Except for the build-up of conflictual events preceding the 1966 first coup in Nigeria, culminating in the eventual three (3) years of internecine and fratricidal genocide, otherwise euphemistically called “The Nigerian Civil War”, at no time has the people of Nigeria suffered a worse fate of the theatre of the absurd on all fronts than the present leadership calamities bedeviling the nation.
The situation has been made worse by the silence and blithe unconcern of men and women of goodwill, either on the grave misconception that it is a mere ingroup rivalry or on the false sense of security to remain politically correct in the face of the entire macabre dance.
Just the same way that the conflictual events of the Nigerian Civil War of the 60s began with calamitous political intrigues, it is no longer a hidden secret that the gathering storm in Benue State is revealing tell-tale signs of a testing ground for the eventual collapse of our nation state.
Except for the undiscerning mind, what currently stands between Benue State and total chaos, whose eventual conflagration may engulf the huge tinder box called Nigeria is only but time.
While many may want to glibly dismiss the brewing political imbroglio in Benue State on the basis of routine but ephemeral disaffection arising from the defection of Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State from the ruling political party to the opposition, such conclusion, I dare say, is one comfort zone that the people of Benue can only but ill-afford to be.
It can no longer be uttered in hushed tones that there is certainly a state policy constituting an existential threat to lives and property of a people consigned to the status of second fiddle in Nigeria. The geography of Benue as the clip of the two ends of the middle belt states of Nigeria has made the state a significant factor whose existence or otherwise would be a determinant of the success or otherwise of the actualization of the incubating agenda of the existential threat.
For the uninitiated, it all began with the emergence of Governor Ortom who had contested the governorship primaries of Benue State under PDP and lost only to clinche the APC ticket upon defection to APC a few days after his loss in PDP, a feat facilitated by the then
commanding heights of the Buhari-led APC stalwarts. No sooner had Governor Samuel Ortom won the governorship seat of Benue State under the APC-led government than the smoldering genocidal violence was upscaled in Benue State, and coming alongside the subtle blackmail to condescend to the satanic agenda of forceful cession of the people’s patrimony to the murderous tribe of the Fulani-herdsmen, as a payback for a previous political good turn. Needless to further recount the horrendous and gory carnage of the loss of thousands of precious lives and billions of Naira losses in property suffered by the people of Benue State in the wake of the Governor’s recalcitrance to concede to such devil’s alternative.
I have taken these pains to recount this factual but hidden background in order to disabuse the minds of well—meaning individuals in and outside Benue state who may have innocently misconceived the current happenings in the state as mere political gimmickry as to untie it from the more horrendous killing agenda in Benue State.
It bears repeat of recent events of the impeachment of the Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly and the more recent follow-up events to lend credence to the above expositions of existential threats to our corporate existence. In what is clearly an interpretation of a written script to unleash total chaos of greater dimension than the one on hand on the state, the nation’s security agencies are making no pretenses about its interest in the choice of the leadership of the state, for obvious reason. Despite the recent impeachment of the outgone Speaker, a routine legislative affair, the personnel of the nation security agencies in the state, obviously on the marching order by the power that be, took it upon themselves to constitute a 7-man member of the State Assembly led by the impeached Speaker to reconvene another session of the House in the wake of which it has been widely reported that the Governor has been issued a Notice of Impeachment against the will of the rest 22 members of the Benue State House of Assembly.
Where else can such outlawry be tolerated except in such a republic as ours, in the face of clear legal steps for such serious legislative exercise as impeachment of a Governor. For purpose of public enlightenment, the following are the legally laid down steps preserved under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) for impeachment of a Governor of state in Nigeria, viz:
A notice of any allegation in writing alleging gross misconduct on the
part of the Governor. This notice must be signed by not less than one-third of the members of the State House of Assembly is presented to the Speaker of the State House of Assembly.
* Gross misconduct is defined by the Constitution as ‘…a grave violation or breach of the provisions of this Constitution or a misconduct of such nature as amounts in the opinion of the National
Assembly to gross misconduct.’
The Speaker of the State House of Assembly must within 7 days, serve the Governor of the State and each member of the State House of
Assembly with a copy of the notice of allegation.
The Governor has a right of reply (he/she does not have to reply however), and any such statement in reply to the allegation must be
served on each member of the State House of Assembly.
Within 14 days of the presentation of the notice to the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, the State House of Assembly shall resolve by motion without any debate whether or not the allegation shall be investigated. This motion needs to be passed by at least two-thirds majority of all members of the State House of Assembly.
If the motion fails to reach the required majority, the process immediately stops, and no further action will be taken. However, if the required majority is obtained and the motion is passed, then the Speaker of the State House of Assembly will within 7 days of the passing of the motion, request the Chief Judge of the State to appoint a Panel of seven persons who in his opinion are of unquestionable integrity to investigate the allegations. The members of the Panel cannot be members of any public service, legislative house or political party.
The Panel is to report its findings within three months of being appointed. The findings will be reported to the State House of Assembly. During the proceedings of the Panel, the Governor shall have a right to defend himself, and shall also have the right to be defended by a legal practitioner of his/her choice.
Where the Panel reports that the allegation has not been proven, there will be no further action. However, if the report is that the allegation against the Governor has been proven, then the State House of Assembly will consider the report, and a resolution for the adoption of the report shall be moved.
For the resolution to be adopted, it must be supported by not less than two-thirds majority of all the member the State House of Assembly.
Once adopted the Governor shall stand removed from office as from the date of the adoption of the report.
No matter the level of impunity, these conditions must be strictly fulfilled before a Governor can be removed, else any such proceedings conducted outside the adherence to the over listed conditions, irrespective of personalities who may be behind the outlawry, must fail.
While the position of the law as regards the validity of impeachment proceedings commenced by an inquorate minority is clearly known under the law and has been severally pronounced upon as an illegality by the Supreme Court in the cases of Inakoju v Adeleke
(2007)1 SC (Pt. 1) 1, and further restated in Dapialong & 5 Ors. v Dariye & Anor. (2007)4 SC [Pt. III) 118, a juxtaposition of the current position of the law with the penchant of the current nation’s leadership at the centre for flagrant disobedience to the rule of law and desecration of the temple of justice, gives one no comfort that the charade currently ongoing in the state will find respite in application of justice. Another glimpse of the contemplated outlawry is the wanton disobedience to the pending restraining order granted by the state High Court under the hand of the state Chief Judge against the impeached Speaker of the House of Assembly, against parading himself as such until the determination of the substantive suit, to the extent of carrying out the very act against which the order was made. If not for a case of gross
impunity by a group running amok, whatever dictate that prompted them to issue the impeachment notice to the Governor ought to have equally registered it in them that the Chief Judge of the State is the one legally empowered to appoint the 7-man panel to investigate the allegation of gross misconduct for which the so called impeachment notice is premised. Is it the very Chief Judge whose lawful injunctive order that the renegade speaker, and his cohorts, of
the Benue State of Assembly has refused to obey that would now requested by the same renegades in disobedience to constitute a 7-man panel of investigation, when the law is clear that a party in contempt of a lawful order of court is not entitled to any further indulgence? There is indeed not only a physical crisis but a looming constitutional crisis waiting in the wings Can there be a louder and clearer tell-tale signs?
The nobility of man, in the timeless words of Aristotle, rests on his sense of law and justice, otherwise he becomes the worst of creatures.
Except we all rise to speak up, we have on our hand a band of men with no regard for the values of law and justice, who are ready to unleash a secret agenda, the success of which shall render all of us voiceless. These values, and none other, have prompted this call. I am
neither for Governor Samuel Ortom nor any other in the opposition but strictly on the side of the dictates of law and justice in the current circumstances.
Let none think that he/she is saved from the impending evil by blithe, passive or condescending posturing. An oracle that desires blood, the ancient wisdom has it, is never appeased by any other thing in the semblance of blood but by the blood itself. I close with the agonizing utterance of the famous German Lutheran pastor, Martin Niemöller:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Chief Godwin Obla, SAN, FCIArb