Malami and Kogi Crisis

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After procuring an interim government for the people of Kogi State, it would seem inevitable that President Buhari’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, SAN would go the extra mile to avail every prop to the contraption described as government strutting the Lugard House. After all, one of the established novelties about the current occupancy of the Kogi Government House is that the number one law officer, rather than the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC (certainly not the electors) – actually helped to bring it into being by its strange ‘advisory’ of midnight substitution!

After perusing the letter by AGF Malami addressed to the Inspector General Police, Solomon Arase on the on-going crisis in my dear state, one needed to look no further to know who the piper calling the current tunes in the state is! The hand may appear like Esau’s; there can be no doubting that the voice is that of Jacob! The masquerade, finally, has been unmasked right in the market square.

Months after, and with the substantive issues surrounding the so-called “inconclusive” elections that brought a ‘stranger’ to the APC ticket still unresolved by the nation’s courts, Nigerians would no doubt remember that it all started from one man’s unsolicited advisory.

They would certainly remember that on November 21, 2015 Kogi voters had trooped out to vote to elect a new governor. And also that the poll returned 240,867 votes for the APC ticket of Abubakar Audu and James Abiodun Faleke and 199,415 for Idris Wada and Yomi Awoniyi of the Peoples Democratic Party.  And then, Audu died.

That in a rather bizarre twist to an election that was as good as concluded, a vacillating INEC had declared the poll ‘inconclusive’ AFTER an ‘advisory’ from the nation’s chief law officer, Malami.

Yes, Malami it was that decreed the substitution of the APC ticket, letting in all manners of opportunistic developments on which the destiny of the state and its people is now hung!

First, it was Yahaya Bello – a runner up in the APC governorship primary, pronounced candidate without a running mate. Then, an Audu/Faleke ticket ordinarily seen as good to go – with 240,867 votes –later declared ‘technically’ voided. And finally a governor riding into the gubernatorial mansion with barely 6,000 votes!

Some have argued that the AGF’s initial intervention, against the run of equity and fair-play is what has plunged the state into the current crisis. They are probably right. But then, it is the courts that have the final say on the matter. The fact however is that neither the party – APC nor the government it purportedly gave birth, have known peace ever since that intervention hence the current situation in which the state is not only at war with itself but a governing party torn right through the middle. Presently, the state lawmakers are set upon themselves with a group of five lawmakers, supported by the executive, not only driving the majority – described as G-15 – out of town, but have since assumed the functions of the whole house!

In a new twist, APC leaders in the state went for broke penultimate week: they passed a vote of no confidence on Governor, Yahaya Bello in what marks a new phase in the fratricidal war.

It may well be that the travesty currently playing out at the Kogi State House of Assembly is nothing novel. After all, in 2009, Ogun State, under former governor Gbenga Daniel saw a group of minority lawmakers not only sack the majority, but went as far as daring them to come near the precincts of the parliament building at the risk of lives or limbs! It also happened in Ekiti, where Governor Ayodele Fayose led a group of six renegade lawmakers to sack the majority of 19 lawmakers. It played out in Rivers State, where six members with the backing of former President Goodluck Jonathan and wife, Patience, took on 27 lawmakers while purporting to remove the elected speaker, Otelemaba Amachree.

If we thought that such travesties and barefaced impunity was gone with the PDP administration, the spectacle playing out in Kogi and the curious intervention by the AGF would seem to indicate that nothing really has changed!

The issue is of course whether both arms of the National Assembly acted right in taking over the state House of Assembly. On this, it is expected that opinions would be divided.  However, what is not in dispute is that the state legislature was factionalised; neither is there any contention that the activities of the members had gone beyond mere legislative bickering to constituting a grave threat to the peace of the state. Or that a minority, G-5 with the active support of the police and the governor, had created a situation in which the lawmaking business could only be strictly on their terms or perhaps such other terms as dictated by the conniving but floundering executive!

Be that as it may, AGF Malami would have us know that there was no “sufficient legal basis” for the National Assembly to have taken over the lawmaking responsibilities of the state legislature. That “sufficient legal basis”, according to him, would only happen when the entire state is on fire!

How about the AGF’s ‘consequential order’ that “the determination by the National Assembly that the alleged impeachment of the Speaker of the House of Assembly by ‘five members of the House of Assembly’ was ‘null and void’ was an exercise of judicial power by the Legislature, contrary to Section 6 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended)…?

I thought the courts, rather than the AGF, held the power to review the actions of the National Assembly, including the executive branch!

Or this – that the National Assembly’s description “of the alleged action of the Nigeria Police Force in purportedly providing protection for five persons as an act that was tantamount to ‘subverting the provision of the Constitution’ as matters of constitutionality that are issues for judicial determination”?

Interesting times indeed!

I am not a lawyer and so cannot claim to comprehend Malami’s specious jurisprudence. What is perhaps least expected is that the nation’s chief law officer would become a facilitator of the absurdity going on in the state. But even more worrisome is that the AGF has not proven to be an uninterested party in the sordid affair that has thrown the state into limbo.

For me, last week’s mumbo jumbo by IG Arase is an eye opener; I can’t wait for the time when the AGF finally makes his appearance before the parliament he so derided. It promises to be an interesting encounter.

Credit: Sanya Oni

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