He had a premonition of the tragedy. Yet, the governor could not avert it. The handwriting was bold on the wall. But, little did he guess that the House of Assembly would complete the impeachment process with speed. After two weeks of anxiety in Adamawa State, the hammer fell on Governor Murtala Nyako yesterday. He was removed from office by 18 of the 25 members of the House of Assembly. The impeachment, according to observers, may have created a hollow in his political career.
But, his deputy, Bala Ngilari, a lawyer, was spared by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) legislators, which gave him a soft landing. Faced with options of impeachment and resignation, he swiftly embraced the latter to avoid disgrace.
Since he defected from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC), Nyako has been in the eyes of the storm. His foes have been plotting his downfall. Indeed, the forces against him were formidable. Apart from the legislators, prominent politicians who supported the plot include the former PDP National Chairman Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, his son, Awwal, former Lagos State military Governor Buba Marwa, former Education Minister Senator Jibril Aminu, former Adawawa State Governor Boni Haruna, former Minister of State for Health Dr. Idi Song, former presidential Political Adviser Ahmed Gulag, PDP elder Joel Madaki and governorship aspirant Makus Gundiri.
The motivation, said a source, was provided by the Presidency. The aggrieved PDP leaders were united against Nyako’s continuity in office for two reasons. The first is to weaken the APC and decimate its Governors’ Forum. Nyako is a vocal member of this forum that has given President Goodluck Jonathan sleepless nights. The second is to punish him for his shift of political allegiance. When the lawmakers issued an impeachment notice, it was evident that they were acting the scripts written in Abuja. The impeached governor’s ordeal may not be over. Outside office, he may become a victim of witch-hunting. The new governor may beam a searchlight on his administration and push for his prosecution.
Nyako clearly understood his plight, limitationS and threat to his political career. He is a retired soldier, former military governor and member of the highest ruling class under the military rule. He is conversant with the grammar of military politics. But, the impeachment battle under the civilian regime is a different ball game. It is not a conventional war which a General like him is not prepared for. In a battle of this nature, the weapons of war include the federal might, the militarisation of the impeachment process, massive funding for the plot and the numerical supremacy in the House of Assembly. Even, an opposition governor, who is endowed with exemplary negotiation skills, persuasive talents and power of political inducement, would still have a slim chance of survival. Thus, a political solution was foreclosed.
For the septuagenarian politician, the last two years have been turbulent. Nyako has been battling with the insurgency by the members of the Boko Haram. In the Northeast state, a state of emergency has been declared. On two occasions, the former governor escaped being killed by the sect members. Few months ago, he forwarded a letter to the Northern Governors Forum, alleging that the Federal Government adopted a wrong strategy in tackling the insecurity. Stressing that the military was incompetent to handle the crisis, Nyako said soldiers relied on obsolete and inadequate weapons. He also complained that a full-fledged genocide was being committed against the Northern Nigeria in the name of fighting insurgency. He alleged that ill-trained soldiers were drafted to curb the menace. ‘‘They are being poorly trained, totally ill-equipped, given only uniform and are killed by their trainers in Nigerian Army training centres as soon as they arrive in the Nigerian Army camps being used by the so-called Boko Haram insurgents.
“Virtually all the Nigerian soldiers killed or murdered in these operations so far are of Northern Nigeria origin. The administration has also hired militia men from across the continent, especially North Africa, who have been deceived into accepting to come because they were made to believe that they would be fighting infidels,” he added.
The letter may have been misunderstood by Jonathan. According to sources, the President, who was infuriated by the tone of the letter, complained that Nyako had refused to withdraw the memo or apologise. But, the governor insisted that he would not compromise the security of Adamawa State.
To observers, Nyako’s nightmare started when he lost grip on the House of Assembly. When he defected to the APC, the legislators did not defect with him. During the impeachment saga, the odds were against him. Of the 25 legislators, 20 insisted that he should vacate office. Following his defection, relations between the executive and legislature became frosty. When cracks appeared on the wall, the stage was set for the inducement of the legislators by the governor’s detractors.
As the impeachment drama was unfolding, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) froze Adamawa State bank accounts. Instantly, the administration was crippled. The House met and drafted the impeachment notice. Many allegations were raised and the burden of proof was on the embattled governor. According to the notice, Nyako was expected to defend 20 charges of gross misconduct. He was accused of abuse of office, misuse of public funds and personalisation of power. In addition, there were allegations of squandering N1 billion Scholarship Trust Fund and the abuse of the law by appointing his wife, Dr. Halima, as the Chairman of the Adamawa State Action Committee on AIDS. Some officials of his administration were also accused of looting. The legislators explained that some of the impeachable offences were committed by Nyako three years ago.
To save the governor from the looming disaster, some Adamawa opinion leaders attempted to broker peace between him and the House. But, the conditions for truce were stringent. The House led by Speaker Umaru Fintiri demanded that Nyako should render accounts. It accused the government of illegal deductions from the allowances of the civil servants totaling N142 million. Nyako was asked to submit bank statements showing income and expenditure and pay the withheld salaries of teachers who had embarked on strike.
Asked why it took the House three years to beam a searchlight on the administration, a legislator, Adanu Kamale, said time factor was a non-issue.
Nyako’s real offence was his defection from the PDP. But, the lawmakers also had another axe to grind with him. He had come under attack for not inaugurating the chairmen and secretaries of 37 Development Areas Authorities (DAA). Many of them were nominated by the lawmakers. When he sought to appease them with their inauguration last week, it was too late. Also, last week, Nyako, said a source, was offered the option of resignation. But, he rejected it, saying that the impeachment plot lacked basis.
Moving the motion for the impeachment, the Deputy Speaker, Kwamoti Laori, said the House relied on Section 188, sub-section 3 and 4 of the 1999 Constitution, which stipulate that the process can proceed after a 14-day notice. It was seconded by Hon. Umar Abdulkareem.
“We have satisfied the two-thirds majority, with 20 out of 25 members, which empowers the House of Assembly to call on the Chief Judge to constitute an investigation panel,” Laori said. However, when the Clerk of the Assembly showed up at the Government House to serve the impeachment notice on Nyako, he was not around. For two days, efforts to deliver the letter was abortive. The Clerk later pasted the notice on the wall of the Government House.
To save his career, Nyako approached the temple of justice. The former Acting Chief Judge, Justice A.D. Mammadi, granted his prayer for an order of interim injunction restraining the House from taking any further action on the impeachment. But, four days later, the jurist, whose tenure was about to expire, approved the plot by swearing in members of the impeachment panel. The seven-man committee was chaired by Alhaji Baba Kaigama.
Nyako and Ngilari shunned the panel, claiming that it was not properly constituted. They neither sent their aides nor counsel to represent them. Two issues were raised by the governor. He said the panel was not inaugurated by the Chief Judge because the Acting Chief Judge who set it up had to retire immediately. Also, the impeachment notice was not served on the governor. It was pasted on the wall of the state secretariat. Thus, the governor’s aide, Peter Elisha, submitted that the procedure is wrong. “The panel was not properly set up. It was not properly constituted. It was not inaugurated,” he said.
The APC Publicity Secretary in Adamawa State, Phineas Padio, was in the same frame of mind. Faulting the process, he said it violated the law. Padio pointed out that it was strange that the acting chief judge, who highlighted the guidelines for the impeachment, later set up the panel when it was clear that the procedure had been breached. He also said the method used by the lawmakers to serve the impeachment notice on the governor and his deputy was unconstitutional. “The acting chief judge had ruled that the notice of impeachment must be served through personal means. He even quoted a Supreme Court ruling that said it could not be served through the pages of newspapers as the House did. Yet, he went ahead to constitute the panel, although the notice was not properly served,” he fumed.
Nyako’s spokesman, Ahmed Sajoh, defended the refusal of his boss to appear before the committee. He said: “It is an illegal body, which has no basis in law.” Sajoh said that the House should have served the notice directly, instead of pasting it. “They are supposed to serve it. Besides, the panel was illegally constituted because those behind it ignored a subsisting court order. The composition of the committee itself is faulty. Card-carrying members of the Peoples Democratic Party are among the panelists,” he added.
Efforts by non-partisan Adamawa leaders to save Nyako also hit the rock. Pleas by traditional rulers led by the Lamido of Adamawa, Alhaji Mohammed Musdafa to the lawmakers to have a change of heart fell on deaf ears. The Council of Pastors led by Rev. Victor Ordinan also offered to broker reconciliation, but without success. Prominent PDP chieftains were monitoring the 20 legislators. A member of the PDP Elders and Stakeholders’ Forum, Dr. Umar Ado, warned the legislators against backing out. He described the impeachment as a party assignment, stressing that only the PDP has the power to discontinue it. Although sources also said some retired Generals requested the President to intervene in the crisis, he refused to assist his political foe and ardent critic.
At the weekend, the investigative panel hurriedly concluded its assignment on a controversial note after sitting for two days. As the panel was writing its pre-determined report, Nyako was receiving supporters on solidarity visit.
Yesterday, the hammer fell on the governor. Before the impeachment, a source said he had packed out of the Government House.
The question now is: What next after the impeachment?
Culled from The NATION.