By Tonnie Iredia
Over 80 senators across political parties and a majority of House of Representatives members, have reportedly agreed to begin impeachment proceedings against President Muhammadu Buhari, if the growing insecurity across the nation persisted beyond the next six weeks.
It was a rather stern ultimatum given by the federal legislators on the eve of their departure to a 2-month vacation.
Anyone who thinks the legislators are ready for a hard time with the executive needs to take a second look at their subsisting posture which portrays them as members of a rubber stamp legislature.
They actually showed the turf they are made up of when in line with their feeble outlook, they allowed as long as six weeks for the presidency to make amends not withstanding that they had had cause more than once to show ample frustration over the prosecution of the fight against insurgency and every form of insecurity in the land.
No empirical reason was given for how the ultimatum of six weeks was arrived at; making it appear that it was influenced by their desire to avoid a disruption to their vacation.
With the rash of attacks which led to several killings in the last few weeks, one would have expected the representatives of the people to put off their vacation for now so as to squarely face the severe issue of widespread fear and anxiety in the nation.
It was an error of judgment that the legislators kept to their schedule of incessant vacations at this crucial point.
Time there was when Nigerian legislators cut short their vacation to deal with what they often called “urgent matters of national importance” even though such matters were essentially always about their welfare.
So, not many people are able to comprehend why our legislators faithfully go on vacation as if it is one of their critical functions.
Besides, the same legislators do not only enjoy every public holiday, they usually go away for weeks before and after every holiday for which other public officers enjoy no more than the two days officially declared for it.
The National Assembly has a constitutional right to follow the impeachment process it is threatening to invoke and we are not anxious to dispute their power but if the recent tough talks end up only as half-hearted sermons, the legislature would merely place the nation in jeopardy.
To start with, it is difficult to understand why the minority leader of the House of Representatives, Ndudi Elumelu was begging his colleagues to take advantage of their long holiday to stay away from what has become the highly unsafe Abuja. The plea no doubt unveils many posers.
First, was Elumelu encouraging legislators to abandon Nigerians who have no option but to stay in the location?
Second, bearing in mind that there is hardly any safe place today, where precisely would legislators who buy the plea head to?
On at least two occasions, in the last couple of weeks, the city of Owo in Ondo state has been attacked twice. In Niger state, the media reported no fewer than 12 villagers abducted last Tuesday by suspected gunmen in Shaddadi village in the Mariga Local Government Area of the state.
Would legislators leave Abuja for any of these volatile areas or would those of them from Enugu state prefer to go home to nearby Ozalla town where the Actors Guild of Nigeria raised alarm the other day of the alleged kidnap of two veteran film stars who had gone missing after they left a movie location in the state?
If Elumelu’s plea to legislators is taken as a joke, from a leader not generally given to frivolity, many analysts would be on the same page with Idris Wase, Deputy Speaker who accused the minority leader of playing politics with the lives of citizens.
However, Wase’s sharp reaction is a sign that at the appropriate time, disagreements may as usual displace the seeming consensus of legislators on the nation’s grave insecurity.
Indeed, many of them would stay away from voting as they did during the crucial issue of the bill on electronic transmission of election results.
Some other lawmakers might choose to pay lip service to the so called impeachment proceedings by supporting it during debates and rejecting it during voting as they did while considering the numerous pro-women bills.
Already, in spite of the claim by Senator Smart Adeyemi that the impeachment threat was bipartisan, at least one member of the House of Representatives from Imo state, Chike Okafor has vowed that lawmakers of the ruling All Progressive Congress APC will resist any attempt to impeach the president by those he described to be grandstanding just to be noticed by their constituents.
This unpredictable disposition of some legislators to the subject was already visible within the National Assembly on the day of the threat.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan, was not comfortable with the subject and objected to its discussion on the floor of the senate. About seven other senators, that reportedly included Opeyemi Bamidele and Gabriel Suswam were also said to have shared Lawan’s sentiment.
It was perhaps the unpredictable environment created by their ambivalence that influenced the reaction of the presidency to the impeachment that those behind the threat were merely “performative, babyish and playing to the gallery.”
The reaction can hardly be dismissed as every wrong the legislators wish to blame Buhari for, exposes their own unquantifiable contributory negligence.
A National Assembly whose leadership stated unequivocally from the beginning that they would approve whatever the president presented to them cannot be seen at this point to be isolating the same president. If impeachment is an option, it cannot affect only one side.
There is much for which the nation can justifiably blame the legislature concerning the worsening insecurity in our clime.
More often than not, this column has had to berate our legislature for the simple reason that its power to check the executive is hardly done with the interest of the nation in mind.
Huge sums of monies were appropriated for the military to combat insecurity with no evidence that the funds were used for the purposes for which they were approved. How come the relevant committees of the National Assembly were never able to use oversight to identify lapses in military spending?
The former service chiefs under the leadership of General Gabriel Olonisakin were accused by many of misappropriation of funds, yet it was only after the team left office that legislators started summoning their successors to appear to brief them on the state of affairs.
Even the opportunity our lawmakers had to interrogate the team during their screening for their new appointments as ambassadors was frittered away in pursuit of shadows.
The legislature also distracted the president many times especially in its passage of convoluted budgets. It became so much that at the signing of this year’s budget, Buhari was constrained to openly condemn what he described as “worrisome changes” to the budget by the National Assembly.
The changes amounted to N378.9 billion covering 460 duplicated items inserted in the budget – a figure that has 144 items more than the 316 items inserted in last year’s budget.
To make matters worse, many of the projects were surreptitiously placed under MDAs that have no bearing with them. For example, the sum of N67.8 million for the construction of “Gun Armouries” was found in the budget of the Ministry of Environment which is not a security organization.
Interestingly, the blame game is never extended to the unwholesome initiatives of those that have a final say in the preparation of the budget
It is true that Nigerians have endured enormous pains in the last few years. It is also true that as the overall boss of the nation, the president ought to take much of the blame on the basis of vicarious liability.
But considering that much of what has gone wrong in Nigeria is criminal, no one can be held to account for the crime committed by others. This is why the current threat of impeachment of the president is too narrow.
Nigerians should clamour for the removal of all conniving public office holders.