Tambuwal and His Shameful Law-Breaker Supporters, By Femi Aribisala
Have you ever heard the parable of a man who stole a goat and was arrested and prosecuted? When brought before the judge, his line of defense was that others had stolen goats in the past but had not been prosecuted. How does that absolve him of guilt? The man is a thief, pure and simple.
When one talks of the treachery of Aminu Tambuwal’s defection from the PDP to the APC, his apologists trot out opposition-party legislators and governors that also defected to the PDP in the past. So what? All such defections are equally treacherous and morally indefensible. What we have today is the glorification of treachery for political reasons. The honorable thing for any defecting politician to do is to resign his or her seat in the legislature and then seek a fresh mandate under the new party through a by-election.
In 1983, Abubakar Rimi resigned as Governor of Kano when he defected from the Peoples’ Redemption Party (PRP) to the Nigeria Peoples’ Party (NPP). He did this because he was an honorable man; a true progressive. In 2014, Aminu Tanbuwal defected from the PDP to the APC but has refused to relinquish his seat in the National Assembly. He did this because he is not an honorable man; neither is he a true progressive. Tambuwal has been Speaker for four years, and yet he has not championed one single piece of progressive legislation in all that time.
With his defection, some busybody parliamentarians with 27.5 million naira to burn bought the APC nomination papers for Tambuwal so he can contest for the party’s presidential ticket. Almost immediately, he was touted as a spoiler for Muhammadu Buhari’s presidential ambitions and was shamelessly courted by the Tinubu brigade in the APC. Realising that his hopeless candidacy would only be used to foment problems within the APC, Tambuwal wisely resigned from the contest, forfeiting the millions paid.
As a face-saving device to camouflage his signaled readiness to ditch Buhari for Tambuwal, Bola Tinubu went public to congratulate Tambuwal for deciding not to contest for the APC presidential nomination. He said: “This sacrifice you have made will not be in vain. It must be noted by all democrats across the country as an act of great patriotism.”
This is really neat. Tinubu’s definition of patriotism applies to the APC and not to Nigeria. Tinubu forgot to mention that while Tambuwal decided not to cause trouble in the APC; at the same time, he decided to be a trouble-maker at the national level. Should this man who has the good sense to withdraw as APC presidential candidate “as a sacrifice for the cohesion and unity of the APC” not also have the good sense to resign from the National Assembly now that he has defected from the PDP for the sake of national peace and cohesion? Apparently not!
According to the Godfather of the APC, a patriot can be a trouble-maker at the national level, as long as his trouble-making is in the interest of the APC. That, in a nutshell, is the crux of the problem with the APC. It is a party of trouble-makers. The APC does not really believe it can win the 2015 elections. Therefore, it is determined to cause as much mayhem as possible; even threatening to create a parallel government when and if it loses the election.
The Tambuwal saga is the latest example of APC mischief. The party’s strategy is to achieve power immorally and illegally. It is a party of treacherous defectors. It even went to Obasanjo, a former PDP president, asking him to defect to the APC. Instead of attracting its own membership, it gathers together a coterie of treacherous defectors. All its presidential candidates have jumped from party to party.
It is now encouraging Tambuwal in his treachery of attempting to defect to the APC with the position of Speaker. However, the APC remains a minority party in the National Assembly. The position of Speaker belongs to the majority party. The APC cannot receive by subterfuge what rightly belongs to the majority PDP.
Tambuwal knows he can no longer be Speaker. He knows that APC cannot win a majority of the seats in the legislature in the coming elections. He knows the “mago mago” he used to become the Speaker cannot be duplicated in the next House of Representatives. Therefore, in defeat, he has picked up the nomination form to contest as Governor of Sokoto under the APC ticket.
Show of shame
Since this is the new reality confronting Tambuwal, the man should stop causing trouble and simply resign his seat in the House. But rather than resign, and with his security detail removed, Tambuwal drove with a convoy of “thugs” to the National Assembly. This led to a show of shame that was televised and broadcast to the whole world. The fact that Tambuwal led this brazen display of lawlessness at the National Assembly shows that he is unworthy of being the number four citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Emmanuel Ojukwu, the Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Police, had this to say: “The speaker came with thugs, refused to be searched and six of the hoodlums attacked a police man, after which the police tear-gassed the Speaker and his riotous crowd so as to restore order. Everybody has seen that somebody was even beating somebody; somebody was pushing a policeman from the car. Somebody was removing road blocks mounted by police.” Those “somebodies” are supposed to be Nigeria’s law-makers.
In effect, championed by Tambuwal, our law-makers became law-breakers. Impeded by the police from entering the House, some climbed the gate. The Speaker himself flouted the directives of the police. He forced his way inside. Later, in disgrace, he sent his media aide with the statement that: “The honorable speaker wishes to state that he is a law-abiding citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who has no immunity against arrest and prosecution.” This is what is called “campaigning after failure to be elected.” The video of his lawlessness had already gone viral on the internet.
Time to resign
There is nothing left for Tambuwal to do now than to resign from the House of Representatives and save Nigeria from all this “wahala” he has created. Defecting from one party to another is against the spirit and the letter of the Nigerian Constitution. Section 68 (g) of the 1999 Constitution says: “A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected…”
Tambuwal’s name did not even appear on the ballot-paper when he was elected to the House of Representatives from his constituency in Sokoto. It was the PDP that was on the ballot. That is how Rotimi Amaechi became Governor of Rivers State. He was not even the candidate who ran for the office. However, the courts ruled that he should have been the PDP candidate. Since the PDP won the election, Amaechi became the Governor of Rivers State even though he did not campaign in the election for the post.
The only proviso in the Constitution for Tambuwal to remain in the House is if his defection to the APC is as a result of a division in the PDP or the merger of the PDP with another political party, or the faction of another party. This situation does not exist, except in the imagination of APC supporters. The courts in Nigeria have ruled that the PDP is not divided and is not bedeviled by any factions. Everyone in Nigeria knows this in any case.
Some people say it is not the business of the executive to determine if Tambuwal should remain as Speaker or not: it is a matter for the courts. However, the courts don’t execute laws: the executive does. The Constitution says if a man defects from his elected party to another party, he automatically loses his seat. Tambuwal resigned; therefore he has lost his seat. The executive has implemented that loss.
If Tambuwal has a problem with that, the onus is on him to go to court. The onus is not on the executive. Until the courts say otherwise, Tambuwal can no longer be a member of the House of Representatives; and someone who is not a member of the House cannot be the Speaker. We borrowed our political system from the United States where it is well understood that the Speaker of the House cannot belong to the minority party.
Tambuwal, the Speaker, is APC. Emeka Ihedioha, the Deputy Speaker, is PDP. This situation is unacceptable, especially given the fact that the mandate for leadership in the House was freely given by the electorate to the PDP and not the APC. You cannot have a situation of minority rule, when in actual fact it is the majority that has the mandate.
Indeed, at the national level, the APC is unknown and has yet to be recognized by the Nigerian electorate. The APC has never presented a candidate to the electorate at the national level. Therefore, the APC cannot come out of nowhere to commandeer the major office of the Speaker. These shenanigans have gone on for too long. The APC did not win any seat whatsoever in the House of Representatives in the 2011 elections. Therefore, it cannot provide the Speaker of the House.
Tambuwal should have known that by resigning from the PDP while hanging on to the position of Speaker he is bound to generate unnecessary political tension. If he did not know this before, he knows this now. Failure to resign from the House now only portrays him as a shameless troublesome opportunist. Tambuwal needs to redeem his battered image soonest. He should do the honorable thing and resign from the House without further delay.