Impeachment weapon was not envisioned by America’s founding fathers to be toyed with is explained by the fact that only two presidents had before President Donald Trump been impeached.
The two were Presidents Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Last week, President Trump became the third US President to be impeached in almost 250 years of democracy.
Comparatively, Nigeria initially moved at jet speed to apply the tool.
Within the first three years of the birth of the Fourth Republic, a notice of impeachment against the first president was unfolded in 2002.
It was a well-rehearsed script in which some ‘democracy puritans’ in the House of Representatives collaborated with some outsiders to cut President Olusegun Obasanjo to size.
And they nearly did!
It later emerged that some of the arrowheads of that impeachment move acted to project some particular political interests.
That the 2002 move by the Ghali Na‘abba leadership of the House of Representatives was well-rehearsed was evidenced by several indicators including the deployment of the oratorical Farouk Lawan as the spokesman of the House just before the move.
Most of the 17 allegations that were raised against President Obasanjo centered on poor implementation of the budget.
Remarkably, the same allegations have, overtime, been more brazenly breached by succeeding presidents.
However, it is remarkable that no other president despite the progressive fidelity to the budget have been so threatened with impeachment.
That may have been mainly because of the progressive subjugation of the national interest to ethnic and religious biases since the Obasanjo era.
Whereas the 1999-2003 set of lawmakers was partly pushed by the cogent issue of building institutions, succeeding legislatures as typically exemplified by the present lot, have been moved by the body language of the incumbent president.
When the “boys” in the House of Representatives raised the motion against Obasanjo, there was a word of wisdom that came from Nduka Irabor, the representative of Ika Federal Constituency.
Irabor warned that Dr. Obasanjo was like a bull in a China shop as he cautioned that whatever effort was directed against him must be followed with tact.
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That assumption underlines the fact that the impeachment process is a political process and not necessarily a judicial process which must take political considerations into reality.
In Nigeria, such political considerations are easily shadowed by ethnicity, religion, and such.
Indeed, the United States Supreme Court had in a landmark ruling in 1993 affirmed that because impeachment was political that the process could not be subjected to judicial arbitration.
Nothing better puts that in perspective than the seeming desperation of United States Democrats to taint the 2020 presumed nominee of the Republican Party even before the formal kick-off of the election season.
Even after the formal impeachment of President Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has refused to dispatch the articles of impeachment to the Senate.
Her unhidden reason has been that she wants to have an assurance of the outlook of the process to be established by the Republican-controlled Senate before effecting the transmission.
The import is that the Democrats want to delay the expected acquittal of the president and taint him to the purpose of letting the cloud of impeachment rest on him nearer the election.
Though the actions of the Democratic and Republican leaders are fueled by politics, it is instructive that they try to follow the rules and traditions.
Not so in Nigeria where rules are broken to score political points.
Just before the recent governorship election in Kogi State, it became inconvenient for Governor Yahaya Bello to sustain the façade of having a critic in the person of Simon Achuba as his deputy. And hence, the resort to impeachment.
Remarkably, the panel empowered to investigate the case came up with a no-case submission on the deputy governor. That according to the constitution, should have been the end of the process as stipulated by Section 188 (8) of the constitution that says:
Where the Panel reports to the House of Assembly that the allegation has not been proved, no further proceedings shall be taken in respect of the matter.
However, the Kogi State House of Assembly, in clear violation of the law, went ahead to remove the guiltless man from office.
Such cases of rampant abuse of the constitution reflect the irresponsibility of Nigeria’s lawmakers at the state and federal levels. Where they are supposed to act, they don’t, and where they are to pull the brakes, they refuse to do so and by that often bring unpalatable consequences to the electorate.
The impeachment tool, as James Madison, one of the founding fathers of America, said must not be used carelessly by Congress to the extent that the president would be seen as being primarily accountable to the legislators and not to the people.
The people are the essence of democracy and not our delegates and legislators. In Nigeria, it has been turned into a conspiracy between the executive and the legislature, and hence it’s no surprise what happens between the executive and legislature is: “I rub your back, your rub my back,” and the people lose!
Trump:The Case Of Impeachment In Nigeria Scenario