by the police on the orders of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Muhammed Abubakar, was the last straw that hastened the conspiracy to mute the impeachment of Jonathan.
The police boss ordered the seal-up of the Maitama Abuja headquarters of the new PDP following a ruling last Friday by Justice Chukwu of the Federal High Court Abuja that both factions of the PDP should maintain the “status quo” until the final determination of the suit brought by Tukur’s National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, seeking nullification of the existence of the break-away executive of the Baraje faction. The Abuja High Court merely affirmed a similar court order earlier issued by an Ikeja Lagos High Court last week, which also asked the two groups to maintain peace and their individual identities until the final pronouncement of the ultimate leadership of the PDP by the court.
The lawmakers loyal to the Atiku Abubakar/ Baraje faction which broke away on Saturday, August 31, 2013 during the PDP Special Convention at the Eagle Square, Abuja, are reportedly in a desperate mood to win more converts to their fold and to the impeachment plot by the group ahead the resumption of legislators from recess. But questions are currently being raised about the veracity of the lawmakers’ alleged plan and if indeed it is true.
Also, the feasibility of such project is being queried. Observers and analysts of the PDP imbroglio, which includes constitutional lawyers, cognate legislators and politicians of the various divides, are of the view that the proposed impeachment of the President might be an exercise in futility, as, according to them, there is indeed no sufficient basis for such action. They argue that President Jonathan has not actually engaged in any apparent constitutional breach presently that has warranted any legislative action in that regard.
Most of them are equally of the opinion that the eruption of a crisis in the PDP fold and the inability of the appropriate leadership organs to contain the fall-out, to the satisfaction of the break-away members of the party, do not constitute sufficient basis to get the President impeached. This argument was also extended in the alleged plans by the pro-new PDP lawmakers, particularly those in the Senate, to move for the impeachment of Senate president, David Mark, who is believed to be pro-Jonathan, as a prelude to the President’s impeachment under a new leadership in the upper chamber. Most principal officers of the Senate are allegedly not spared in the proposed impeachment of Mark.
Already, the moves for the removal of Jonathan, Mark and some of the floor functionaries of the two chambers of the National Assembly have allegedly been leaked to the Presidency and the strategists at the Presidential Villa are said to be putting heads together to counter any such move whenever it comes up.
Media reports had it that shortly before his official trip to Kenya, President Jonathan had, on getting feelers about the secret meetings to plot for his removal from office, urgently summoned a meeting of his kitchen cabinet to fashion out modalities to checkmate the plot. An unnamed aide of the President reportedly maintained that the alleged impeachment proposal would eventually turn out a hoax or fail outright, if it is carried out. According to him, Jonathan has majority support of the nation’s electorate and members of the PDP. The presidential aide was also quoted to have said that the presidential meeting with Aso Rock aides is routine, as the “President meets with some of his aides either weekly or monthly. For instance, I met with the President purely for weekly briefing that day and no other aide joined us”.
He emphasised that “President Jonathan is not disturbed by the thing that is happening. It is purely political. Worse things happened during the tenure of former President Obasanjo with threats of impeachment, but nothing happened eventually”.
The aid, therefore, upholds that as in the case of Obasanjo, the impeachment rumour will definitely flop.
Most observers of the PDP crisis and its backlash in the National Assembly are of the view that the alleged impeachment plan is a total hoax, first and foremost, and an outright unrealistic gamble.
The nation’s statutes as embodied in the 1999 Constitution as amended was very clear on legal grounds on which an elected sitting President of the Nigeria could be shooed out of his job. Section 143(1) of the prevailing Constitution, states that “The President or Vice President may be removed from office in accordance with the provisions of this section. (2) Whenever a notice of any allegation in writing signed by not less than one-third of the members of the National Assembly – (a) Is presented to the president of the Senate; (b) stating that the holder of the office of President or Vice President is guilty of gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office, detailed particulars of which shall be specified”.
The Constitution also stated that the “President of the Senate shall within seven days of the receipt of the notice, cause a copy thereof to be served on the holder of the office and on each member of the National Assembly, and shall also cause any statement made in reply to the allegation by the holder of the office to be served on each member of the National Assembly. (3) Within 14 days of the presentation of the notice to the president of the Senate (whether or not any statement was made by the holder of the office in reply to the allegation contained in the notice, each House of the National Assembly shall resolve by motion without any debate whether or not the allegation shall be investigated. (4) A motion of the National Assembly that the allegation be investigated shall not be declared as having been passed, unless it is supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of all the members of each House of the National Assembly. (5) Within seven days of the passing of a motion under the foregoing provision, the Chief Justice of Nigeria shall, at the request of the president of the Senate, appoint a panel of seven persons who in his opinion are of unquestionable integrity, not being members of any public service, legislative house or political party, to investigate the allegation as provided in this section; (6) the holder of an office (of the President) whose conduct is being investigated under this section shall have the right to defend himself in person and be represented before the panel by legal practitioners of his own choice.
Paragraph (7) states that “A panel appointed under this section shall: (a) have such powers and exercise its functions in accordance with such procedure as may be prescribed by the National Assembly, and (b) within three months of its appointment, report its findings to each House of the National Assembly. (8) Where the panel reports to each House of the National Assembly that the allegation has not been proved, no further proceedings shall be taken in respect of the matter. (9) Where the report of the panel is that the allegation against the holder of the office (of the President) has been proved, then within 14 days of the receipt of the (panel’s) report, each House of the National Assembly shall consider the report, and if by a resolution of each House of the National Assembly supported by not less than two-thirds majority of all its members, the report of the panel is adopted, then the holder of the office shall stand removed from office as from the date of the adoption of the report. (10) No proceedings or determination of the panel or of the National Assembly or any matter relating thereto shall be entertained or questioned in any court. “However, paragraph (11) of the said Section 143 describes ‘gross misconduct’ in the case of a President of Nigeria as ‘a grave violation or breach of the provisions of this Constitution or a misconduct of such nature as amounts in the opinion of the National Assembly to gross misconduct’.”
Now going by the above clauses in section 143 of the 1999 constitution, political analysts and even some federal lawmakers themselves, have opined that the National Assembly may not even proceed with the purported impeachment of the President, as in their view, there was no fertile ground yet for such contemplation. They also said that most of the National Assembly members are still outside the country on holiday and may require to be properly convinced of such cause of action. For instance, the House of Representatives Committee Chairman on Information and Media, Hon Zakari Mohammed, told newsmen on Monday that “for now, we are talking about the party. Nobody is talking about impeachment. The parliament does not do work like that. Until we come back and sit down to discuss it (impeachment), it will not take place. The parliament is not a place where my views alone will count; it is about the majority views. Such matters (impeachment) cannot be raised unless the parliament is in session.”
Meanwhile, legislators from both factions of the crisis-ridden PDP would like the internal squabbles in the party to be resolved soon, such that it may not eventually degenerate to an impeachment of the President. They hinge such hope on the fact that the series of reconciliatory dialogue initiated by the elders and leaders of the party have the propensity to urgently and amicably resolve contending matters. They also said that the statement by the PDP leader, Jonathan, at the party’s welcome dinner recently for the newly elected NWC, expressing optimism of an early settlement of the dispute was quite re-assuring to both factions of the PDP divide.