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Why impeachment of governor or deputy is dangerous for any state, by Professor Uji

Why impeachment of governor or deputy is dangerous for any state, by Professor Uji

By Nathaniel Gbaoron

Terlumun Wilfred Uji is a professor of Social and Economic History in the Department of History and International Studies at the Federal University of Lafia. In this interview with Nathaniel Gbaoron, he spoke on the absence of industrial technocrats with global capital and skills which failed Nigeria privatisation and the recent impeachment of Philip Shaibu, as the Edo State deputy governor and its implication on the economy of the state. Excerpts:

How do recent political developments in Nigeria, such as the impeachment of Philip Shaibu, Edo State deputy governor, impact the state’s economic stability and investor confidence?

Politics and economy are interwoven and interrelated in such a way that what affects the political stability of a state will always have far-reaching impact on the economic development of a state.

First and foremost, under the Presidential System of Government, the Governor and his Deputy often run a concurrent ticket that is almost inseparable in terms of who succeeds the other in times of emergency. A Deputy Governor is as good as the Governor and can replace him at any given time under a lawful situation.

Under the Presidential System of Government, Deputies and Vice often serve and learn through a system of patronage and process of apprenticeship can under study the system and emerge as the Executive Head by and by.

During the process of apprenticeship, there is often strong demand of loyalty and faithfulness. Loyalty and faithfulness in that the joint ticket which is concurrent demands a slavish belief in the agenda and ideology of the political party in power to enable development. In other words, both the Governor and his Deputy were elected on a political platform to deliver the developmental blue print of their party.

The impeachment of either of the two, the Governor or the Deputy, not only violated a contract of development but would definitely impact negativity on the development of the state. They both agreed on a developmental plan within the framework of a political party that has been infringed upon by an act of impeachment.

What is the developmental challenge of Edo State under the People’s Democratic Party?

There are indices and statistics in this respect that unemployment remains as high as forty percent, particularly youth unemployment, poverty rate as high as 60 percent with a very weak industrial and manufacturing base.

The political rift between the Governor and his Deputy has created conflict and insecurity capable of scaring investors off the state. Investors are not willing to put in their investments where there is political instability of the kind and sort that characterised Edo State.

The population and people of Edo State are split into factions under factional warlords who are a basic threat to the peace and stability of the state. In a recent press statement, one of such factions demanded that the Oba of Benin should relocate to Ile Ife which is the ancestral home of the Oba of Benin. This is a clear and strong manifestation of the bitter acrimony that has overshadowed the politics of Edo State. The rift in the ruling political class is strong enough to slow down the economic development of the state. The crisis in the monarchy has a strong linkage to the political divisions in the Edo Government House.

Can you provide historical context or parallels from Nigerian economic history that shed light on the potential economic repercussions of political instability, such as impeachments, in the region?

Nigeria has a history of impeachments of Political Executive Heads and sometimes National Assembly and State Assembly Legislative heads that is often mixed with sentiments, bias and prejudice. To set the tables running, there has never been an impeachment proceeding in Nigeria that followed the constitutional norm of hearings from a competent Judiciary panel of Judges with both sides, the prosecutor and the plaintiff, had a fair hearing, with access to their lawyers and defence council. There has never been a good example of what transit during impeachment cases like it is found in the United States of America. In Nigeria, impeachments are not a form of thorough Judiciary and legal probes and findings. Impeachments are largely political witch hunts in which opponent are often proven guilty before the proceedings began. In Nigeria, what is mostly required for an impeachment to hold is to secure the majority lawful votes of members of the legislative house without the sitting and cross examination of the Judiciary and legal experts. Impeachments often are a travesty of justice motivated by political expediency rather than an objective state inquiry. In the Western Liberal democracies, impeachment proceedings are often thorough and tedious, open and transparent enough for such impeachments to have a public vetting and acceptability.

The procedure is to serve a notice of impeachment that contains the list of offences that constitute a constitutional breach that justifies a removal from office. But this is often after a thorough series of inhouse investigation and attempts to mitigate the political crisis through reconciliation and dispute resolution efforts. Impeachment notices are often a last resort when all efforts at dialogue and reconciliation fails.

The essence is to avoid the overheating of the polity and to accommodate all shades of opinions possible.

If and when the legislative assembly takes a resolution on impeachment, the state must set up a judiciary panel under headship of the Chief Judge of the State or the Judges of the Supreme Court to hold hearings on the impeachment articles. The impeachment trial which is often public and open have lawyers from both sides which debate all articles of impeachment with a verdict from a balanced and fair constituted jury.

The Jury by a unanimous vote must reach a verdict that is then put on the floor of the legislative house for the final removal from office of an elected executive public person.

Since Nigeria’s democratic experience from 1999 to the present, there has been several cases of the removal of elected public executive from office. None of such removal either by executive fiat from the President or by impeachment proceedings adhered to the laid down procedure or principles highlighted above. For example, the late Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State was removed from office by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo on the trump up charges of money laundering by the British government without proper backed up impeachment procedure. President Olusegun Obasanjo had a reputation for the brutal and unconstitutional ways of the removal of elected executive heads of both state and legislative assembly. For instance, several Presidents of the Senate including Enwerem Evans, Chuba Okadigbo and others were unceremoniously removed from public office without a proper impeachment trial and notice. The irregularity of impeachment phenomenon in Nigeria brings to the fore that impeachments have become political weapons used by State Executive Heads against opponents and perceived enemies.

How have previous instances of political instability in Nigeria impacted foreign investment, trade, and economic growth, and what can we learn from these experiences in light of recent events?

One of the strongest weapons of the ruling political class is that of the deployment of impeachment verdict against an opponent.

This has a two-way implication; the political system demands absolute slavish loyalty or perceived opponents and enemies can easily decamp to a ruling status where they become willing tools to be used by the ruling class to distabilise the polity. There are good examples of Deputy Governors that were used by the ruling political class to distabilise a sitting governor or upset the ruling status quo of the state. The examples of Zamfara, Bayelsa and at the present, that of Edo State. This scenario is common where there exists a rift between the Federal State and the subsisting units called states.

In Nigeria, the Federal Government ruled by the national political class wields absolute power. The Presidency in Nigeria commands absolute power going by the provisions and dictates of the constitution.

Impeached deputy heads can switch allegiance to pitch tent with the national ruling class as against the state. This act of political treachery has been a breeding ground that recruits political instability in Nigeria.

On the other hand, the removal of executive heads of a state is a development that often leads to bitterness, rancour and produces a sour political relation. Impeached Executives in Nigeria’s political history became the immobilisers of all kinds of irredentist and militant groups using religion and ethnicity as the vehicle for the mobilisation of all forms of violent extremism. It is speculated that the creation of the Boko Haram Movement, the Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafara, the Niger Delta Militants, was as a result of the fall out and contradictions of the politics of power struggle of Nigeria. The point is that impeachment threats make executive heads insecure and helpless. In order to have political relevance and hold on to power, the political class has been the major sponsors of violent extremism in Nigeria. In reconciliation conferences, dialogue and bargaining process, the same sponsors of political violence leverage on the existing crisis to hang on to political power. During the Obasanjo era, the Boko Haram Movement began as a protest group against western elitism under the leadership of Vice President Shettima who was in the opposition political party of the All Progressive Party as the Governor of Borno State. The Boko Haram was a platform that the Borno political elite exploited against the national government of Obasanjo

What role does the relationship between political leadership and economic development play in shaping the trajectory of states like Edo within the Nigerian economy, based on historical trends?

In theory, using the ideas of liberal economic theories, there is nothing new that the present political era under President Bola Tinubu has embarked upon that is in all ramifications new.

The national political class keeps repeating the mistakes of the past, that in national economic thought and development, there are always pre conditions for the take off stage, from one stage of economic development to a succeeding one. Liberal Economic thought as Rostov suggests that each phase of the developmental history of a nation has pre conditions that should be realised for an effective transition into the next phase and stage. This idea may not rigidly follow the Rostov stages of capitalist transformation but it does suggest that with out some basic foundation and structure, some economic theories and policies, as brilliant and good as it may, such policies are bound for a total failure.

There are four stages and phases in the development of the economy of Nigeria. The Nigerian State has failed to consolidate on the gains of each phase and stage of her economic development; The Age of Foreign led industrialization characterized by the presence of packaging and assemblage industries in Nigeria. This age goes back to the Independence era in the 1960 with the establishment of the subsidiaries of Multi Nationals in Nigeria such as Vehicle Assemblage Plants,

Beverage industries, Textile industries etc. Foreign led industrialization has its own demerits but that has been the starting point for all Asian Tigers economies such as Tawain, Singapore, India and even China; The Age of the indigenization of the Nigerian economy through the indigenization decree of 1975. The indigenization policy was designed to enable indigenous capital control of the economy. Both foreign led industries and public industries were shared out in percentages of control.

During this stage, the policy was to create a Nigerian industrial and entrepreneur class equipped with skills and capital as a pre-condition for a take of the private control of the economy.

Privatization of States owned enterprises as well as foreign industries works with good results where there is an existing network of entrepreneurs with global capital connections and skills. The indigenization era failed in producing the desired industrial technocrats as a necessary take off into the predominant private sector economy in Nigeria. While countries like India and Brazil achieved this transitional point in her capitalist evolution, Nigeria did not.

The Age of Privatization and Commercialization; This dates back to the Agricultural revolutions of the Obasanjo/Shagari era that would have laid the bedrock of Nigeria’s industrialization. The ideas of the French proved that revolutions in commercial agriculture is a necessary pre requisite of an industrialized society.

The Lower and Upper River Basins did not achieve this desired objective as the programs were politicized and marred with mismanagement and misplacement of priorities. The oil boom during this era made agriculture not attractive as a foreign income earner.

The Ibrahim Babaginda era up to the democratic era of President Obasanjo embarked on an aggressive privatization and commercialization of the Nigerian economy under the Bureau For Public Enterprises. The policy failed due to the absence of an industrial technocrats with global capital and skills. Most of the industries were bought by the nation’s political class including the power sector, oil sector and the telecom industry;

Against the backdrop of a moribund industrial sector, Nigeria has been plunged into a nightmare through the removal of subsidies on public utilities and social amenities.

Social intervention and subsidies removal can only be effective with balanced results if these policies are predicted on existing industrialization and greater private participation to economy for wealth creation and job generation. The Age of Massive Social Intervention and Subsidies removal.

Has Nigeria learned any lessons from her past; why do we keep recycling our mistakes from the past?

How can social intervention and security work without an industrial foundation? The Logic of subsidy removal is that the working class and the masses pay for public utilities as sources of revenue for the state to provide the needed infrastructural development. The logic works where the people have greater control of the economy in the productive and manufacturing sectors.

In Nigeria, the national government assumes that there are over Fifty million small scale and medium scale enterprises in both the agricultural and commercial sector necessary for the performance of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. The assumption is that the SMES are the critical drivers of economic growth and transformation in modern economics and societies.

However, the Nigerian State has failed to embrace the fact that our nations industries including the refineries and power sector that provides public utilities are under the control of monopolies and oligarchies with little regard to the wellbeing and good standard of living of the masses. Worst still, these critical sectors, power and oil are under the control of the ruling political class who double as the policy makers of the country.

Economic theory suggests that there should be a clear separation between Mercantile Capitalism led by the political class and Commercial Capitalism spearhead by the industrial and commercial technocrats. The Asian Tigers have long learned to fine tune Liberal economic thought to conform to what is objective economic realty.