A lawyer, Femi Emodamori, examines the implication of the defection of Ondo State Deputy Governor Agboola Ajayi from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Get together (PDP).
There’s a saying in jurisprudence that legislation and morality aren’t synonymous. Therefore, an act that’s morally reprehensible will not be legally punishable-Legal professional Common, Federation V. Abubakar (2007) 10 NWLR (PT 1041) 1.”
There’s in all probability no higher method to sum up the connection between legislation and ethicality than the above quoted phrases of his lordship, Justice Habeeb Adewale Olumuyiwa Abiru, J.C.A, within the reported judgment of Unity Financial institution Plc v. Olatunji (2015) 5 NWLR (PT 1452) 203 at web page 250, paragraph a.
Apparently, within the above quoted judgment, his lordship referred to the case of Legal professional Common Federation V.Abubakar.
That was the celebrated case that determined the propriety or in any other case of the continued keep by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in workplace because the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, however his defection from the then ruling PDP to the opposition Motion Congress of Nigeria (ACN), to contake a look at towards his personal ‘boss’, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, for the workplace of the President.
It’s generally attention-grabbing to witness historical past repeating itself or, do I say, being repeated. The New King James Model of Ecclesiastes 1:9 says “What has been will likely be once more, and what has been accomplished is what is going to accomplished, and there’s nothing new beneath the solar.”
Defection or cross–carpeting by politicians from one political social gathering to a different shouldn’t be a brand new factor within the Nigerian political area, and we could must be taught to reside with it, just like the Covid-19 pandemic.
Any try to perpetually lock down social gathering ‘loyalists’ or stop their free motion throughout the political social gathering boundaries with none assure of satisfactory ‘palliative’, would spell doom for the legislation.
And allow us to face the reality: the place would the palliative come from to fulfill the insatiable political class (or clowns as some would rightly or wrongly say) in Nigeria?
So, the legislation would appear to have no alternative than to ease the restriction of their motion, and put together us for the seasonal ‘spikes’ in such defections.
Election time is the wet season in politics, significantly on this a part of the world, and the spikes ought to naturally be anticipated.
It was subsequently no large shock that His Excellency and my Discovered Good friend, Agboola Ajayi, the Deputy Governor of Ondo State, not too long ago defected from APC to PDP with the intention to launch his election bid for the place of the State Governorship towards his cousin, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN).
In politics, as they are saying, there isn’t any everlasting pal or everlasting foe, however everlasting curiosity; maybe there’s additionally no everlasting consanguinity in politics. A brother right this moment could not all the time be a brother; he may commerce you off by barter tomorrow.
Because it was within the biblical days of Joseph, so it’s now; there’s nothing new beneath the solar. Even Paul and Barnabas parted methods in their missionary journey; I discovered it in my Bible.
I make daring to say that S.40 of the Structure of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) ensures the elemental proper to freedom of affiliation, and no politician, together with the Deputy Governor of Ondo State, may be denied such proper. The Deputy Governor is a Lawyer; he is aware of the legislation.
There are, nonetheless, critical authorized penalties attendant to the train of such basic proper, as most elected political leaders have come to expertise.
I’ll study a few of these authorized penalties by way of the lens of the Supreme Court docket, citing simply two of the locus classicus instances referring to defection of elected politicians.
The primary instances is A.G Federation v. Abubakar (2007)10 NWLR (PT 1041) 1, referring to the defection of the previous Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, from PDP to APC, which was referred to within the introductory a part of this write-up.
The second case is Ifedayo Sunday Abegunde v. The Ondo State Home of Meeting & 11 others (2015) eight NWLR (PT 1461) 314, a case referring to the defection of a lawmaker from one political social gathering to a different, which by the way emanated from Ondo State. Ifedayo Abegunde, the Appellant in that case, is the present Secretary to the Ondo State Authorities.
An examination of those two instances would reveal that the authorized penalties of defection aren’t the identical for members of the Legislative and Government arms of presidency. Allow us to start with elected lawmakers (the Legislature), for a seamless digest of this analysis.
Within the case of hon. Ifedayo Sunday Abegunde v. The Ondo State Home of Meeting & 11 others (Supra) at web page 348 paragraphs c-h, the Supreme Court docket held that:
“Such a apply needed to be discouraged by the framers of our Structure if political public ethicality of our nation was to be preserved.
It’s manifest: from the above quoted constitutional provision that the lawmakers supposed to and certainly made punishable the defection of an elected member, from the political social gathering that sponsored him, to a different political social gathering earlier than the expiration of the interval for which the Home was elected by declaring his seat vacant.
No comparable provision was made for the Vice President and even President. The precept enunciated by this courtroom within the two instances, FEDECO v. Goni supra and A-G, Federation v. Abubakar supra, is to the impact that solely such factionalisation, fragmentation, splintering or “division” that makes it unimaginable or impracticable for a political social gathering to perform as such will, by advantage of the proviso to section 68 (1) (g), justify an individual’s defection to a different social gathering and the retention of his seat for the unexpired time period in the home despite the defection.
In any other case, as rightly held by the courts beneath, the defector robotically looses his seat.” (underlining mine).
For the President, Vice President, Governors and Deputy Governors who’re the elected members of the Government arm of presidency, the Constitution doesn’t make the same provision for them to “robotically” forfeit their seats in the event that they defect from their social gathering to a different, as acknowledged above by the Supreme Court docket.
What then is/are the authorized penalties of such defection by a sitting President, Vice President, Governor and Deputy Governor, if any?
The legislation is that the holder of such workplace can solely be eliminated by the Nationwide or State Home of Meeting, because the case could also be, for gross misconduct, consistent with Part 132(1)-(11) for the Nationwide Meeting, and Part 188(1)-(11) for the State Home of Meeting.
These constitutional provisions relate to what’s generally known as the impeachment course of, however the strict constitutional time period for that’s ‘removing from workplace’.
Does defection from one political social gathering to a different quantity to an act of ‘gross misconduct’ for the aim of such removing from workplace or impeachment?
The Supreme Court docket answered that vexed query within the case of A.G Federation v. Abubakar (2007)10 NWLR (PT 1041) SC1 at web page 125-126, PARAS H-B, the place the Court docket held that:
“By making the determination of what quantities to a gross misconduct to incorporate what the Nationwide Meeting in its opinion, considers to quantity to gross misconduct, the framers of the 1999 Structure supposed to offer absolute energy or discretion to the Nationwide Meeting to find out, by subjective take a look at, the problem as to what could quantity to gross misconduct for the aim of impeaching the President or Vice President and it’s my thought of view that the time period is vast sufficient to incorporate the state of affairs we discover ourselves on this case the place the sitting Vice President defects from the political social gathering in whose platform he was elected to that workplace and joins one other political social gathering and proceeds to brazenly castigate the very authorities whose insurance policies and administration he is part, and performed or continued to play very energetic half in, however sees no have to resign his workplace of Vice President.” (underlining mine).
In paragraphs E-F of Web page 87 of the identical Judgment, their Lordships went additional to carry that:
“The courtroom beneath was subsequently unsuitable in holding that the first respondent may, whereas the Vice President nonetheless retained his workplace as Vice President, brazenly critize the identical authorities; or be a part of one other political social gathering and begin to marketing campaign for election to the workplace of President.”
That’s the legislation and its infallible interpretation, as handed all the way down to us by the legislation lords of the Supreme Court docket. Freely we’ve got obtained it, and freely we’re giving it to the individuals, on this topical and delicate challenge of defection. Private affiliations or political alignments and alliances can not change the legislation on this regard.
Magnifying the legislation, within the gentle of the infamous truth of the defection of the Deputy Governor and his subsequent acts and/or omissions, would subsequently result in the unavoidable conclusion that His Excellency had truly dedicated critical acts of gross misconduct for which he could possibly be impeached.
Apart from abandoning his joint ticket and mandate with the Governor and defecting to a different political social gathering to marketing campaign for election into the workplace of the identical Governor while remaining in workplace (which the Supreme Court docket regards as gross misconduct that might warrant impeachment), the Deputy Governor has, within the eyes of the legislation, dedicated different impeachable offences.
As an illustration, the Deputy Governor is on file for making statements confirming that he’s undermining or subverting the present authorities within the State, by brazenly declaring that there can be a tsunami of defection of cupboard members and members of the State Home of Meeting, to PDP.
By instigating the defection of members of the Home of Meeting elected on the platform of 1 political social gathering to a different social gathering, the Deputy Governor was clearly participating in “subversive conduct which is straight or not directly inimical to the implementation of another main sectors of the Structure”, which qualifies as ‘gross misconduct’, as acknowledged by the Supreme Court docket in Inakoju v. Adeleke (2007) four NWLR (PT 1025) SC423 AT 586-587, PARAS. E-H (the favored Ladoja case).
In clear phrases, part 109(1)(g) of the Structure prohibits defection by a member of the State Home of Meeting elected on the platform of 1 political social gathering, to a different.
Once more, the Deputy Governor is on file as having issued a public assertion describing the Governor, who’s the top of administration beneath which the identical Deputy Governor is serving, as “a drowning governor of Ondo State.”
The worst dimension to that is that the Deputy Governor issued the general public assertion by way of a Chief Press Secretary who was employed by the workplace of the identical Governor, and deployed to serve within the workplace of the Deputy Governor.
How then can one sensibly argue that such motion doesn’t quantity to gross misconduct on the a part of the Deputy Governor?
Maybe probably the most unlucky of such acts of misconduct of the Deputy Governor, is his menace/instigation of violence (caught on tape and now viral) throughout his private and bodily standoff with the police on the Ondo State Authorities Home on June 20, 2020, to the impact that Ondo State could witness a repeat of what occurred in 1983, which was a veiled reference to the blood-letting, bloodbath and wanton destruction of lives and properties throughout the outdated Ondo State.
The 1983 disaster sprang from the political disagreement between the then Governor of Ondo State, Pa Michael Adekunle Ajasin, and his Deputy, Chief Akin Omoboriowo, throughout which a few of the best human capital property of the State, have been exterminated, with a whole lot of households nonetheless residing with the scar, agony and trauma of the crises until right this moment.
Fact be instructed the Deputy Governor truly abused the constitutional immunity conferred on him and introduced his workplace into public ridicule, by personally and bodily resisting the Ondo State Authorities Home Safety personnel from subjecting him and his aides to routine safety checks, throughout, which he made the regrettable and baseless inciting assertion on the 1983 bloodbath.
The checks have been necessitated by earlier studies of alleged nocturnal motion/looting of presidency properties of their official quarters out of the Authorities Home earlier on that fateful day, preparatory to his defection.
The abuse of the immunity conferred on the Deputy Governor on this regard is against the trite place of the legislation that such immunity doesn’t cease police investigation, in deserving instances, as held by the Supreme Court docket within the case of Fawehinmi v. Inspector-Common of Police (2002) 7 NWLR (PT 767) 606 AT 682, PARAS D-H.
Mockingly, the identical Deputy Governor had earlier that very same night (June 20, 2020), issued a press assertion by way of his Particular Assistant (New Media), Comrade Allen Sowore, denying the alleged looting of presidency properties by his aides, and even acknowledged additional within the assertion that:
“The Deputy Governor, has additional directed Authorities safety brokers to totally search any of his aides when stepping into and popping out of Authorities Home.” (underlining mine). I maintain information meticulously; I’d not delve into any challenge with out my details and information backing me.
The defection of the Deputy Governor to PDP with out resigning from workplace, his subsequent open castigation and subversion of the identical authorities which he’s nonetheless a part of, in addition to his marketing campaign for election into the workplace of the Governor and instigation of defection by members of the State Home of Meeting to the identical PDP, in violation of Part 109(1) (g) of the Structure of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), have all been held to represent gross acts of misconduct for which he could possibly be faraway from workplace or impeached, as contained in Supreme Court docket judgments quoted verbatim above.
Apparently, it was while the police have been finishing up their constitutional obligation of stopping the alleged looting of the properties of Ondo State, and the particular directive of the identical Deputy Governor quoted above, that His Excellency appeared on the well-directed ‘Nollywood film’ and made the regrettable 1983 replay remark, maybe out of anger, however with none sense of restraint or accountability anticipated of his extremely esteemed workplace.
Assuming there’s any scintilla of reality within the police narration of the incident (I’ve additionally learnt to not swallow all the pieces the police says, hook, line and sinker), then, I can not see something unsuitable within the police telling the Deputy Governor and his aides to kindly droop the motion of the properties out of their official quarters beneath the quilt of darkness, and wait until dawn, when such properties could possibly be correctly checked.
Apparently, the properties have been being moved out in the course of the interval when the Deputy Governor and his now estranged ‘boss’ (Mr. Governor) would need the remainder of us to be locked down or locked up in our respective properties within the identify of Covid-19 curfew.
Allow us to name a spade a spade; defection from one political social gathering to a different is embedded within the constitutionally guaranteed basic proper to freedom of affiliation. Nonetheless, with the train of that proper comes attendant authorized penalties for the elected ones.
How lengthy His Excellency can proceed holding on to his workplace in time period of “the day and the hour”, like Jesus Christ would say, is what I have no idea.
Assuredly I say unto you, the sport is pretty much as good as over for him, as a result of APC holds an amazing majority (24 out of the 26 seats) within the Home of Meeting.
Apparently, not one of the APC legislatures has defected with him to PDP, as he had beforehand boasted.
Whether or not and when this prophecy of legislation can be fulfilled in regards to the exit of my Discovered Good friend, His Excellency, the Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Agboola Ajayi, is subsequently only a matter of time. Most definitely, the sport is over for His Excellency.
Femi Emmanuel Emodamori, Esq
Writes this piece from Akure, the Ondo State capital