Is Buhari’s impeachment move another joke taken too far?
It was former President Olusegun Obasanjo who in 2002, about 20 years ago, described the move to impeach him, first by the House of Representatives and later by the entire National Assembly, as “a joke taken too far.”
Coincidentally, in 2022, exactly after two decades, the National Assembly and in a reversed order, beginning with the Senate and joined by the House of Representatives issued an impeachment notice to President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired military general like Obasanjo.
It all began last week Wednesday when Senators from the opposition political parties staged a walkout from plenary when Ahmad Lawan, the president of the Senate turned down a motion to mandate Buhari to improve the security situation in six weeks or be impeached.
The aggrieved lawmakers later told journalists that they had agreed with their colleagues from the majority caucus of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at a closed-door session that the President would be given the six weeks ultimatum.
“At the closed session, we agreed to give him (Buhari) an ultimatum of six weeks after which we will impeach him. But the Senate President blocked us.
“Nowhere is safe in Nigeria, even Abuja. Urgent steps need to be taken and we left the chamber because we’ve given the President six weeks to resolve the issue or we impeach him,” he said.
“We’ve given all the appropriations, resolutions and the support he needs. Our next line of action is to impeach him,” Philip Aduda, the Senate minority leader, said behalf of other opposition senators.
Barely 24 hours after the House of Representatives minority caucus backed their counterparts in the Senate on the move to impeach President Muhammadu Buhari.
Ndudi Elumelu, the House minority, said they were joining their Senate counterparts in the move to impeach the President if he fails to tackle the worsening insecurity.
Elumelu said: “They have given 6 to 8 weeks for Mr. President to address the insecurity that is, of course, affecting this nation, and I want to also join on behalf of my colleagues to also say that upon the expiration, we will proffer ways of ensuring that we will gather all the signatures.
“And let me make it clear. Those who are thinking that it is only the issue of PDP or the minority caucus, no. Many of our colleagues under the bipartisanship are affected. Many of them are affected. So, they may not be speaking but we may be speaking for them when the time comes.”
In the case of Obasanjo, the lawmakers who were led even by members of his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) cited the retired general’s globetrotting and his failure to control mounting violence amongst reasons for his impeachment which eventually failed.
Just as Obasanjo, Buhari too seems to be unperturbed by the impeachment threat by the National Assembly as he described as the action as ‘ridiculous’, which is akin to the former president’s “joke taken too far.”
Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to the president on media described the actions of the opposition lawmakers as ‘babyish’ and the impeachment motion as ‘ridiculous’.
He said: “The performative and babyish antics” of those senators staging a walkout notwithstanding, Senate President Ahmad Lawan’s refusal to entertain the ridiculous motion to impeach our President was quite appropriate and correct.
“Rather than making a mockery out of voters by trying to imitate what they see in America, the opposition would be well advised that their time would be better spent tackling the pressing issues Nigerians face, such as the current global cost of living crisis.
“Their continued failure to do so goes some way to explaining why they remain in opposition. We would respectfully remind them that it is those same constituents that they were elected to serve, and are paid to do so with public money.
“They should ask themselves: do they want to be in government or do they want to be in the headlines? If they want to be in government they should start acting like it and stop undermining Nigerian voters.”
Also, like in the Obasanjo situation where many believed the lawmakers were merely joking as the then president rightly described, the current move by the National is being viewed by commentators with the same lenses.
Pat Utomi, a professor at the Lagos Business School, then had said: “The impeachment threat was just that -a threat to rattle him (Obasanjo) and bring him down to earth.”
Pundits are of the opinion that the present National Assembly which has been more of a rubber stamp; always doing the biddings of President Buhari cannot successfully impeach him.
There is also a school of thought that “he who comes to equity must come with clean hands,” the lawmakers too are culprits in the gamut of misgovernance that led to the heightening insecurity which is the main sin for which they want to impeach Buhari.
Christian Okeke, a lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka told BusinessDay that the move to impeach the president has to start with reorganising the leadership of the National Assembly as it will be futile efforts under Lawan and Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila.
The scholar said: “Impeaching a president in Nigeria is like the proverbial moving of an anthill. We cannot say that it is impossible but it’s difficult. It is sad but that’s the reality. Of course, there is no precedent.
“In the present case, the move to impeach the president has to start with reorganising the leadership of the National Assembly. Thinking of impeaching the president with the current leadership intact is an effort in futility.
“Those championing the impeachment should strategize and exit the Lawan leadership first. Of course, we expect to see the presidency give all the support it can to protect the president from impeachment, including adopting unconventional means.”
He said it is disheartening that the president failed to listen to good counsel to rejig the security heads and change the cabinet ministers even by the parliament in the face of the heightening insecurity.
According to him, “Although the parliament had advised the president on some occasions to tackle the insecurity head-on, those who have direct influence on the president failed to persuade him to do so, probably because they benefit from what is going on.
“Today, insecurity has so much spread across the country that the federal capital seems to be the new hub. Everywhere is literally on fire such that even those in power do not feel safe anymore, although giving false hope that all is well.
“News coming out of Nigeria is not good at all. The international community is much worried. There are signs of a failed state everywhere. It was like this in Afghanistan until democratic regime eventually caved in.
“Those lawmakers who expressed open anger and issued the threat of impeaching the president did well. History will be kind to them. However, the common man expects them to do more, and also for other of their colleagues currently sitting on the fence to join to salvage this country.”
To Dumebi Kachikwu, the presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), the impeachment threats against President Buhari by opposition members of the National Assembly is self-serving.
Kachikwu, in a statement by his media office in Abuja, said his position is based on the fact that the “National Assembly is complicit in the failure of government in the country” which has resulted in the deteriorating security situation in the country.
“I was very amused to hear some Senators and members from the lower house call for the President to be impeached. This is a self-serving call. The same people who have refused to do their jobs in the last three years have just woken up to realise that the President should be impeached.
“What exactly has happened today that is different from what has been happening since President Buhari was sworn-in seven years ago for the first term and three years ago for the second term? Are the attacks today any different? Are the deaths less or more meaningful?
“Is there any life worth more than the other? Are they reacting now because Abuja is threatened? The National Assembly is complicit in the failure of this government so they should ask their leadership to resign before calling on President Buhari to resign.”
“The entire leadership of the National Assembly should also resign or be impeached. This is the double-edged sword called doctrine of collective responsibility.”
Yusuf Shehu Usman, an Abuja-based public affairs commentator, described the action of some National Assembly members as unnecessary as they are not insulated from the blame.
Usman said: “The National Assembly should stop the current politics of impeachment and face the reality of the situation on ground. They should join hands with the government and the people to find solutions to our problems.
“The National Assembly tends to forget that they are also an arm of the government. Whenever we say the government has failed in its primary and constitutional responsibility to protect lives and property of the citizens, we are not only talking of the failure of the President but the entire government machinery.
“Therefore, it’s not only hypocritical but dishonest for the members of the National Assembly to be gunning for the impeachment of the President on the ground that the government in which they are part of, has failed.”