‘Why The Nigerian Ruling Party PDP Lacks Basis To Remove Lower House Leader Aminu Tambuwal’

Emmanuel Jime, a lawyer and a member of the House of Representative on June 6, 2011 moved the motion leading to the emergence of Tambuwal as the Speaker on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). 

Today, Speaker Tambuwal who recently defected to the All Progressive Congress (APC) is in a fierce battle of to remain in office. Jime, a former Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly told TERHEMBA DAKA in this interview that anybody contemplating the removal of Tambuwal is wasting his time. 

He also said that the Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, lacks the power to reconvene the House.

You moved the motion that made Tambuwal the Speaker, now there are calls for his resignation based on his defection to the APC. What is your take on this?

FIRST, let me address the issue of defection. Defection, certainly as far as the practice of our democracy is concerned has become what may be called an acceptable norm of how we have been conducting our business from 1999 till now. As you will probably know, there have been several defections, very high profile defections in the past.     

Most of the time those defections have been from other parties to the PDP. We could recall governors elected on the platform of the defunct All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), governors elected on the platform of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), most of the members elected into the Assembly on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), they have at one time or the other defected to the PDP. 

Every time there was this defection, in most cases either the president himself or the leadership of the PDP poured champagne to celebrate the ‘capture’, so to speak, of the big fishes that came from the other parties. That is why I said I would prefer to take a holistic look at the concept of defection and whether it is anathema to the practice of democracy. And my humble opinion is that there is nothing wrong with defection in so far as that defection is consistent with certain principles. Why is it okay to defect to the PDP? Why is it morally wrong to defect from the PDP?

My reading of Section 68 sub section 1 (g), provides that you cannot defect from the party on whose platform you are elected simplicita. The proviso to that section is to the effect that where there are certain conditions, one of which is that if there is a faction or if there is a division or there is a merger in the party on the platform a member of the Assembly was elected. That is the proviso that, I think people out of either mischief or ignorance, are deliberately refusing to focus on.        

There are decided cases in our country right now at the Court. I can remember three of those cases. One by the Division of the Federal High Court in Sokoto, the second by the Division of the Federal High Court in Ilorin in Kwara state, all of which have actually decided the issue of whether there was a division in the PDP or not. I think we should look at the judgment delivered by these two Divisions, Sokoto and Ilorin where specifically the question of defection, whether it is constitutional, whether it is valid. The message from the court is that so far as the proviso to Section 68 sub Section 1 (g) is available a member can defect. So, I would prefer as a lawyer to argue from the point of view of law instead of worrying so much about morality. 

It is on that premises that I will like to situate the defection of Mr. Speaker from the PDP to the APC. First, you have to remember that when the Speaker read out his defection statement on the floor, he actually referred to the situation in Sokoto his home state and I have already mentioned the fact that the Division of the Federal High Court has held that there is a division in the PDP. 

  Now, the× Speaker being a member of the new PDP which had now merged with the APC in my own opinion, rightly, constitutionally, legally and validly could defect. And that is what the× Speaker has done. 

What about the withdrawal of his security details by the Inspector General of Police?

I think the urgent question that must be asked is when did the Inspector General of Police become the interpreter of the law? The responsibility of the law courts is to interpret the laws. And I understand the Executive has the responsibility to enforce the laws and the police is obviously an arm of the Executive. But like I said, there is no interpretation from the law courts to which the IGP could make the allusion that Section 68 Sub 1 (g) of the constitution has been violated and will therefore proceed to withdraw his security operatives.   

Consistent with the doctrine of separation of powers, why would the police which belongs to the Executive arm extends into the territory of the judiciary and begin to interpret laws? Why would the police extend into the territory of the Legislature by telling members of parliament who is Speaker or who isn’t Speaker, who is a member or who isn’t member? That, in my view is the greatest rascality that we should not tolerate in our democracy.

There are reports that the PDP has directed the Deputy Speaker to reconvene the House before December 3 it adjourned to, has the Deputy Speaker the power to reconvene the House?

Of course, he doesn’t have the powers; we have made that point repeatedly. First, let me refer to our rules. Order 5 Rule 18 of the House Rules specifically has provided the procedure for reconvening the House when we are on recess. And clearly what the provisions of the House Rules says is that all the principal officers of the House belonging to different political parties will notify the Speaker of the need for the House to reconvene short of the period for which we were supposed to be on recess. Essentially, it is only for the public good or public interest. 

The emphasis is that the notice must be given by all the principal officers, not one, not two, not three, all, of them. That is the clear provision of Order 5 Rule 18 of the House standing rules. For the avoidance of doubt, let it be clear that the House Standing Rules are actually part and parcel of the 1999 constitution because Section 60 of the 1999 Constitution empowers the House to regulate itself. So, the House Rules are actually a derivative of Section 60. In other words, the House Rules are part and parcel of the 1999 constitution. So, I do not understand the directive. 

There is no authority outside of the Speaker under the Rules of the House that can reconvene the House unless the circumstances that are spelt out under Order 5 Rule 18 occur.

There have been arguments that the passage of the 2015 Budget would suffer except the House re-convenes before the December date. Don’t you think the Speaker should reconsider this point of argument and reopens the House much earlier?       

People probably think that we are all dummies and that perhaps we do not appreciate when somebody is flying a kite. The fact of the matter is, in all of the time we have been in this National Assembly, if I can recall, except last year when the budget was presented earlier than December, we have never had an occasion before where the budget was presented earlier than December. Most of the time, the budget has been presented even as late as January. So, to make this argument now about the budget is to blackmail the House and create the impression that this House is being insensitive. This is simply a blackmail tool to basically fly the kite and try to literally paint the House by giving it a bad name.

When the House leader who is the leader of the PDP in the House moved the motion for the House to adjourn till the December 3, she, more than anyone else, is in a better position to know if the Executive had any intention of bringing in the budget. 

Therefore for her to stand on the floor of the House and to move the motion for us to adjourn it has to be taken that there was no communication whatsoever that the Presidency had any intention to bring in the budget. This is an afterthought it is all politics and I think members of the public ought to be aware. There is no intention whatsoever for any budget to be presented even if we resume before December.

Why seeking to govern Benue State. You were elected to the House on the platform of the PDP but defected to the APC where you now want to contest for governorship. How do you intend to prosecute your gubernatorial ambition based on recent assumptions that the APC’s popularity is waning in the state?

I really do not agree with this assertion. That is far from the truth. People have to understand that the APC in Benue state is truly a movement. It is a movement that started in 2011 with the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). We have to remember that when the legacy parties, the ACN, Congress for ProgressiveCPC, ANPP and eventually the New PDP joined and teamed up to form this party, it has to be that the base of the party would definitely have expanded. So, clearly APC in Benue in 2015 is definitely not the same as ACN in 2011. Because there is now a greater mass of individuals that have come together to team up in order to form this party. I call it a movement because this is a direct reaction of our people against maladministration; this is a direct reaction of our people against the poor policies of the PDP especially in Benue state. 

PDP has been in governance in Benue for the last 15 years and during that period it is fair to say that not very much has happened in terms of how the welfare of the people has been enhanced. Rather, what we have seen is that there has been a serious degradation in terms of human capacity of our people. I can make the point that when we talk about the fortunes of APC in Benue we have to keep in mind that there is a government in place that has failed woefully, and that there is a yearning from amongst our people for a change. So, if that is the situation, the question then will be that what is the alternative?

You cited poor policies and failure of government as some of the problems associated with the PDP-led government in the state, how do you intend to address these anomalies if you are given the opportunity to lead the state?

The first thing is that one has to understand the job description of the office that one is running for. I have said time without number that there are people running for offices in this country but do not know the job description of the offices they are running for. I think that the moment is here where we can be very clear headed about what we want to do with the offices that we seek. I have had the privilege of working as a legislator for seven years plus. If you want you can add the two years that I did my tutelage as a member of the state House of Assembly. In that capacity I have seen what the issues are because I am connected directly with the people. 

I am very excited about what Governor Rochas Okorocha has done in Imo State with security funds. And my plan is that we will use security funds in the same way that Okorocha is using security funds in Imo state. And once you do that you will hopefully be able to reduce insecurity.

It is embarrassing that in the 21st century our people are dying of water borne diseases. Why is it impossible for government to ensure that in every ward there are at least two to three boreholes within the range of 20 kilometers? We will ensure the provision of primary health care centers at least in every ward. We have 276 wards in Benue. 

What are your chances in the coming APC gubernatorial primaries?

I have very high expectations. Without being immodest I truly believe that I am a candidate to beat in the APC. I believe that leadership recruitment in our country in a time when democracy is beginning to take root must be anchored on the antecedents and record of performance of people who are in offices. It should no longer be an all comers affair. I am throwing up my records and putting up my hands and saying this is my record, I have been here seven years plus and this is what I did with the mandate that I was given. What I am saying is that people should judge me on the basis of this mandate and that if we have an opportunity of a higher office we could even do better. 

What I am asking from my party is a free and fair primaries. However if at the end of the day I am beaten as a true party man, I will be more than willing to contribute my own quota in ensuring that the PDP is rooted out of Benue. 

Source: The Guardian
Tambuwal 2403430552886165610

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