- December 19, 2019
- Posted by: Stephen Azubuike
- Category: Opinions
The impeachment of the President of United States of America, Donald J. Trump, on December 18, 2019, was a historic event. President Trump becomes the third US President to be impeached by the House of Representatives (“House of Reps”). The other two were Andrew Johnson (24 February 1868) and Bill Clinton (19 December 1998). Trump and Clinton shared something in common: their impeachment came as a Christmas gift. Significantly, an impeachment by the House of Reps does not signal the end of the road for the President. Trump still awaits trial by Senate. Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton both survived Senate trial.
While the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson was said to be as a result of political conflict and the rupture of ideologies in the aftermath of the American Civil War; President Clinton’s impeachment was inspired by allegations connected to his “inappropriate relationship” with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. This was later known as Clinton–Lewinsky scandal (a political sex scandal). He faced charges of lying under oath and obstruction of justice. In the case of Trump, he faced two articles of impeachment: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress and was impeached on both articles. In particular, President Trump was accused of using the powers of his office to damage a political rival, in that he had pressured Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
The recent development in the US is a matter of concern all over the world and its effect is already being felt even in Nigeria. Beyond everything else, many Nigerians are drawing inspiration from the impeachment saga to call for the impeachment of their dear President, President Muhammadu Buhari. As at the time of writing, the hash tag, #ImpeachBuhari, has generated nearly 6,000 tweets on Twitter. From the tweets, the impeachment call appears to centre on everything wrong about Nigeria, notwithstanding that the country is a federation having other State Governors as leaders of the federating units. Other reasons furnished which perhaps is worthy of mention is the allegation that President Buhari is guilty of human rights violations, abuse of power; and the corruption of our institutions. It is difficult to defend the President on the aspects of human rights violations and abuse of power (using his Black Ninjas – DSS). This is in view of developments ranging from disobedience of some court orders and unlawful attack on the judicial arm of Government. However, the President has ironically tried to strengthen some of our institutions in various sectors and we have seen significant progress recorded.
Impeachment under Nigerian Constitution
According to Section 143 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), Nigerian President may be impeached for gross misconduct. The Constitution defines ‘Gross Misconduct” as ‘A grave violation or breach of the provisions of this Constitution or a misconduct of such nature as amounts in the opinion of the National Assembly to be gross misconduct.’
The implication of the above provisions is that the National Assembly has wide discretion when it comes to determining what amounts to gross misconduct on the part of the President.
The procedure for impeachment is adequately spelt out in the Constitution with all its complexity and cumbersomeness. It is enough to mention that the process must begin with a notice in writing alleging gross misconduct on the part of the President. The notice must be signed by not less than one-third of the members of the National Assembly (both the Senate and House of Representatives) and presented to the Senate President. The Senate President must make copies available to the President and other members of the National Assembly. At least, two-thirds majority of all members of each chamber of the National Assembly must confirm by motion that the allegation of gross misconduct should be investigated. The Senate President shall thereafter beckon on the Chief Justice of Nigeria to appoint a Panel of seven persons (of impeccable character and integrity) to investigate the allegations. These persons must not be members of any public service, legislative house or political party. The President has the right to make representations and defend himself. Should the Panel report that the allegation is proven after investigation, the National Assembly shall then move for adoption of the report. If two-thirds majority of all the members of each House adopt the report, the President shall stand removed from office as from the date of the adoption.
Clearly, from the above, a President in sweet romance with the leadership of the National Assembly (and majority members of the National Assembly) as well as the Chief Justice of Nigeria may never be removed by impeachment. Nigerian politicians hold tenaciously to political interests over and above the interest of the nation and the need to uphold the Constitution. The foundation for the graduation to this point in our national life was laid long ago. It would be difficult to change. An attempt to impeach a Nigerian President is nothing but a call for WAR. Tribalism and sectionalism is a huge problem. The country is seriously divided along ethnic and religious lines. An attack on the conduct of the President can hardly be viewed as an attack in good faith no matter how objectively designed. If it is not seen as being politically sponsored, then it must be coming from a pure hater. Again, this is also because many Nigerians have lost sense of objective and respectful criticisms. Many abuse and insult the President and other leaders without caution. Naturally, it is difficult to reason with any person who has failed to keep criticisms within constructive and respectful limits. This is without mentioning those that peddle rumours and fake news just to heat up the polity.
Nonetheless, it has been argued in some quarters that leaders who blatantly fail to serve the people in loyalty to the overall good of the nation deserve no regard. This is another angle to it but two wrongs can never make a right. We must all join hands to lift Nigeria and make it a better place. We must show our love for the country and avoid conducts that project hatred and bitterness.
Twitter is a powerful social media weapon that has led to the rise and fall of many. #ImpeachBuhari may trend for eternity. However, the weight of the Constitution and political configuration in Nigeria will suppress and blow it away.
Image credit: Vanguard.