Has the euphoria, which greeted the Muhammadu Buhari administration after 16 years of unbroken rule of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), waned? This is the question on the lips of most Nigerians given the belief in some quarters that the All Progressives Congress (APC) government is yet to turn things around close to five years in power.
The APC had made several promises, which revolved around three key issues – fight against corruption, insecurity and job creation – during the campaigns for the 2015 general election. The party then said that it will bring positive changes in the lives of Nigerians within two years if voted into power. But after four years of its first term in office and seven months into its second term, not much seems to have changed.
While the ruling party had persistently claimed that it has taken Nigeria out of the woods that successive PDP administrations plunged it into, there is no doubt that the discontent that compelled most Nigerians to vote the PDP out of power in 2015, is yet to be addressed and the peoples’ patience seems to be running out, particularly due to rising insecurity and soaring cost of living.
These, perhaps, explains why the main opposition party – PDP – has never failed seize any opportunity to insist that Nigeria is now worse than the APC met it. The party’s criticism of the APC administration got to a height last week, when the Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, called on President Buhari to resign if he has no solution to the security problems bedeviling the country.
Abaribe who was contributing to a motion on “Nigeria’s security challenges: Urgent need to restructure, review and reorganise the current security architecture,” sponsored by 105 out of the 109 senators, said it was surprising that the President was quoted as saying that he was surprised at the rising security failure in parts of the country.
The senator, who recalled that members of the APC leadership had during the campaigns asked Nigerians to stone them if they failed to fulfill their promises, said the time has come for Nigerians to revisit that statement and act accordingly.
He chided the Special Adviser to the President on Media, Mr. Femi Adesina, for berating the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for protesting the killing of the group’s chairman in Adamawa State by Boko Haram insurgents.
His words: “When I was coming to work this morning (Tuesday), I saw a newspaper headline with the caption: ‘Mr. President, commander-in-chief expresses shock at the level of violent crimes.’ In other words, Mr. President was expressing surprise. But in accordance with our Rule 53(13), I would say in pidgin English, ‘Mr. President (Senate President, Ahmed Lawan) this surprise surprised me.’
“You have told us that we should not be partisan in discussing this issue, if you didn’t insist that we will not be partisan, I would have called on the presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, who when the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) leaders complained about the killing of a priest, turned around and said that CAN was acting like a political party.
“Now that we are talking about it here, let me hear him say that all of us are acting like a political party, when somebody is complaining of these incessant deaths in this country. Those who live by propaganda will die by propaganda.
“Boko Haram has been defeated, life is now safe, everything was being done to make sure that the hard work that was supposed to have been done in securing Nigeria was not done because certain people did not do their work and preferred to cover the eyes of Nigerians with propaganda.
“That was why I said that, but let me go on… Mr. President, all the time that was wasted trying to find excuses for wrong performance have now come to stare us in the face. Reality is no respecter of persons and it is the reality that we are facing now.
“Mr. President, we have heard from newspapers today (Tuesday), where you have suggested that we are going to call the Inspector-General of Police, Security Chiefs etc. The fact is that Nigerians will say that we did not elect the service chiefs, the National Security Adviser etc. We elected the present government under the APC in 2015 and the reason why we elected them was that they continued to tell us that they have the key to security and the whole Nigeria elected them in 2015.
“All I am saying, Mr. President, is that we should go to the government and ask this government to resign because you can no longer do anything.”
Though Lawan interjected and defended the APC government, advising Abaribe not to go partisan, the former deputy governor of Abia State added: “Mr. President, in conclusion, yes Nigerians voted APC government into power and that government even said, if we don’t perform, throw stones on us, we are going with stones to stone them for non-performance.”
Presidency fires back
While the Senate Minority Leader’s stand is not unexpected given the fact that the job of the opposition is to put the government on its toes, his position did not go down well with the President’s camp, and as expected, it swiftly fired back.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, who spoke on behalf of the presidency, not only dismissed Abaribe’s call for his principal’s resignation, but described it as lacking any basis or logic.
He insisted that Buhari is tackling the security problems facing the nation as much as possible, adding that the challenges confronting the nation at moment were part of the mess left by Abaribe and his party – PDP.
His words: “Just because some characters think that President Buhari should resign, then they expect him to quit. That call does not represent the opinion of the country. This is the opinion of an armchair critic, known for making stray comments.
“If a leader like President Buhari needs to resign, there are millions of other Nigerians who need to resign, including Senator Abaribe, who unlocked the door to enable the escape of traitorous and treasonable suspects.
“He signed the bond for the court to release Nnamdi Kanu on bail, from which moment the suspect disappeared into the thin air. Senator Abaribe has failed repeated deadlines to return Kanu to the court for trial, yet he has the effrontery with which to accuse someone of failing to the bidding of the law.
This is a man who should have replaced the suspects he failed to produce in the correctional facility. “Abaribe’s party raped the nation and left it collapsing in 2015 and President Buhari is fixing things up all the years he is in office. President Buhari is working hard to keep Nigeria and Nigerians out of the harm terrorists have unleashed in the entire Sahel and Sub-Saharan Africa with the support of Nigerians and our foreign friends, he is going to finish off these terrorists. He alone can do it.”
Lauretta Onochie, the Special Assistant on Social Media to the President, also attacked Abaribe for urging her principal to throw in the towel. Like Shehu, she accused the Senate Minority Leader of colluding with the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Kanu, to divide Nigeria.
Though the presidential aide acknowledged that security issues are sad concerns around the world, she however noted that instigating Nigerians to pick stones and chase Buhari out of office is a call for anarchy.
“Security issues are sad concerns around the world including Nigeria. Buffoon Enyinnaya Abaribe, telling Nigerians to ‘pick stones to stone them’ is out of order! It’s a call for anarchy. To those who listen to him, Nigeria is not Senator Ike Ekwerenmadu. Dont even try it. Don’t! “Abaribe has tried with Nnamdi Kanu to rip this nation apart and failed. When Atiku said there will be more herdsmen killing if Buhari was reelected, who said anything?
How many stones did Abaribe throw? Please throw the first stone. We are waiting,” Onochie wrote on her Tweeter handle. Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, equally faulted Abaribe’s call, saying it was unnecessary and uncalled for. Keyamo, who served as the spokesman of the APC Presidential Campaign Council during the 2019 polls, also said that the uproar that greeted the senator’s comment needed not to have arisen.
According to him, it is usual in any democratic setting for the opposition to find something to discredit the party in power. He, however, said the PDP and those calling on the President to resign know that such will not happen in Nigeria.
“The hullabaloo over the call by the opposition for the resignation of the President is unnecessary. It’s the usual singsong of opposition all over the world. They know it’s not going to happen. It’s just a way of telling government to do more and we in government should see it in that light,” he said. PDP rises in defence of Abaribe Expectedly, the PDP, which took exception to the Presidency’s attack on Abaribe, said the call for Buhari to resign in the face of growing insecurity in the country transcends ethnic, political and religious boundaries.
The party in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the call for the President to resign was because of his failure to guarantee security of lives and property in the country and warned against trivializing the call.
The statement read in part: “The fact that the presidency resorted to hauling insults, hate language and threats against patriotic Nigerians, including senators, instead of addressing issues of security before the parliament shows that indeed, the Buhari presidency has no answer to the litany of insecurity issues under its administration.
“It is instructive for the Buhari presidency to note that the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, whose voice resonated in the chamber of the Senate, spoke the mind of majority of Nigerians who had become bullied, harassed and despondent in the face of escalated insurgency, bloodletting, killings and other acts of violence that have pervaded our nation.
“Senator Abaribe spoke on behalf of millions of Nigerians, who have been killed, orphaned, widowed, maimed, rendered childless and homeless, as well as others who daily live in anguish, pain and fear in the face of worsening insecurity under the failed Buhari administration. “On account of this, the PDP counsels agents of the Buhari presidency to perish any thoughts of harassment, setup, frame-up or victimization of Senator Abaribe, who rose to the occasion through the constitutionally guaranteed privilege of the parliament to speak on behalf of ordinary Nigerians.” Flashback 2013
Whereas criticisms have trailed the backlash by the presidential aides over Abaribe’s call, however, some analysts were of the view that they only did a job for which absolutely loyalty is required. But, there are members of a political school, who insisted that they went overboard. Those who hold the latter view, were quick to point out that aides of former President Goodluck Jonathan never resorted to insults and threats, when Buhari made a similar call in 2013.
Buhari, who was the National Leader of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) at the time, had on May 23, 2013, asked Jonathan to resign over his inability to tackle security challenges facing the country. He maintained that the issue of security was a fundamental duty of any responsible government and that Jonathan had failed to protect the lives and property of Nigerians since he assumed power. “Jonathan should vacate and give way to a competent hand to govern the country,” he said.
Resignation of president: How feasible?
Like Keyamo aptly noted, calling for resignation is unlikely to ruffle Buhari, but a Nigerian president could be removed from office through impeachment. The question against this backdrop is: Will members of the National Assembly, who are dissatisfied with President Buhari’s performance, explore the option? As a containment device, the exercise of this constitutional right by the legislative arm of government is to ensure that the executive – a president or governor – functions within the realm of the constitution and the 1999 Constitution (as amended), in Section 143, provides for a detailed procedure to be followed before a president can be impeached. This procedure is sequential and must be duly followed.
It is a chain of events, which must not be broken at any stage. The sections states: “The President or Vice President may be removed from office whenever a notice of any allegation in writing signed by not less than one-third of the members of the National Assembly is presented to the president of the Senate; 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.”
This provision, notwithstanding, no Nigerian president has been impeached. Perhaps, the reason is the ambiguity of the provisions of the constitution on impeachment. If the president is to be impeached, the process will approximately take five months.
While many, have over time, questioned this, the answer is not farfetched as Section 143(1) of the constitution provides that the process of the impeachment of the president can only commence whenever a notice of any allegation in writing signed by not less than one-third of members of the National Assembly is presented to the President of the Senate; 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.
It is after this notice that the Senate President, can within seven days, cause a copy of the notice to be served on the president and on each member of the National Assembly as well as also cause any statement made in reply to the allegation to be served on the legislators.
The next step is that the National Assembly, must within 14 days of the presentation of the notice, resolve by motion without any debate whether or not the allegation should be investigated.
A motion that the allegation be investigated would not be declared as having been passed, unless it was supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of all the members of each House of the National Assembly.
After this, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) will at the request of the Senate president 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 and within three months of its appointment, report its findings to each House of the National Assembly.
Where the panel reports that the allegation has not been proved, no further proceedings will be taken in respect of the matter.
However, should the report has is that the allegation against the president has been proved, the National Assembly will then within 14 days of its receipt, consider it, and if by a resolution supported by not less than two-thirds majority of all its members, the report is adopted, the president stands removed from office as from the date of the adoption of the report.
No doubt, it would be herculean for the opposition to get President Buhari to quit, but it is pertinent that his administration be reminded that the deterioration of every government begins with the decay of the principle on which it was founded.