Posted by Taye Obateru, Jos on
For the umpteenth time within two years, another attempt was made last Thursday to get the Plateau State House of Assembly to initiate an impeachment move against Governor Joshua Dariye.
For the umpteenth time within two years, another attempt was made last Thursday to get the Plateau State House of Assembly to initiate an impeachment move against Governor Joshua Dariye. Just like the ones before it, the attempt did not succeed as two of the eight legislators driven from detention in Abuja to Jos to carry out the ‘plot’ distanced themselves when it mattered most. Our man on ground captured what transpired.
Call it an attempted coup or whatever, and you may not be far from right. But as in such plots, the motive was to get someone out of office or at least set this in motion. The process of impeaching a state governor, according to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, begins with the serving of an impeachment notice by one-third of members of the legislature of the state.
For Plateau, which has 24 members, eight of them are required to do this and whoever was behind the plan actually took eight legislators to the House amidst tight security to set this in motion, but something again went wrong. Two of the eight distanced themselves from the plot and staged a walk out, making it impossible for what the other six did to stand.
As early as 6.am that Thursday, it was obvious that something unusual was about to happen in the state capital following the large presence of anti-riot policemen at strategic places. An armed personnel carrier and two lorry loads of policemen stationed at key locations leading to the house were also indicative that a serious business was at hand. News soon filtered out that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, was bringing some members of the House to start an impeachment move against Governor Joshua Dariye. Moments later, another version came that the EFCC operatives were in the House to conduct a search in furtherance of their investigations against members. But by 1.pm when the eight legislators were ushered into the chambers to commence sitting, any doubts about their mission disappeared.
The six members led by a protem Speaker in the person of Mr. Michael Dapialong, a known ally of Deputy Senate President, Alhaji Nasiru Mantu, suspended the House rules to discuss a matter of urgent importance and dug up the allegations against Dariye. Six of them supported the move to send the allegations to him (Dariye) to defend himself against them. But, probably realizing the implication of the shortfall in the number in view of the required number for an impeachment notice, the members played smart by not declaring that they were serving Dariye with an impeachment notice, but resolved to forward allegations of financial misdeeds against him as contained in an earlier letter from the former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Akin Olujimi, for his response.
The eight legislators were literally shepherded in and out of the Assembly chambers by stern-looking security men but two of them, Pam Dongs representing Jos South and Peter Azi representing Jos North (North) spoilt the show. They did the ‘Diya style’, capitalizing on the presence of journalists to denounce the plot and walked out. They also spoke to journalists on how they were herded into vehicles and driven to Jos as they were led out of the House into the car to the discomfiture of the security men who quickly dragged them into the waiting vehicles.
The presence of the state Police Commissioner, Mr Ibiyinka Kayode and the manner gunshots were fired into the air to disperse hundreds of Dariye’s supporters who besieged the House to protest what they called an attempt to force the legislators to initiate an impeachment move underscored the seriousness of the ‘assignment’. On Friday, the commissioner also personally led a team that stopped a press conference by Dariye’s supporters at the NUJ Press Centre where tear gas was fired to disperse the crowd. Some members of the crowd in anger pelted the policemen with missiles damaging some of the vehicles around.
In addition, the Kalwa House State Secretariat of the Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD) was sealed off that Friday with police barring people from going in or out of the premises. Reason for the seal off was unclear at press time. The same building was sealed off for several months following disputations over whether the ‘Dariye PDP’ or the ‘Mantu PDP’ was the authentic one. The office was vacated only after the members of the ‘Dariye PDP’ decamped en masse to the ACD. Some are interpreting it as a prelude to further developments in the present ‘plot’ to get Dariye out of Government House. He, like a cat with nine lives, has managed to hang on despite series of moves to get him out. But will he survive the current onslaught?
Sunday Vanguard learnt that Thursday’s move was a manifestation of the frustration of those bent on getting the governor out as they have found it difficult to get the required number of members of the House to, as they say, “do what is right”. From cajoling to persuasion and outright threat and intimidation, the members were said to have remained “stubborn” and uncooperative with the plot to remove Dariye. It was learnt that the recent arrest and arraignment of the legislators was thought to be a ‘joker’ which would make them ‘fall in line’ but with what happened on Thursday, it was obvious that many of them were yet to be ‘persuaded’.
Some political analysts in the state feel that the attempt to remove Dariye at all costs even when his tenure expires in a few months was an indication that the issue had gone beyond the corruption charges against him. A lecturer in the Department of Political Science of the University of Jos who spoke to Sunday Vanguard on condition of anonymity noted that the seeming desperation to remove him before the general elections was suggestive that someone was not comfortable with his presence in the Rayfield Government House during the elections.
According to him, “if the man cannot be arrested and arraigned because he currently enjoys immunity, why not wait for him to complete his tenure in about eight months time and then go after him? Why the desperation to remove him now? This has tended to support the notion held by some that some powerful people who are afraid of his influence in the state are worried that they might not be able to win elections if Dariye was still around. There is also the issue of the alleged release of some of the House members when they were all supposed to have committed the same offences. Things like this make some people feel that the EFCC is allowing itself to be used for the political agenda of some people. But I hope I will be proved wrong on this point but that is what it seems.”
Another lecturer who saw nothing wrong in initiating impeachment against Dariye, however, advised that due process be followed in line with democratic norms because “if you use unconstitutional means against Dariye because you think he is no good, someone else will use the same means to remove even a good governor in future. That is why we should strive to institutionalize due process and the rule of law.”
But, a former minister and known Dariye supporter, Dr. Jonah Madugu, viewed it differently, saying what is happening was a big threat to democracy and may in fact be a continuation of the agenda by those who want to precipitate crisis in the country to achieve specific ends. “It is a case of the minority wanting to take over government in the state (Plateau) at all cost. Why are Nigerians watching and allowing this to happen? Where are our legislators, members of the National Assembly? Is this how to force a change in government or are we under a military government?” he said in a chat with Sunday Vanguard.
Madugu expressed fears for the future of democracy in the country if things continue like this, especially during the 2007 elections adding, “You saw how women were tear-gassed at the House of Assembly, is that democracy?”
Without doubt, the days ahead are, like a pregnant woman whose expected day of delivery is at hand, full of uncertainties with many more things likely to unfold. What with the reported release on bail of the Speaker, Mr. Simon Lalong and four others who were earlier granted bail by a court but had remained in custody? Will this change the calculation? Will the anti-Dariye group be able to get more members to support the impeachment move? Questions that can only be answered by time.
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