BY OLA AWONIYI
Impeachment, It is just over three months since the 10th National Assembly was inaugurated but the agents of destabilization seem to be impatient.
Those who feed from conflicts are already spreading wild rumours to create suspicions among lawmakers and disrupt the peace and unity of the Legislative Arm of government.
Since the inauguration of the 10th Senate on 13th June, 2023, the Senate especially has been harmonious, with Distinguished Senators settling into their legislative duties with great enthusiasm.
This is in spite of the keen contest that produced the Presidency of the 10th Senate. At the end of the contest, Distinguished Senator Abdul’aziz Abubakar Yari had gracefully conceded defeat and acknowledged the transparency of the election. Demonstrating the spirit of sportsmanship expected of political leaders of his status, Yari also pledged his full support for Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio, the man that the Senators elected as their president.
Shortly after his inauguration, the first sensitive assignment that Akpabio undertook was the selection of the Principal Officers of the Senate. Akpabio handled it in an uncommon fashion, to the satisfaction of his distinguished colleague-senators and admiration of parliamentary watchers. The next task of assigning Senators to the standing committees was also accomplished before the Senators went on their annual recess.
Senators are still on recess when a news report of a fanthom plot to impeach Akpabio broke out at the weekend. The syndicated story has neither substance nor credibility, hence it was not credited to any source other than the fictitious “reliable sources” that the purveyors of fake news usually rely on.
Clearly, it was a cooked up story. Nobody is plotting to impeach the uncommon President of the Senate. Akpabio enjoys full support of his distinguished colleague-senators and is at peace with them. Any claim to the contrary is fake news and should be laughed off.
After his emergence as the 15th President of the Nigerian Senate, Akpabio carefully chose his path when he declared that the 10th Senate has a “corrective” mission.
“We are a corrective 10th Senate. We are ready to correct anything you feel was not properly done,” he had said. This is his mission statement. There is so much to do in the pursuit of that uncommon mission and the Senators will not be distracted from it.
For instance, the Electoral Act 2022 was described, following its passage, as a game changer. This is because it provides room for technological innovations. But after just one election season, Nigerians have spotted some areas which need to be strengthened by the 10th Senate – beginning from political party primaries, up to post-election legal challenge.
Recall that the Act provides for only elected delegates to vote at congresses, conventions and meetings of political parties. Statutory delegates were inadvertently shut out by the Act.
The statutory delegates include the President, Vice President, ministers, members of the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly, Governors, Deputy Governors, commissioners, members of National Working Committee of political parties, Chairmen of Councils and Councilors.
This omission was described as an “unintended error.” The Ninth Assembly tried frantically to correct this “unintended error” by hurriedly amending section 84 of the Act but the amendment was not signed into law by the President.
That was why a large chunk of party members who qualify as statutory delegates could not vote during the last party primaries. The ball is now in the court of the 10th Assembly to correct the error.
We have also witnessed a controversy over time frames for post-election litigation. The law says presidential election litigation must be settled within 180 days or six months by the Court of Appeal which is the court of first instance for the election petition, and 60 days or two months for final adjudication by the Supreme Court.
The Act provides for similar time frame for petitions on governorship and parliamentary polls, which terminate at the Court of Appeal. Some people are calling for an amendment to shorten those time frames to ensure that the Courts conclude its adjudication before the election winners take office. The corrective 10th Senate may wish to improve on this aspect of the extant law as well.
Constitution amendment is an unfinished business. The effort of the Ninth Assembly recorded a great improvement on the efforts of their predecessors. However, I’m not sure the Nigerian women rate their efforts so highly due to the fate of many gender-related bills.
They canvassed for passage of five bills as part of constitutional amendment. Unfortunately, none scaled through. Virtually all the male legislators who bared their minds on the gender-related bills claimed to be “He for She.” However, by the time voting was taken on the bills, it dawned on everybody that those who were silent on the matter were in the majority.
Nigerian women, I believe, are more prepared now than ever to push these bills through. The good news for them is that the President of the 10th Senate, Godswill Akpabio, has a passion for promoting gender-related issues.
In one of his public outings, Akpabio said point blank: “Those familiar with my antecedents will undoubtedly attest to my passion for promoting gender equality in all aspects of life, especially in the public sector.
“As a governor, I implemented a policy that deliberately favoured the appointment of women into key positions in my government. This was in recognition of the immense contribution that women make towards the political, social and economic development of any state.
“Tokenism might satisfy diversity quotas but the authentic inclusion of women in political leadership will change the course of Nigeria towards meaningful transformation and sustained growth.”
These words should excite women and other campaigners for inclusivity in governance.
This is just to mention a few of the enormous work waiting for the attention of Distinguished Senators on their resumption from recess. The fake news of an impeachment plot is therefore a distraction and Nigerians should discountenance it.