by Adekoya Boladale
The news on the defection of the outgoing speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressive Congress (APC) has become a matter of national discuss in the past few days, with analysts and commentators jumping in to share a piece of their thoughts. The polity went upscale when the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) withdrew the security details attached to Hon. Tambuwal.
First, it is important that every patriotic Nigerian give kudos to Hon. Tambuwal for repositioning the House of Representatives as a stakeholder in the Nigeria project. He deserves resounding applause for his dogged and relentless efforts in taking the legislative arm away from the stranglehold of the executive and repositioning it as a symbol of authority as against the coalition of yes-men.
However in the event of various analysis and commentaries it is disturbing that some Nigerians either by design or share coincidence decided that the search light on the defection brouhaha is better focused on men and women of the Nigeria Police Force whose only crime was performing their constitutional duties while we fail to question the rationale behind the bastardization of the concept of cross-carpeting, extreme lack of ideology and shameful act of greed and selfishness on which basis our political office holders jump from one political ship to another and yet another.
The avalanche of letters, editorials and features castigating the action of the police is absolutely needless. I stand to say without any fear or favour, that the Nigeria Police Force action was not only constitutional but an absolute show of competency and a gallant move towards preserving the sanctity of our grundnorm.
The arguments around the police action have been proven to be driven more by emotions and interest rather than legality.
Some have argued that the police acted as an interpreter of the law, a duty it lacks the power to do. Others believe that only a legislative session can determine if Hon. Tambuwal loses his seat as Speaker or not. To some Hon. Tambuwal having cited the presence of crisis within the Sokoto State PDP has fulfilled all righteousness and to others Hon. Tambuwal as a citizen of Nigeria has the right to freedom of association.
Let me quickly state that Hon. Tambuwal is a three-term member of the House of Representatives and as such cannot claim ignorance of the provision of section 68 subsection 1 (g) of the 1999 constitution as amended hence I want to believe he must have thought through the consequence(s) of his action and convinced within himself the readiness to bear the cross.
Let it be known that the generalized believe that Hon. Tambuwal can only forfeit his office after a parliamentary sitting on such matter is nothing other than a rule of convenience and not a statement of law. Section 68 (1) states “A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives SHALL VACATE his seat in the House of which he is a member…” this connotes that any member of the National Assembly that goes against the provision of this section will have to bear certain punishments which are listed thereafter. The provision didn’t demand that a parliamentary session be convened before the law comes into force. Truly, the constitution didn’t state that only the party with majority in the house can become the speaker but neither did it state that parties in minority in the house are excluded from the law.
Section 68 subsection 1 (g) states clearly ‘being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before expiration of the period for which that House was elected; Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored’
In every form of sincerity the above quoted section is totally unambiguous, very clear and written in simple english, it tends to nothing other than political deception and mischief for those advocating for a judicial interpretation of it. The debates on if Hon. Tambuwal still remains the Speaker of the House of Representatives is clearly misguided as the provision of the constitution has not only strip the speakership position off Hon. Tambuwal but he is no longer a honourable member of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the strict face of law. How then can he claim to be a speaker of a house he isn’t a member of? Hon. Tambuwal willingly without being under influence or duress withdrew his membership of the house through his defection to APC and this has absolutely nothing to do with being in an opposition party but rather a provision of law.
The excuse of the Sokoto State chapter been in crisis to justify his defection is totally ill-thought. The Federal High Court in Akure in the case of Hon. Ifedayo Sunday Abegunde & ors Vs Labour Party & ors while interpreting ‘party crisis’ in section 68 subsection 1(g) ruled that party crisis referred to under this section is that of the national body and not of a chapter or state. The Court of Appeal in Akure while upholding the decision of the Federal High Court, Justice Gloria Okeke ruled inter alia that a defection such as this that fails to conform to the provision of law relates to an automatic vacation of seat by the federal lawmaker.
Indeed it is the prerogative of Hon. Tambuwal to defect to any political party of choice; it is within his rights to join any legalized political organization. The law is not taking this away from him. What the constitution simply frown at is eating ones cake and yet still pushing to have it.
To say the police acted as an interpreter of the law is clearly a misinterpretation of the duties and functions of the Nigeria Police Force. The police are custodian of the constitution and it is within its purview to maintain and safeguard same. To then say the police should look the other way while the provision of law is being contradicted will amount to nothing other than pettiness. For example a victim of a robbery attack was able to call the attention of the police to the scene and such bandits arrested and locked up. Wouldn’t it be silly for anyone to suggest that the bandits be left alone for a competent court of law to decide if they can be arrested or not?
The Police can only be said to have interpreted the law if it had insisted that Hon. Tambuwal relinquish every legislative apparatus at his disposal and never step a foot in the hallow chamber (which subject to constitutional provisions, he is no longer a member of) but rather the Police force while still keeping the security details of the office of the Speaker intact only insisted that Hon. Tambuwal cannot enjoy the privilege of an office he is no longer constitutionally capable of holding. This is absolutely logical!
Hon. Tambuwal is a great man, a man I personally admire and I strongly believe he will make a good Governor of Sokoto State but fortunately or otherwise the law is no respecter of anybody no matter the class or social status. Hon. Tambuwal has made a manly decision in leaving the PDP ship, he should summon such courage also in saving Nigeria the needless politicking and polity heat up, being a governor isn’t a child’s play hence he should focus on his campaign and give us a napping atmosphere.
Adekoya Boladale is a political scientist and scholar on good governance, a social commentator and consultant on political and intra governmental affairs. He is the Convener, Advocacy for Better Leadership (ABEL), Nigeria. Adekoya Boladale wrote via [email protected]. He tweets from @adekoyabee and Facebook.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.