Nigeria: Politics Without Character

The inspiration for this piece is derived largely from the politics of the absurd that is currently playing out in Bauchi State, located in the North East geopolitical zone of the country. In the last couple of weeks, the Deputy Governor of the State, Alhaji Muhammed Garba Gadi had been under the threat of impeachment over phantom charges.

Notwithstanding the efforts being made by his traducers to make him a fall guy, every objective political observer of the goings-on in the State knows that he is being hounded because he has refused to cross-carpet with his boss, Governor Isa Yuguda to the PDP. It will be recalled that in 2007, Mallam Yuguda, a stalwart of the PDP was denied the governorship ticket of the party, having fallen out of favor with Alhaji Adamu Muazu, the incumbent Governor at the time.

It was a most intriguing political development as both Yuguda and Muazu were known to be close friends. The friendship was believed to have transcended politics. But for reasons that are yet undisclosed, Muazu turned his back on the governorship aspiration of Yuguda on the platform of the PDP, notwithstanding that Yuguda had in the run up to the elections in 2007 served as the Minister of Aviation on the platform of the PDP.

Yuguda, obviously dissatisfied with the treatment he received in the hands of his friend, moved over to the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), sought and got its ticket which enabled him to participate in the governorship election. He got Alhaji Muhammed Garba Gadi to run with him. This was not without much pressurizing, as Alhaji Gadi had by then secured the ticket of the ANPP to contest for the Azare senatorial seat.

Given the indecent manner in which Yuguda was treated by the PDP, he attracted the sympathy of the entire people of Bauchi who swore to disgrace the party at the polls. During the election, the people made good their vow to reject the PDP, as the rival ANPP with Yuguda as the flag bearer made a clean sweep of almost all the positions in the State.

The outcomes of the elections in Bauchi were hailed across the country as a true reflection of the will of the people. There was so much jubilation in the entire State and rightly or wrongly it was believed that democracy had come to stay in Nigeria.

However, in an action that may be seen as complete political somersault and betrayal, Yuguda, last month, went back to his vomit as it were. At a well advertised rally in Bauchi with President Yar’Adua in attendance, Yuguda returned to PDP, the same party that had in 2007 denied him its ticket, without caring a hoot about the sensitivities of the people of Bauchi who defied every odd to return him on the platform of ANPP.

It is convenient to say that this is politics. It is also agreed that there is no morality in politics. But we are yet to know whether there is no conscience and principle in politics. By betraying the mandate freely given to him by the people of Bauchi, Yuguda has lost the moral and political authority to continue in office. He has shown himself to be a political opportunist who is primarily motivated by self preservation.

Yuguda’s deputy, by refusing to cross over with his boss to the PDP has proven to be a principled politician that cannot be dissuaded by filthy lucre. Alhaji Gadi has emerged as a hero even if the House of Assembly succeeds in removing him from office through the trumped up charges which they have served on him as articles of impeachment.

After scrutinizing his activities with a view to establishing any acts of misconduct, the only thing they could find against him was that he collected an estacode in excess of his entitlement when he led the delegation of Bauchi Muslim pilgrims to the Holy land in Saudi Arabia. He was also accused of financing a cultural organization in his home town Azare. Although, he has promptly denied these allegations, this is purely nonsensical.

Assuming, but without conceding that he had committed the offences alleged, these charges within the meaning and contemplation of Section 188 (b) of the 1999 Constitution do not amount to gross misconduct for which a person to which this Section applies could be removed from office.

The Constitution also goes ahead in Section 188 sub-section 11 to define gross misconduct as “a grave violation or breach of the provisions of this Constitution”. There is nothing in the charges against the embattled Deputy Governor that amounted to gross misconduct not even in the opinion of the House.

Also, the fact that each of the House Members had been alleged to have received the sum of N10 million to procure the impeachment at all cost shows the level of depravity and banality to which our politics has sunk in this country.

The man who should be facing impeachment now is Yuguda who violated the provisions of the Constitution by decamping from the party on which he was elected to another without relinquishing the mandate. The Constitution is quite clear on the circumstances under which an elected officer can join another party.

The relevant Sections apply to only members of the legislature at both Federal and State levels. The circumstances under which a Member of the National Assembly can dump his party and still retains his seat are spelt out under Section 68 (g). For legislators at the State level, Section 109 (g) deals with the issue.

These Sections categorically frown at and disallow cross-carpeting. Sections 68 (g) and 109 (g) render invalid the seat of a National Assembly Member and State legislator respectively if the member before the expiration of his tenure leaves the party on which platform he is elected for another party.

It is only in a situation where the party that brought him to office has suffered evident split or has gone into a merger with another party or more political parties. There is no section in the whole of the Constitution that permits a sitting Governor or President to decamp from his political party to another and still retains his position.

In any case, sooner than later this matter will be judicially determined as the Federal High Court, Gusau, Zamfara State has reserved judgment to next October in the case between the ANPP and Governor Aliyu Shinkafi who was sued for decamping to the PDP without relinquishing the mandate given to him on the platform of the ANPP. The outcome of the case will have its own implications for the likes of Yuguda who would want to take the electorate for a ride. For such political opportunists, the day of reckoning is around the corner.

The political drama that is going on in Bauchi has, more than ever before, necessitated the need for a review of the Constitution with a view to curing it of so many defects that have tended to mitigate the principle of good governance. It is reassuring to learn that amongst some of the electoral reform bills forwarded by the President to the National Assembly for passage into law is the one that seeks to outlaw cross-carpeting.

Sections 68 (g) and 109 (g) as they presently exist are opportunistic. They should be expunged from the Constitution. Whether there is split or not in the membership of any party, it should not be a reason for cross-carpeting. Even if should be a reason, the decampee must first lose his mandate.

In the First Republic when the country recorded the first case of cross-carpeting in its political history, the law makers of National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) who crossed over to the Action Group (AG) on the floor of the Western House of Assembly only voted along with AG members to deny Dr. Azikiwe the opportunity of becoming the Premier of Western Region. They did not give up their membership of their party as obtainable today. They would have lost their seats if they had renounced their membership of NCNC.

Our politics need to grow. We must begin to play the game with some modicum of principle. What is happening in Bauchi today is appalling and disgusting. It should be condemned by all men of goodwill.