Aminu Tambuwal.
Aminu Tambuwal on the day he was sworn-in as the Speaker of the House of Representatives in June 2011. (Photo courtesy of vanguardngr.com)

Something that started with an oath close to four years ago, has suddenly become a cloak on the shoulders of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, as the statement – “Honourable colleagues, before I hit the gavel, may I say this to all of you. The passion to extend positions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and having regards to the development in my home State, Sokoto State, I want to hereby formally notify all of you of my membership of the All Progressives Congress “, made on Tuesday has caused enmity between him and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), where he belonged.
The speaker, months after rumours of his planned defection, cleared all doubts and satisfied all expectations by ending his membership of the PDP.

The defection may be described as a calculated move, after a possible consideration of all consequences and what the law says as regards leaving a party that created the opportunity for any lawmaker to be in the House of Representatives.

Defection weighed against the Constitution

Section 68 sub-section (g) of the Nigerian Constitution has something worth reading:

“68. (1) A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if –

(g) being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected;

The Clause: Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored;…”

In his defection speec , Tambuwal said he was defecting because of developments in his state, but did not state that it was about any crisis or an ambition to contest as a governor in the 2015 general elections.

Many people have, however, said it was because of the governorship ambition of the Speaker. It may be true.

But one thing they have failed to also consider is, Olusegun Obasanjo’s statement advising the APC against a Muslim-Muslim presidential candidate in 2015. That is, a Muslim President and a Muslim Vice President.

Is it possible that any of the presidential aspirants that wins the primaries or picked on consensus decision will have Tambuwal as his Vice? That could be a strategy, but a northerner and another northerner running may also cause rift.

But the defection of the number four man in Nigeria’s political scene, Tambuwal, has triggered reactions at ddifferent levels,  causing him fears, something that could force a lily-livered individual to vacate the seat of the Speaker with immediate alacrity. Hmmmmm.

But will Tambuwal chicken out?

On Thursday, security personnel attached to the Speaker were withdrawn by the Police force.

After the withdrawal of the security personnel, the police issued a statement indicating that it had withdrawn all security personnel guarding the Parliament Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, the country’s fourth most powerful government official, following his defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the opposition coalition – All Progressives Congress (APC).

The statement was issued by the spokesman for the Nigeria Police Force, Mr Emmanuel Ojukwu.

“Having regard to the clear provision of section 68(1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) has redeployed its personnel attached to his office,” the statement read.

It is the beginning of Tambuwal’s travail to birth another level of his political ambition, but is it something done in the spirit of solidarity with the pay master?

The Clause

The clause in the section of the constitution quoted earlier states that the individual can only leave if there is proof that there is internal wrangling in the party that had divided the party. The decisions about the presence of any division in the party will only be mmade by a court if the PDP sought redress in court.

Late last year, some 37 members of the PDP in the House defected to the APC and the PDP had gone to court, seeking an order for the lawmakers to vacate their seats, having been elected on the platform of the PDP. In that case, Justice Faji of the Ilorin Division of Federal High Court, delivering judgment on suit FHC/ABJ/CS/605/2013, held that indeed there were factions in the PDP.

Justice Aikawa of the Sokoto Division of the Federal High Court had also ruled in a suit on the issue that there was not only division but faction in the PDP, which later merged with the APC.

The PDP may equally seek litigation again, this time, against Tambuwal. But that is not the crux of the matter. Read on.

Another chance that the PDP may want to explore is to ask its members in the House to move for Tambuwal’s impeachment, but the odds seem to be against the ruling party.

On Tambuwal’s ppossible  mpeachment, a member of the All Progressives Congress and the Minority Leader in the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, emphasised that the PDP could not ask Tambuwal to vacate the seat since he (Tambuwal) was elected by majority of the House members, cutting across all political parties in the House.

“Tambuwal was elected unanimously by the House members with over 260 votes, but the PDP’s preferred candidate got only 90 votes,” he told Channels Television.
The Nigerian constitution says the Speaker can only be impeached with a-2/3 votes of the members of the House. But does the PDP have this number in the House? Gbajabiamila says, NO.
The House of Representatives has 260 members out of which a-2/3 will be 240 votes.

“Nothing dey happen”

After the defection of the 37 members of the House last year, the PDP lost majority of the House falling below 178 members. APC held Majority for a few weeks, as the PDP speedily formed an alliance with other parties in the House – the Labour Party, Accord Party and the All Progressives Grand Alliance. The move was then described as “a desperate bid to keep parliamentary majority”.

After the alliance, the PDP got back the needed majority in the house but that is slightly over 178 members in the House.

They have the majority but they need 240 votes to effect the speaker’s impeachment.

Will they lobby APC members in the House to get the vote? Will they make the weak judiciary bend the earlier jugment by insisting that there is no division in the Peoples Democratic Party at the time the Speaker defected?

Tambuwal is a smart politician. His mien on Tuesday while delivering the defection speech showed the calmness of “nothing dey happen” as we say in Nigeria. But will something happen?

The cards are on the floor again and this time we must watch with keen discernment so that we do not allow impunity continue in our land, sacrificing our political future on the altar of “Na them sabi”. It will have a serious repercussion on our democracy and our future. The court’s judgment should be obeyed.

What is your take on this?

Contributed by Williams Chinedu for NewsPlus

PS:  The views expressed here are not necessarily those of NewsPlus

 

 

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