EXCLUSIVE!!! O. Methu Selah: Official Statement on the PDP’s Recent Change of Heart

pdp-logo

Dear Members of our great party, the People’s Democratic Party, the greatest political party in all of the African hemisphere, peace and salutations from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (swt) to you. As always, we remember that there is God in everything we are doing.

 

We know that certain microscopic sections of the general populace would have many believe otherwise, but we are a listening party. Our people say that one cannot have the biggest head in Africa, without also being blessed with the biggest ears. Actually, our people don’t really say that, but you will see where we are going with this. We have the biggest ears and we heard the murmuring and displeasure of all the little people in our great party. You know how the English also say you should look at the ant and see what it is doing.

 

So we have looked at all the ants that say they too want to contest for the presidency and have decided, in the democratic nature of our party and its name, to fling the door open to all contestants for the next 48 hours. Goodluck Jonathan is still our sole candidate, but we are a democratic party.

 

To my brothers and sisters who we are not officially allowed to acknowledge, those Nigerian Ambassadors of Transformation (haha, see how we coded it?), know that your labour is not in vain. Your efforts to contrive a consensus across the length and breadth of Nigeria, and the billions of naira that were invested in the venture shall certainly not go to waste. As you traversed our vast nation on a divine purpose of political evangelism, rest assured that we remain converted. Your sweats that you are sharing are crying out for you. Goodluck Jonathan is our sole candidate, but it is open to other candidates to throw their hats into the ring. This is democracy at work, and this is the beauty of democracy.

 

To those who paid for the nomination forms, knowing that the party had settled on a sole candidate and knowing further that this is still the party’s position, please come and collect your forms. This being Nigeria, there will be no refunds and returns. Do not think, however, that this is the sole reason why we have permitted you to try your luck against Goodluck, our sole candidate. Afterall, the good Nigerians who contributed over N100m to the President’s nomination-form-picking fund are more than able to take it upon themselves to refund the fee. No. We are the People’s Democratic Party and we realise that we must always be democratic. As lawyers say, democracy must not only be done, it must be seen to be done.

 

We will publish the rules for our convention soon enough, so that you and your supporters will know how to contend against our sole pre-endorsed candidate. We do not want anyone to be caught by surprise, and we will therefore ensure as level a playing field as possible, for yourselves and for our sole pre-endorsed candidate. In the regrettably sad but highly event that you do not prevail over our sole candidate, we trust that you will be democratic statesmen and give him your full support in February 2015.

 

– O. Methu Selah, for the PDP

Can Tambuwal Declare His Own Seat Vacant?

If, by some tragic stroke of misfortune, President Goodluck Jonathan, Vice-President Namadi Sambo and Senate President David Mark all died today, Aminu Tambuwal, Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, would be sworn in as President of Nigeria. Yet, in response to his defection to the APC, Tambuwal’s security detail has been withdrawn.

 

The Inspector General of the Nigerian Police, in the attempt to justify his withdrawal of the security detail of the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, cited the following section of the constitution:

 

 

Section 68(1): A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if – (g) being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected; Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored.

 

As far as the IG is concerned, it would seem that Aminu Tambuwal is not merely just no longer the Speaker – he isn’t even a legislator anymore. While former principal officers of the State still have state-provided security attached to them (and therefore cessation of office should not automatically mean withdrawal of security), the focus of this piece is the little constitutional crisis we have on our hands.

 

According to section 68(2), edited slightly for relevance, “the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall give effect to the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, so however that the Speaker or a member shall first present evidence satisfactory to the House that any of the provisions of that subsection has become applicable in respect of that member.”

 

Thus, Tambuwal is required to declare Tambuwal’s seat vacant, in the absence of evidence that there is a division in the PDP.

 

Since the events at the PDP’s convention last year led to several prominent members leaving the party for the APC, it has been the contention of the PDP that the legislative seats of those who crossed over to the APC be declared vacant, going by the provisions of Section 68(1)(g). According to them, as there is no division in the PDP, all legislative defectors must lose their seats. Should they?

 

The courts have not been very helpful with the interpretation of this section. In all the recent defection cases, even where splinter groups have held parallel congresses and elected their own officials, the courts have ruled that no division existed. They have however refused to describe what situation or circumstances they would see as constituting a division. And that remains the central issue.

 

However, even if there was a division in the PDP 12 months ago, there is also the question whether or not such division still exists. The dust has pretty much settled and everyone has gotten on with life in the new party. Or does the fact that the court’s final decision on the legislative defections so far mean that the “division” (if it is eventually ruled to exist) is a continuing one? We wait to see what the court will say.

 

To complicate matters for the PDP, who have asked Tambuwal to resign his office, the constitution is quite clear on how the Speaker may leave the office. Section 50(2) says –

 

The Speaker the House of Representatives shall vacate his office –

  1. if he ceases to be a member of the House of Representatives otherwise than by reason of a dissolution of the Senate or the House of Representatives; or

  2. when the House of which he was a member first sits after any dissolution of that House; or

  3. if he is removed from office by a resolution of the House of Representatives, by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of the members of that House.

 

In other words, pending the final decision of the courts, Tambuwal has to declare Tambuwal’s seat vacant or the House has to impeach him, otherwise he remains in office. PDP does not have the required numbers to carry out the impeachment. Stalemate, for now.

 

Tambuwal ought to resign. It is the moral, honourable and statesmanlike thing to do. But he is not under any legal compulsion to do so. If he is as shrewd as is reputed however, he must have prepared for the very dirty fight ahead.

Elitism As a Scapegoat

Kayode Fayemi lost and Ayodele Fayose won. The overwhelming consensus, even with people that were Fayemi aficionados before the elections, in blog after blog and op-ed after op-ed, is that Fayemi was too elitist and Fayose was a man of the people; that Fayemi lost because his policies were too cerebral (ergo, the Ekiti people are a thick bunch) and that Fayose, with all his travails and alleged character flaws, is the man whose governance and policies favour the people more.

 

Analysts are all agreeing that while roads, bridges, healthcare and raised educational standards are all fantastic ideals, a governor who would be re-elected must “empower the people”. The governor-elect, true to his pre-electoral reputation, has already declared that he will empower the people of Ekiti by awarding them contracts, whatever that means. He understands, it has repeatedly been said since the elections, what is euphemistically referred to as “stomach infrastructure”. Ekiti is full of poor, hungry people and Fayose, with his common touch, is more connected to the people and understands better the importance of stomach infrastructure, the arguments go. Unlike the outgoing governor, who was simply too elitist (like Fashola of Lagos, it is frequently added).

 

Elitism has suddenly become this dirty word, this contraption by which elections will surely be lost. And the sure banker route to electoral victory is ensuring that as an incumbent governor, you maintain the status quo and keep the rent-seekers and hangers on happy, lest they rebel against you and deliver each single local government in the state to the enemy.

 

Is Fayemi’s “elitism” is something to be apologetic for? Obviously, in the zero sum game that is our current political arena, some populism is required in the quest to retain political power and the fact that Fayemi will cede his office to Fayose, come October, shows that elections are still largely a popularity contest. However, the question must be asked, of those who would think, whether or not the status quo is desirable. Do we want people to win elections so they can beat their chests and dance victory dances, or do we want people to win elections because we believe they will govern in the best way possible? In a country where we complain about the First Couple’s frequent foot-in-mouth gaffes, why was it ultimately wrong for this governor to be of the desired mould?

 

The question is moot and yet it is at the same relevant to the on-going examination. Shall we continue to wallow in the incompetencies of today, so that our stomachs may be serviced, or should we look at where we need to be and do the things necessary to help us get there? Do we, as a society, have values about this sort of thing, or is our value system limited to compelling all women to be married before they hit 30? Is “elitism” a bad thing for politicians because it supposedly lost Fayemi the elections?

 

It certainly sounds nice to have governors who buy food by the roadsides and share the monthly federal allocations around, but any buffoon can do that. In fact, there are many buffoons doing this all over Nigeria at the moment. Is this buffoonery preferable to development and does the fact that the people of Ekiti rejected a progressive governor make this buffoonery right? What exactly is the point of governance?

 

We cannot, on the one hand, criticise governors who celebrate mundane, basic amenities like boreholes and motorcycles, yet make a governor renowned for prudence and excellence feel like his conduct and policies as a governor were regrettable.

 

There is no society that has progressed by working with the thinking prevalent amongst its lowest echelon. Such thinking, as is evident with this “stomach infrastructure” argument, is inherently short-termist and therefore inferior and unreliable. Societies progress when the greater good of the greater number is pursued and if this is being “elitist”, then elitism is a good thing and I would be happy to belong to the elite.

 

When we say people (or “the masses”) are poor and hungry and that this poverty is what directs how they vote, can we objectively say that their choices are rational? Or is rationality a subjective thing, depending on the abjectness or otherwise of one’s poverty? Granted, the game is about winning and, no matter how much Arsene Wenger says it, coming anything other than first is not like winning a trophy. But is winning elections the sole aim of governance? How can we clamour for good governance but deride a man for not throwing scarce money away, in the name of stomach infrastructure? How can it be bad for the governor to have focused on real infrastructure?

 

There have been attempts to rationalise what happened in the Ekiti elections. You can read my favourite pieces here and here. It would seem from the analysis that one cannot be a purist in Nigeria and hope to remain in power and this is a very fearful thing. It means that there really is no incentive to lean away from the malaises that we all agree are holding the country back – the corruption, the nepotism, the impunity. You see, a blanket empowerment of the people by awarding them contracts means that you are discarding due process in tenders as a governor. It connotes that “the people” will be awarded these contracts irrespective of their qualification or suitability. It means that you will feed the entitlement mentality of “sharing” and “making the money flow”. It means that you have already compromised on good governance. It means that the change of Nigeria, of your state, does not lie in you.

 

Luckily for us, Fayose can only be governor for four years and no more. Perhaps he will be more concerned with his legacy, as will not be eligible for re-election, given his previous term as governor. Maybe he will mix his populism with some pragmatic elitism and flip the script for 2018.

The Week Gone By

1. We begin this week’s roundup with the goings-on in the People’s Democratic Party and statements from those who remain in the party, as well as those who have defected. The President, in a moment of uncommon frankness and lucidity, confirmed what many already suspected – most of the misfits in politics chose to “serve” not because they really wanted to serve, but because they were jobless.

Our leader, in Freudian slip

Has given his colleagues the flip

We do this enjoyment

Because unemployment

Has held Nigeria in its grip

2. After many months of wrangling, in-fighting and defections to the opposition, Bamanga Tukur was forced to give up his position as the Chairman of the PDP. However, the President swiftly promised that he would “reward” the 80-year old (!!!) with a juicier position than party chairman (he actually said “tougher” but let’s all agree he was being euphemistic). Well, he’s fulfilled this promise, as Tukur is set to be announced as the new Minister of Defence.

There was an old man named Bamanga

Led ruling clique of Bonga-Bonga

Was forced to resign

Against his design

Where is he? Asimbonanga!

So, Tukur, Defence! What a hoot!

A platinum gold parachute

The octogenarian

For being non-sectarian

Will watch o’er the gun and the boot.

3. After being the spearhead of the group that threw a spanner in the cogs at the PDP convention, which has led to the osmosis/diffusion from the PDP to the APC, Atiku Abububakar has announced that he will consult all over the nation on whether or not he should join the APC. Uhmmm…..

The grand architect of the chasm

Split PDPs light in its prism

Says he will consult

Collate the result

‘Fore joining APCs orgasm

4. Femi Fani-Kayode’s been writing again. The piece itself is evidence of how far technology and democracy have come, as my brain cannot process the consequence of its equivalent during the Abacha or early Obasanjo years. It contains 12 steps that GEJ must follow to achieve Illuminatic enlightment (or bring back peace to Nigeria, whatever), which include lying prostrate before 7 living elementals and remaining there until each had pronounced absolution. There were some salacious tidbits too.

That piece, though lampooned, is quite handy

It showed the modus operandi

The royals-in-castle

Relieve all our hassle

With kai kai and Ol’ Mama Brandy

5. This one is for Pastor Chris Okotie, renowned grandliloquent man of the cloth, who has flagged off his perennial presidential campaign by telling Catholics the Pope is the antichrist and that  they’re all going to hell.

Our dear Pastor truly excites

His church with grammatical flights

But his inclination

To rule our nation

Is mostly all saccharine delights

6. The President recently signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill into law. While banning gay marriage (which was already unlawful under the old marriage laws), many argue it actually goes as far as also making private homosexual conduct illegal. It kicked up a storm on the interblogs.

The old law was no more effectual

To deal with love gay, though consensual

To make up the time

It now is a crime

In Naija to be homosexual

There was once a Nigerian law

That made twitterati jaw-jaw

‘Bout culture, religion

“Colonialisation”

Intolerance, hatred and more

This loud and impassioned debate

About how adults may relate

Has kicked up a storm

About what the norm

Should be in a secular state

7. The Pastor of a popular church, accused last year of adultery, and promising a “robust response” to the allegations and accusations (yet to be delivered; that chapter is probably closed now), was blessed, by a visiting Pastor, with a Rolls Royce reported to be worth $1million

Today we must all with one voice

Give hearty thanks, praise & rejoice

There once was abuse

But now robust news

Of shiny new gleaming Rolls Royce

8. Since we’re on the subject of robust responses, how about that Okonjo-Iweala lady? Nigeria’s Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister of the Economy (and one-fifth of Nigeria’s Pentocracy or a quarter of its Jezebellocracy, if you believe Femi Fani-Kayode), provided a response over 100 pages long to the 50 questions she had been asked by the House Committee on Finance. Their aides must have had their weekends ruined.

The minister’s response robust

To justify huge sacred trust

So now we all wait

What will be the fate

Of all the Assembly men’s lust?

9. Two shootings on either side of the political spectrum. One was Senator Magnus Abe, of the opposition APC, the other, President Jonathan’s head of Photoshop.

They shot Magnus point-blank with rubber

And injured his somatic flubber

T’was minimal force

The cops say, of course

He’s off to London to recover

Goodluck’s chief pic shooter’s been shot

With bullets, not lenses, his lot

And live ones, not rubber

But yay, the old lubber

Is resting in a hospital cot

Fictions of Factions

The word “faction” has probably never had greater prominence, in Nigerian political history, than now. Its meaning, its existence and/or non-existence will be key factors in the impending political crinkum-crankum of 2014-15. APC’s current momentum, given added by impetus by the defection of all manner of PDP politicians into its fold, can be brought to a grinding halt if the courts uphold the PDP’s contention that defecting legislators should be stripped of their political office.

I have already suggested here, that the legislators’ seats ought to be safe. The premise of my argument was that the law permits defecting lawmakers to retain their seats if their original party is factionalised. There is a supporting judgement of the Supreme Court that states that the Electoral Commission’s refusal to register the faction will not lead to the removal from office of the defecting lawmaker.

However, the PDP insists that there is a subsisting judgement that says that there are no factions in the PDP. I dispute this, for the reasons stated hereafter, and ask anyone with a certified copy of that court ruling to please share it with us. The reasons that I do not believe that it was the dictum of the court that “there are no factions in the PDP” are as follows:

  1. The court’s ruling was not reported in any newspaper to be about whether a faction existed or not – it was about who the lawful leaders of the Party are/were. ThisDay reports that it was the splinter group that went to court to restrain Bamanga Tukur and the rest of his executive committee to stop parading themselves as the PDP executive. A further report, of a subsequent suit (as the initial one was struck out) can be found here; and
  2. It is customary for judges provide the rationale behind their decisions. Their decisions would be arbitrary, otherwise. Thus, if a court rules that there are no factions in a party, it must state the test or criteria it adopted or created in reaching this determination. No such criteria have been relied upon by the PDP members seeking to rely on the alleged judicial pronouncement that “there are no factions in the PDP”.

One must then ask when can it safely be said that factions exist within a political party? The question is important, as many commentators cite a precedent from last year where a state lawmaker that defected from Labour Party, in Ondo State, lost his seat.  The court upheld the contention that the lawmaker did not prove a division (or faction) within the Labour Party. It is also relevant that in reaching its decision, the court relied on the Supreme Court’s pronouncement in Amaechi v. INEC (2008), that –

“…if it is only a party that canvasses for votes, it follows that it is a party that wins an election. A good or bad candidate may enhance or diminish the prospect of his party in winning, but at the end of the day it is the party that wins or loses an election.”

You may recall that this was the [curious] decision in which a person who did not participate in the gubernatorial elections (after being replaced on the ballot by his party) was declared the winner of the election and ordered to be installed as Governor, as it should have been him on the ballot and “at the end of the day, it is the party that wins or loses an election”.

We should probably note, first of all, that the constitution is superior to even judgements of the Supreme Court and, as such, the first consideration of any court should be whether or not a division exists within the party. Given the events that have taken place from the PDPs special convention until now, I think it is hard to suggest the party is united. A walkout was staged, a parallel executive was elected, the splinter party sought to operationalize a secretariat but was prevented from doing so with state apparatus (police and SSS), the splinter party sought registration at INEC which was declined, both the splinter party and the main party sought orders of court recognising them as the de jure party leaders, etc.

I am acutely aware that it is possible for future defectors to abuse the law, if all that is required to establish a faction (for the purpose of retaining an electoral seat) is staging a walkout and attempting to seize the party’s apparatus. However, this is more the reason why a mere declaration of the absence of factions is useless if we cannot tell, by the same ruling, when one exists. It should certainly not be that any group of individuals (no matter how small their number or insignificant their political clout) can claim “faction”, defect and retain their seats. However, with 6 governors, 1 former vice-president, a list of senators and representatives  (and even state and municipal legislators) that keeps growing, I would strongly suggest that denying the existence of a factionalisation of the PDP would be a fiction. What we need from the judiciary right now (and I’m not sure not only the SANs that will earn the JUMBO fees next year welcome the coming litigation) is further clarity on what constitutes a division within a political party.

Legislature Defections: Sitting Pretty or “Fidihe”?

Since the APC announced its absorption of the breakaway faction of the People’s Democratic Party – the so called “New PDP” – questions have been raised as to whether defecting lawmakers must now vacate their seats in the various legislative houses. This ordinarily should be the direction that the moral compasses of the new members of the APC should point to. If you asked your constituency to vote for you based on your membership of a party and then leave the party after your election, you should ask for their trust again.

However, the issue is legal and not moral. And the principal actors also realise this. In its statement after the defection, the PDP, through its National Public Secretary, Olisa Metuh, the PDP said the governors and legislators were free to leave the party, concluding with the following reiteration:

“We reiterate that the position of the law is very clear – that there is no factions whatsoever (sic) in the PDP.”

In his own press release, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka, the NPDP’s National Publicity Secretary, apparently in response to the nuanced “de-factionalisation” of the PDP, declared that the seats of defecting lawmakers were safe, citing constitutional and judicial authorities for his position.

Sections 68(1)(g) and 109 (1)(g), in virtually identical wording state that

A member of a House of Assembly shall vacate his seat in the House if – (g) being a person whose election to the House of Assembly was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected: Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored.

What this means, in plainer English, is that a lawmaker who switches to another party before the next elections will not lose his seat if the switch is as a result of a division (or breaking into factions) in his original party, or his original party merges with another.

The New PDP, as a result of concerted resistant from the Old/Real (?) PDP, was not registered as a political party by the Independent National Electoral Commission. There is also a subsisting court ruling restraining the New PDP from using the PDP’s logo or parading itself or its members as PDP. Does this mean, as Metuh has suggested, that there are no factions within the PDP? A court would probably need to rule on the point but I would suggest that common sense would recognise  that there has, in fact, been a split within the PDP since the machinations at its last National Convention.

Eze Chukwuemeka, in his press release, also cited a Supreme Court judgment from 1983 which ought to give the new members of the APC some comfort. In FEDECO vs Goni, Aniagolu, JSC (as he then was) said the following, on “cross-carpeting” and Section 64(1)(g) – equivalent of current 68(1)(g) – of the 1979 Constitution:

“The mischief which the framers of the Constitution wanted to avoid was carpet-crossing which, from our constitutional history, in the not distant past, has bedevilled the political morality of this country. They had however to allow for a situation where a political party, by reason of internal squabbles, had split into one or more factions. A split or division could arise without any fault of the members of a political party, resulting in a member rightly or wrongly, finding himself in a minority group which may not be big enough, or strong enough, to satisfy the recognition, as a separate political party, of the Federal Electoral Commission. For such a member not to be allowed to join another political party with his faction may be to place him in a position where his right to contest for political office will be lost. Such a situation is entirely different from the fraudulent and malevolent practice of cross-carpeting politicians of yester years who, for financial consideration or otherwise, crossed from one political party to another, without qualms and with out conscience. Such a practice had to be discouraged by the framers of our Constitution if political public morality of our country was to be preserved.”

This dictum is instructive, as it clearly recognises that a faction may exist even if INEC (then FEDECO) did not register the faction as a separate political party. Taken with the fact that the Constitution permits a departed factionalised legislator to retain his seat, I think the APC can safely put its feet up, at least until the next elections.

Interestingly, it appears one can switch parties whenever one likes and for any reason, without any consequence in the US Congress. See here and here.

SIDEBAR

1. As we are on the subject of elections, I recently stumbled upon some provisions of the Electoral Act of 2010 which bear some significance to the ongoing(?) elections in Anambra State.

Section 102 states as follows:

“Any candidate, person or association who engages in campaigning or broadcasting based on religious, tribal, or sectional reason for the purpose of promoting or opposing a particular political party or the election of a particular candidate, is guilty of an offence under this Act and on conviction shall be liable to a maximum fine of N1,000,000 or imprisonment for twelve months or to both.”

Juxtapose this with the following statement credited to Chief Arthur Eze

“That short man called Ngige, we gave him power and he went and joined Awolowo’s people; the people that killed the Igbo.”

And the following statement credited to Chief Dennis Agumba

“It was Chris Nwabueze Ngige that described the deported Igbos as destitute, just to please his godfathers from Lagos, who are funding his governorship campaign.”

Are these two men guilty of electoral offences?

2. The Parties who insist that they will not take part in the supplementary elections in Anambra State need to know (they probably do anyway) that boycotting would be an empty gesture.

“An election tribunal or court shall not under any circumstance declare any person a winner at an election in which such a person has not fully participated in all the stages of the said election.” – Section 141

If you’re within striking distance of Willie Obiano but refuse to take part in the supplementary elections, the court cannot declare you winner even if everything goes your way during the trial.